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The Pearlman; David Norman

David Norman is the Managing Director of Aquarian Pearls. David established Aquarian Pearls in 1986 after an already established career in the South Sea Pearl trade. David is from a long line of pearl traders and was born into a world of beautiful gems and pearls which still fascinates him to this day.

David’s father, Boris Norman (May 10th, 1926 – May 2nd 2005) was born in Paris and moved to London aged 3. His father Michel Norman was born near Kiev in 1885 and was a lifelong pearl dealer. His mother Rebecca was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1895 and her father and grandfather were pearl dealers as well .

Boris served in the British army and was injured on active service in Indonesia at the end of WW2. It is then he re entered the family pearl business named Australian Pearl Company Ltd, in London after the war and traveled extensively worldwide buying and selling natural pearls.

He established a pearl venture in the Persian Gulf in the late fifties and then established a pearl farm at Escape River on Thursday Island, Australia in partnership with Kaiei Kakuda of Ise and John Jerwood of Tokyo, n the 1970’s. He was then involved in cultivating Tahitian pearls from 1967 on wards in French Polynesia. He also dealt all his life in natural pearls and enjoyed excellent relations with Sheikh Makki of Doha, Quatar and his son in law Hussein Alfardan in Doha and Hussein Alfardan in Dubai.

david's father

David’s father Boris, pictured in the 1970’s on Thursday Island

Boris had a lifelong interest in the more spiritual ancient aspects of pearls in mythology and world heritage and passed away in the middle of writing a book on pearls .

Boris is followed by David Norman his son and Charlie Barron his grand nephew as the fifth and sixth in the unbroken line of pearl dealers .

David has been a passionate lover of pearls and pearl jewellery ever since his first trip to his fathers office . David has many fond memories of his father and watching him work;

“ I distinctly remember my new addiction going to my dad’s office and meeting all the interesting clients and the delivery jobs I had. The chocolate lady at La Jana where Boris sent the pearls to be strung and who always had Quality Street chocolates on offer in a big glass jar.”

“Boris selling a 15mm round, champagne coloured natural pearl for 89’000 pounds and giving me the cheque and deposit book to take round to Hambros Bank in Hatton Garden near his office on High Holborn and me thinking just in my teens , Wow this is the business to be in ! “

“Hunting around on his office rooms floor for lost emeralds or diamonds he had dropped ! “

“The endless summer haggling over the final price of the natural pearls he was selling to Sheikh Makki always concluding in late august prior to Makkhi’s return to Doha.”

“Dealers from Brazil, Bombay, Jaipur, Italy, New York, Paris, Idar Oberstein, Melbourne, Broome, Dubai, visiting the office …. endless memories …”

David left for Idar Oberstein to work as the office boy straight from boarding school on September 1st 1981. Working at Alfred Hahn Gmbh for Horst Hahn who had done business with Davids Grandfather then been conscripted into the German army and sent to the Russian front, then returned to the family business and his son Eckhart Hahn who loved Japan and fast cars and introduce David to life in the nightclub Doria Gray, underneath Frankfurt International Airport.

David worked in the office mostly stocktaking the pearls and coral and semi precious stone products, visited all the local offices of the company’s clients, among them the most famous of the Idar Oberstein gem cutters; the Ruppenthals, Julius Klein, Julius Petsch, Gebruder Leyser, Visiting the local bar where everyone gathered at night called Facette – the treat of eating local gourmet dish Spiesbraten in local restaurants ….all up it was a glorious first job and again David developed a love of the business.

After Germany, in the beginning of 1982 David set off for Tokyo to work for John Jerwood owner of The Cultured Pearl Export Company. Here David was put to work learning to make pairs of pearls from large loose lots of Akoya Japanese Cultured pearls, Australian South Sea Cultured Pearls, and Tahitian South Sea Cultured Pearls.  Here at 18, David’s fascination with pearls and love of the business developed and he had the immense good fortune to spend time with the giants of the business within months of arriving in Japan. Greats such as Salvador Assael, Frank Mastoloni and Bart D’Elia from New York pearl dynasties, Jewellery designer Henry Dunay also from New York and the David family of Zurich, GianMaria Buccellati of the eponymous Italian retail empire, Linda Masson of Lane Crawford in Hong Kong , Andy Muller and Y Shimizu of Golay Buchel and later of Hinata Trading and Hosei Co respectively, Gary Tarna of Hanadama Pearls who David still co-exhibits with at JCK Las Vegas show and countless other luminaries of the pearl world.. These were the glory days of the Akoya and South Sea Cultured Pearl business with Japan exporting all over the world..

