Sunday, 6 August 2017

About Van Vuuren's Vintage Pearls

Are you looking for the perfect accessory for your outfit? I'm Helena Van Vuuren, founder of Van Vuuren's Vintage Pearls. I specialise in producing beautiful, vintage, man-made pearl jewellery.

Who is Helena Van Vuuren?​


​I love my vintage pearls.
I've been working in the jewellery industry for a long time now. I started off working on the diamond mines in South Africa, before going to America to study at the Gemologial Institute of America. In my career I've also served at the British Jewellers Association.

​In 2001 I bought a consignment of vintage, man-made pearls that dated from the early 1940s from a Birmingham jewellery manufacturer. I decided to start a business creating hand-made jewellery that was firmly based on a love of pearls.

​This love of pearls runs through each of the vintage pearl necklaces I make.

​When I'm not hand-stringing a vintage pearl necklace, you can find me growing my own veggies, listening to the Blues, or enjoying a glass of red wine. Even the most ardent pearl-lover needs some time off!

​But enough about me.
"A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls" Coco Chanel

​You've been looking around at different options for accessorising your outfit, and you want to know if a Van Vuuren vintage pearl necklace can help you finish your look.

Van Vuuren's Vintage Pearl Necklace


​​My pearl necklaces offer an exquisite charm.

​Pearls have been worn by some of the most powerful women in history, like Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Their classic style remains in fashion today.

​And today's prominent women, like Angelina Jolie and Michelle Obama, also look to contemporary pearl jewellery to make a statement in front of the camera.
Now you can look as stylish as your icons with one of my man-made, vintage pearl necklaces.

Whether your style is
classic or contemporary, I have a beautiful, vintage pearl necklace that will help to warm your complexion and give an air of refinement to your outfit.

​I also sell a range of
wedding pearls, for that special occasion where all eyes will be on you.

​Where should I start with Van Vuuren's Vintage Pearls?


1. Read my story
​Find out more about me and my vintage pearls.
2. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

I share a lot of useful information on social media about pearls. It's also a great way to get in touch.

3. ​Take a look at my vintage pearl necklaces and choose your favourite.
Browse my range of vintage collections of classic pearls, contemporary pearls, and marriage pearls. There’s a beautiful necklace for every occasion.

​Where can I find out more?


​You ask, I answer.

​If you can't find the answer to your question on my website, please
drop me a line and I'll answer it.

Friday, 16 November 2012


Always amazed when reading about the war years - rationing - imagine only being allowed one egg a week - having to register with a local shop to be able to use your ration book.  Clothes were rationed and you were allowed one bar of soap a month.  Children did not know what a banana was until after the war ended.  And in spite of all this, we still wanted to dress up and decorate ourselves - 'beauty is essential to human life' - a truism.  Bombs are falling all around you but you still get up, get dressed, apply some lipstick and put on a piece of jewellery. 

There is so much written about jewellery - books and books about expensive diamond, emeralds and other stones set in precious metals.   It appears that there is a concentration on jewellery owned by the 'better off' and the 'wealthy' but what about the vast bulk of the people - the need to feel and look good is not confined to the upper echelons of society.  I read that during the war years more than a million pearl necklaces were shipped to the USA but could not find any reference to quantities shipped to the United Kingdom.  

I can only imagine what it took to be able to buy a pearl necklace during the war years - how did you do it - did you sell part of your rations to do this - what did it cost - what did you go without to be able to do this. These 1940s gals look great ...
Picture Daily Telegraph  - great article   -
These two invoices dated 1940 and 1941 show the quantity of faux pearls that were shipped to one company in the UK.  The notes on the invoices state that 'no silk in the way of ribbon or thread is contained in the shipment' - silk was used for map making for the British Military Intelligence Unit known as MI 9 Source

Women were asked to forego wearing silk during the war so it could be used for parachutes. Source

'Because things were still being rationed after the war I used parachute silk for the under skirt of my wedding dress.'  Source

These are the pearls that were in the boxes with the invoices....

