Priceless and handled with care » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

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By Alex Y. Vergara           

Images by Noel Pabalate

Marion Branellec, brand manager of homegrown Jewelmer, one of the best brands of South Sea pearls in the world, defines luxury in various ways. Reduced to three words, she invariably equates luxury with the “appreciation of beauty.”

“You can always find luxury whether it is in the appreciation of art, a beautiful view, exquisite craftsmanship, quality materials, or even precious moments spent with loved ones,” says the 27-year-old Filipino-French beauty.

  • ELEGANT AND RADIANT brand manager of homegrown Jewelmer, Marion Branellec

  • PEARLS OF PALAWAN Jewelmer cultures its pearls in Palawan and produces champagne, white, black, and golden pearls

  • PEARLS OF PALAWAN Jewelmer cultures its pearls in Palawan and produces champagne, white, black, and golden pearls

  • PEARLS OF PALAWAN Jewelmer cultures its pearls in Palawan and produces champagne, white, black, and golden pearls

  • PEARLS OF PALAWAN Jewelmer cultures its pearls in Palawan and produces champagne, white, black, and golden pearls


It goes without saying, she continues, that luxury, at least most of the time, is priceless. But she doesn’t discount the fact that many rare items handled with great care like the lovely and eye-popping jewelry pieces their Manila-based company sells do sometimes come with a considerable price tag.

“I think that’s the traditional definition of luxury, but it would still depend on what is important to you,” she reasons. “If something is really important to you, then the price has less relevance.”

And not all forms of luxury can be bought, she acknowledges. Apart from moments spent with loved ones, in an ever-busy world, people, even those you hardly know, could also give to you the luxury of time.

“Yes, it doesn’t always have to involve money,” says Marion. “You could either give or receive valuable time.”

Marion joined the family business established by her French father 38 years ago just last year after a stint in Australia with a multinational ad agency. She also considers it a luxury to be able to work freely and “have the freedom to do what I love.”

“I love the Philippines! It’s good to be home,” declares Marion, who’s fluent in English, Filipino, and French.

“Obviously,” Marion, who mixes and matches golden pearl pieces from Jewelmer’s various collections to put today’s look together, continues, “I’d say jewelry, apart from being a good form of investment, is a physical manifestation of luxury.”

Since more and more women nowadays are able to pursue their respective passions and excel in their chosen fields, they would want something to remind them of big as well as small accomplishments they’ve achieved along the way.

And jewelry, says Marion, is a perfect reminder of all those triumphs and high points in their lives. Don’t be afraid to splurge on yourself because you’ve earned it, she says.

There are various varieties of South Sea pearls. Jewelmer, which cultures its pearls somewhere off the coast of Palawan, produces white, champagne, black, and golden pearls. The latter, which is the hardest pearl to produce, happens to be Marion’s all-time favorite. Some pieces are embellished by their Paris-trained Filipino craftsmen with diamonds.

“All our designs really revolved around the pearl,” she says. “The pearl is the start, and designers come up with their ideas to enhance the beauty of the pearls.”

Marion downplays her supposed access to Jewelmer’s prized collections. “I wear it at every opportunity I get to promote it,” she says with a smile. She’s also not into collecting bags, shoes, and designer dresses.

Marion sometimes indulges herself by buying a pair or two of designer shoes, but unlike some women, she won’t lose sleep if she can’t get her hands on, say, the latest it bag.

Her preferred pieces of jewelry change constantly, but one of her all-time favorites is a relatively simple golden pearl pendant. The piece holds particular meaning to Marion because it was given to her as a gift by her sister-in-law for being one of the bride’s maids at her wedding.

The pearl, says Marion, is “the only living gem in the world. It also happens to be the national gem of the Philippines.” As such, you also need to nurture the environment in order for you to produce the ideal pearl. Each pearl produced is something short of a miracle and magic, she adds.

“There are 377 human steps involved in producing a pearl, whether it’s cleaning the oyster or extracting the pearl,” she explains. “If any of these steps is done wrong, it would have an irreversible effect on the quality of the final product.”

As a company and corporate citizen, such is Jewelmer’s respect for the environment, particularly the country’s marine resources. The foundation it supports—Save Palawan Seas—takes care of fishing  communities in the province. For one, the foundation educates and dissuades them from engaging in destructive practices such as cyanide and dynamite fishing, while teaching them alternative sources of livelihood.

Even if this people aren’t directly connected to pearl production, Jewelmer feels that they are somehow connected to what it does: produce the perfect pearl. As one of the most ultimate expressions of luxury provided by nature, the pearl doesn’t offer any guarantees that it would turn out perfect even if all those 377 steps are religiously followed.

“But when you do get the perfect pearl, it’s reason enough to be grateful,” says Marion. “It’s not something we could control. It’s only something we could hope for.”

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