David had the immense good fortune to be sent to Bombay, Hong Kong, London and Paris on company business. Mr Jerwood (Mr J as David called him) had his start in business at the height of the Depression in the late 1930’s and David’s Grandfather had helped him whenever he could – later starting a pearl farm with Boris Norman and Kaiei Kakuda of Ise, Japan, and in Thursday Island, Far North Queensland, Australia . Mr Jerwood had endless amusing jokes and storied of the characters in the business had a great appreciation of fine wine, English literature  and fine dining and taught David everything he knew about life and business. It was an extraordinarily fortunate apprenticeship and the start of the 80’s when Japans post war economy really went into overdrive .

After nearly two years in Japan , David accepted a one year job in Sydney, Australia as a pearl salesman for Australian Pearl Traders owned and operated by Stephen Stubley  and in Australia, David traveled around the country selling mostly Akoya Japanese cultured pearls to prominent local retailers in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.  After one year Stephen sold his business to Mr Jerwood and David at 21 years of age founded Devino Pty which was later acquired along with Cultured Pearl Export Company by Mr Rudi Zingg from Switzerland who had spent most of his adult life in the pearl business in Kobe and Tokyo and took over a retiring John Jerwood’s businesses.  Ably helped in this endeavor by Paul Braunstein of San Francisco who migrated to Sydney to help , David widened the Australian business and then commenced dealing in South Sea Pearls eventually leaving aged 23 to set up Aquarian Pearls as a vehicle to sell pearls on his own account .

David was invited  to Broome, Western Australia by the unofficial Mayor of Broome and lifelong friend of his father, Mr Bill Reed  to judge the annual Pearl Design contest of 1986 and David’s love affair with Broome started; a wild prehistoric place with red pindan sands and turquoise seas, 15 meter tides and extraordinary flora and fauna, Australia’s pearling port and home town to Eighty Mile Beach, the richest pearling grounds for its abundance of native South Sea Pearl producing oysters named Pinctada Maxima.

David traveled repeatedly worldwide from 1986 on wards trading in Australian and Tahitian and Japanese cultured pearls and had the immense good fortune to deal with the finest houses in the pearl and jewellery world. In this year 1986 Charles Devenish of Perth introduced David to Michael and Patricia  Kailis who owned Broome Pearls and David took on a part time role grading and valuing and then selling the Kailis harvests, a job that stayed part time until 1989 when David moved to London and the Kailis family sponsored David to become an Australian permanent resident a process that took an eighteen month wait which coincided with the height of the bubble in south sea pearl pricing. David had a wonderful 1989 and 1990 in London and learnt the estate jewellery business with Peter Truman of Hatton Garden the business called, W Truman Ltd which was started in the 1700’s trading in natural pearls.

Returning to Australia in late 1990 , David settled in Perth with his wife to be Anne also from London and worked full time for the Kailis family until the end if 1998. In this time, David traveled the world selling Kailis Australian South Sea cultured pearls and trading in all other types of pearls .

David joined the Paspaley Pearling Company in 1999 and worked on establishing the wholesale arm of the company Australian Pearl Center named for his Grandfather Michel’s family company established in London in 1937 named Australian Pearl Company. David counts Nicholas Paspaley as one of his mentors and close friends in life and adored his six years working within the Paspaley world in which he got to help price all the harvests prior to going to auction in Hong Kong and through the Paspaleys’ met the world’s premier retailers all Paspaley clients to this day. Endless hours were spent in Darwin, Broome and Sydney discussing pearls and developing the business and it was a golden time like all the time spent with the Kailis family in the preceding 14 years.

David sorting pearls

David pictured above grading a parcel of South Sea Pearls.

David enjoys close ties with all the leading cultivators of pearls and retailers and wholesalers worldwide and all his love and passion for pearls is shared by and with the extraordinary array of characters and personalities within these worlds .

Leaving the Paspaley company in December 2005 so that the next generations of Paspaleys’ could take charge and to further grow and develop his own business and spend more time at home, David re established and re activated Aquarian Pearls setting up in the Strand Arcade in Sydney and quickly started trading with prominent Australian and overseas retailers and wholesalers and soon had a flourishing trade in America, Asia, Europe and Australia.

A union with TVSN,  Australia’s predominant  television shopping network commenced in the end 2008 under the brand name Matahina Pearls and as Aquarian Pearls, David commenced appearing on Gem Shopping Network and remains the supplier of choice and special pearl guest presenter/vendor on both networks as well as having very close ties with Gemporia UK Ltd where David’s nephew and now Natural pearl and Estate jewellery expert Charlie Barron appears.

Television shopping has become a very important  part of Aquarian Pearl’s business and David loves the connection and interactions with all the clients which happens in live time and is always evolving .

The growth of this business has seen Aquarian Pearls develop into being half a pearl jewellery manufacturer and supplier and the other half remaining true to its roots and supplying the finest retailers worldwide and within the domestic Australian and New Zealand markets with loose pearls and pearl strands for their own re branding and manufacture .

Davids enthusiasm for pearls is endless and he expects to keep this love of pearls alive so long as he lives and breathes, as he has seen in the great and the good of the pearl business who have gone before him , often trading into their 80’s and 90’s !