Many vintage pearls available have a lot of wear and tear - these pearls are still on cotton thread and are in perfect condition. I string the pearls, to order, on silk and finish with a sterling silver lobster claw. 

My 90(now 95) year old mum has a three strand man made pearl necklace that my father gave her for her birthday in 1942 - the pearls were badly worn. I used the original clasp and replaced the pearls - it is great to see how happy this made mum.

For more information about my vintage pearls please see the website for the store 
all pearls are limited in number and cannot be repeated the nature of true vintage stock - the Heart range started at 210 in total!store/productsstackergalleryv20=8

To contact me or buy direct, please email me: Helena 

Thursday, 8 November 2012


In 1996 Jackie O's famed three-strand fake pearl necklace fetched $211,500 at the auction. 

This is my classic three strand pearl necklace with earrings.

For more information!

Information source
(New York Daily News) 

Monday, 15 October 2012


A must have book .....

A must attend exhibition....

A must look at website.....  genuine 1940's graduated pearls



When I look back at my last blog the thought that immediately springs to mind is that of a demure, petite and ultra feminine young girl. However femininity is evident at all stages of life and Audrey Hepburn is  probably our most iconic example .......

Pearls are also great FUN and a favourite way to wear mine is with a relaxed  cotton shirt and jeans.  

The pearls in this picture can be found at

Facebook has many pages about vintage times and products and if you are in London it is worth having a look at Vintage London:

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Prior to the 'age of the internet' it must have taken a long time to research a subject that one can now access within minutes. I have been a fan of the Forties and Fifties since a very young age and of course the internet has thousands and thousands of pictures and articles of the fashions of that era.  It is quite strange to think that the clothes my mum and sisters wore are now referred to as 'vintage clothes or jewellery or furniture'.

  A forties hand crocheted top made by my aunt.  I can recall that everyone I knew could either crochet, knit or sew. It was always exciting to get the latest magazines specially those with dressmaking, crochet and knitting patterns.

 Occasionally one would get something from the big shop in your nearest city but there was a special pleasure in making your own clothes. 

This stone coloured top is the perfect complement for the vintage cream coloured pearl choker necklace.  The smallest pearl diameter is  2mm graduating to a centre front pearl of 5mm -  necklace is 41cm long. 

 Many more pearls from the forties and fifties on my website

You might enjoy looking at one of my favourite facebook likes - many glamorous pictures of vintage fashions. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012


To make the experience of buying my pearls as personal and enjoyable as possible, I use only family owned bits and pieces as props with my photographs and in this way you will get to know me as the person who is selling to you as opposed to a faceless company selling mass produced product on the internet. The internet is a wonderful invention and yes we are able to reach a much bigger market but somehow I feel that the personal touch is missing. 

It took me ages to learn to just hold a camera before I was able to take pictures of my pearls with bits and pieces that belonged to my mum and dad.

For example this picture has my mum's 1940's clutch bag in the background with a Hermes scarf from the 60's. the pearls are laid on my dad's cravat from the 50's.

A picture of my mum at a garden party in the 1950's - her name is Helena and I am proud to be called after her.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


In the Louvre is one of the oldest pearl necklaces dating back to the fifth century BC which is believed to have belonged to a Persian queen.

Pearls have been used as a form of money and you could pay your taxes in this way.  Pearls have been used to decorate clothing as well as adornment in the shape of earrings, necklaces, tiaras and bracelets.   Nero liked to roll around on a bed of pearls.  Pearls were also used in crowns and thrones and carpets such as the famous bejewelled pearl carpet of Baroda, originally commissioned as a gift for the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.

Obsession with pearls is well recorded such as Queen Elizabeth 1 who wore her pearls on her deathbed.   Julius Caesar gave Servilia a pearl.  Military campaigns were financed by the sale of pearl earrings.  Caligula gave his horse a string of pearls!   Richard Burton gave Liz Taylor a pearl bought at auction in 1969.

