Sunday, July 7, 2024

New Yorkers Fishing for Pearls in Soho Jewelry Store

If you want custom pearl jewelry from this Soho shop, you’ll need to fish for it yourself.

At Pearl & the Beast, located at 22 Howard St., shoppers can catch mussels and shuck them open to find shiny pearls for their own necklaces, rings, and more. The unique experience, costing $70 to $80 per mussel, allows patrons to dive into DIY pearl jewelry making.

Krystal Chen, the 23-year-old Brooklynite and founder, told The Post that it’s “the first and only mussel shop in the US,” and business is thriving. “On weekends we sell around 100 mussels a day and weekdays, 20 mussels a day,” Chen said.

Customers can choose their mussel from large fish tanks inside the store. These tanks contain various types of mussels labeled by the pearls inside — baroque, weirdo, Edison, and classic — based on the pearl’s size, shape, color, and luster. Chen’s favorite is the baroque, but the classic mussel is the most popular due to its higher pearl count and versatility in jewelry settings.

Some customers are fortunate to find multiple pearls inside their mussels. If a mussel is empty, store associates provide another shellfish at no extra cost. Although finding pearls in mussels is rare — about one in 5,000 according to the BBC — Chen ensures a satisfying experience.

Once selected, customers use shucking knives and tools to search through the mussel’s interior for pearls. Store team members assist with the extraction, followed by a 20-minute cleaning process using a proprietary solution to remove bacteria and the mussel coat from the jewels. After cleaning, the pearls are polished to enhance their natural luster.

Customers can then work with jewelry makers to create custom sterling silver pieces, including earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, pendants, hairpins, and rings, priced between $20 and $80. Extra pearls not set into jewelry are sent home with customers, who can return to make more accessories or repurpose the mussel shells into creative items like jewelry holders, candle stands, or framed art.

Chen, who started her company in 2023, sources her shellfish from a freshwater pearl farm. She emphasizes the authenticity of her business, contrasting it with other shops that use oysters and might swap sea pearls with mussel pearls. “The oyster is fake, it’s kind of a trick,” Chen said, noting that her mussels offer a genuine experience.

Chen named her shop after Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” reflecting the transformation from the “ugly” mussel to the beautiful pearls within. “The beast is the mussel, it came out so ugly but produced something so beautiful,” Chen said.

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