There are some lovely myths associated with pearls such as the one of Lord Krishna who defied the seas to gather pearls for a wedding gift for his daughter.  When banished from Eden, the tears of Eve were pearls according to Hebrew Legend.   Japanese myth  refer to pearls being tears of joy and in another Adam and Eve cried a lake of tears  which were orbs(pearls), more white orbs from Eve than black orbs from Adam because he was more in control of his emotions.   Ancient Christians thought that a shell surfaced the sea to harvest the light of the sun, the stars and the moon to make pearls. Polynesian legend say that the God of Peace and Fertility came to earth on a rainbow to deliver a black pearl to humans in order to promote peace and fertility.  The Chinese thought pearls came with the rain from the spit of fighting dragons.   Pearls are believed to be the Mother Gem of the Sea and as such are sacred to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Pearls have fetched large sums of money as for example in November 1999, Christie's Geneva sold a single-strand pearl necklace, which belonged to Marie-Antoinette, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia, Arch duchess of Austria and Queen of France, and later by the American Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. Comprising forty-one graduated pearls, measuring approximately 8.50 to 16.35 mm, this superb single-strand necklace sold for a then world record of $1,450,000.

Five years later in November 2004, Christie's Geneva offered a two-strand pearl necklace--double the number of pearls and equal in size to the Marie Antoinette/Hutton necklace--which sold for $3,128,520.
Pearls are evident in many of the great paintings housed in museums and galleries around the world.
Great powers have been attributed to pearls such as bringing love, wealth and prosperity to the wearer.   In therapy pearls are thought to help you in letting go of the past or old ideas that are no longer valid.  

An artist with an eye for  pearls, was the seventeenth-century Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer whose absolute masterwork, 'Girl With the Pearl Earring' captures the precise realism of the gem.

Elizabeth and display of 'pearl mania'!

Link to wealth of further information about pearls:-

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Finding a course in making necklaces.........minefield....reviewed many but found that they were mostly for the hobbyist.  I needed to be able to string my pearls to a professional standard.   Books, videos, networking and asking many questions that were answered reluctantly led me to a point where I could start making my first string of pearls.........

Full time day job and 18 months of evenings and weekends dedicated to my pearl stringing exercise......I had no idea how many ways silk thread could knot itself, snag, break and reduce me to tears of frustration.  Do I wax the thread, different hole sizes and using the wrong thread size,  enlarging holes, finishing a necklace, ends attaching to clasp not even,  having made a knot between each pearl only to find I missed a couple, unable to undo a knot and having to start again, making a decision to make a necklace with no knots separating the individual pearls... wrong decision....learning to gauge the amount of pearls required to produce a necklace of a particular length....16inches or 18inches... smaller diameter pearls versus larger.....calculating the increase in length when putting a knot between each pearl.

By the end of this learning curve, I had acquired glasses,  binocular magnifiers, a whole range of jewellers tools and had probably strung in the region of 600 necklaces.  

So what.......the proof of the success of my efforts will only be evident when I can convert this to a saleable product!


Number One Son visited and left, none the wiser that his mother had spent a small fortune on the off chance that she could create an income and believe me, I managed to walk past that hall cupboard as if it never existed.

Eventually I plucked up the courage, pulled out all the boxes and started sorting the pearls.  The colours were all very muted and had a depth that made me think of the double strand of pearls my mother used to wear 50 years ago when I was a young girl.  I found that I started stopping at every pearl jewllery counter to see if I could find similar pearls.  The only time I saw something similar was amongst antique or vintage jewellery dealers stock.

For weeks my sittingroom floor was covered in various piles of pearls, eventually I go to the last box which also had a couple of envelopes and some written notes that appeared to be stock records.  At last I knew and had confirmation that I had a huse stock of vintage pearls.  The envelopes contained two invoices from a Spanish company which explained the Spanish stock references written on each parcel of pearls.  The invoices were dated 1941 and 1940 and the invoices made reference to the fact that due to the war the shipment contained no silk in the way of ribbon or thread.  So although I cannot confirm that these pearls were part of the consignment mentioned in these invoices, at least it gave me an indication as to the era from which my pearls came.

During the war wool, cotton, linen, rayon, silk and nylon was commandeered by the government for military uniforms and supplies.

I still had no idea how I was to turn these strings of pearls into necklaces with a clasp....something you could actually wear!

Monday, 30 May 2011


Three hours later,  I was the happiest bunny imaginable.....hundreds of pearls in perfect condition.....all graduated.....from the tiniest little 2mm pearl to 5mm centre pearl or starting with a 4mm end pearl to a 8mm centre pearl.  Here are couple of photographs....I know laughing please.....the colour variations are so subtle.... but here goes......

By this time I had also noticed that the individual packages/wrapped pearls were all labeled in Spanish.  At a geuss I thought that there was probably about 2000 strings of pearls including what I could salvage.

Then came the inevitable price question.  Pauline,  who is a supplier of all manner of beads to the jewellery trade, was not interested in supplying these pearls to her customers as the stock was limited and her customer base required vast quantities and ongoing supply.  This was in my favour and after some haggling we agreed a price.  

Agreeing a price was in my case definitely not the same as having access to the ready monies.  The next couple of days were spent exhausting all avenues of  credit after which I hotfooted it back to Birmingham to buy my pearls.

Took delivery and took my booty back home. 

Then the shock of what I had done hit home.....I had just spent a small fortune on buying pearls.  I did not know a thing about making necklaces.  Oh sure I had spent a considerable amount of time in the jewellery trade and yes I knew my stones but this was a different baby altogether.

For a few weeks I kept sidestepping the pearls in the hallway.....I did not want to look too closely because I had a sinking feeling that this may well be one of my most costly mistakes to date.  

The next move was too hide them as my son was due home for a weekend and I had no idea how I was going to explain what I intended doing with all these pearls.  All the pearls were put to the back of the cupboard under the stairs and that is where they stayed for the next four months.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Having lost heart at the opening of the first box of pearls, I plodded on.....the second box appeared to have some pearls sorted and a few strings of pearls threaded on cotton.  These pearls would have to be rethreaded onto silk thread and a clasp added.   Nothing yet to indicate that I could start a viable business with this factory clearance find.

More of the boxes first opened.....

The pearls are perfect individually but there were not sufficient pearls of any one colour or size that could be sold as a jewellery range.  Good quality that could used in making earrings but I felt that complete strings of pearls in quantity would be needed for me to turn this into a business venture.

Plod on.  Box 8 produced what look like a promise of paydirt.  Care had gone into wrapping these pearls in protective tissue and brown paper.
Unwrapping the first packet,  what a pleasure, perfect condition, perfectly graduated and all the same colour.

Every box after this contained a range of pearls.....pearls matching in colour, graduation size and length.  There were 29 different variations  of strings of pearls numbering from 30 to 600 strings per range.

I fell in love.

Friday, 8 April 2011


Retirement is looming so some years back  I started exploring ways and means of developing my  'SECOND LIFE' - I could not envisage a future of not doing any work at all.   

Opportunity knocked hard and loud when friends in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter contacted me and told me about pearls that they had been offered by a factory clearance contractor.  Intrigued, I was on the M1 within the hour.

In the storeroom was a pile of old boxes of different shapes and sizes. 

The first box I opened was a jumble of loose pearls and strings of pearls knotted and entangled and  all of different shapes and sizes and colours. 


creams of all varieties....rose creams,  velvety creams,  deep creams, metallic creams......

With a sinking heart, it was difficult to imagine the hours it would take to sort the pearls by sizes and colours however I felt I should look at all the boxes as my friends clearly felt that these pearls were just 'the opportunity' I was looking for.

Opportunity may well come in different shapes and sizes but clearly this was not the case in this instance.