Fashion / Shopping

Million Dollar Pearls and Colorful Jewels Stun in Houston With an Australian Queen to Match

Margot McKinney is All About the Wow

BY // 04.05.19

Famed Australian jewelry designer Margot McKinney is wowing the highly-critical Best Dressed luncheon crowd with her jaw-dropping necklace that has all but the most jaded observers swooning even amid a sea of  high-style designer fashions. She has brought a cache of her colorful jewels to Houston’s Post Oak Hotel for the Best Dressed honorees to wear while enjoying their minutes of fame on the catwalk.

But none can match the extraordinary confection of Australian Lightening Ridge opals and diamonds around her neck.

It is McKinney’s latest creation, dubbed the Constellation, in a treasure trove of jewels created largely around Australian South Sea pearls and Australian opals. The fourth generation Australian in the business of adorning women with to-die-for jewels is in Houston this long weekend as the guest of Neiman Marcus, fashion sponsor of the luncheon, and she will be meeting with collectors at the Galleria store the following two days.

“My collectors are women who are really confident of their own style. They’re not women who are slaves to a brand. They know who they are,” she says. “They’re really confident in what they like and they are very appreciative and understanding of fine gems and fine craftsmanship.

“They appreciate the one of a kind nature of my jewelry and, as we know, every woman is one of a kind.”

True Statement Jewelry

Indeed, it takes a woman of self-confidence to wear some of McKinney’s pieces that range from the mighty to the delicate and include rainbows of colored gemstones as well as the subtle hues of South Sea pearls.

“I like to think that when someone is wearing my jewelry and she walks into a room, she feels fabulous. She makes heads turn,” McKinney adds.

Margot McKinney's 'Constellation' necklace, a confection of star opals and diamonds.
Margot McKinney’s ‘Constellation’ necklace, a confection of  Australian Lightening Ridge opals and diamonds.

On Friday morning in Neiman’s fine jewelry salon, McKinney herself is a show-stopper dressed to the nines in a profusion of colorful gems and diamonds. She calls her necklace the “Tahitian Kiss,” which links cabochon amethyst, tourmalines, rubellites and garnets in a nest of X’s that she deems kisses, thus the name. The Tahitian comes from the sprinkling of rare Tahitian Keshi pearls, noted for their unique non-nucleated shape.

The bodacious accessories she wears today include a 30-carat green tourmaline ring surrounded by baguette diamonds, similar cushion-cut tourmaline earrings flanked in baguettes and a 21-carat diamond ring, a gift from her husband after she complained that her original engagement ring at a mere seven-carat weight was too small. But is it for sale, I ask.

“Everything is for sale,” she quips.

For those not so tempted by the beautiful colorations in her creations, McKinney offers extraordinary strands of Australian South Sea pearls that range in price from $25,000 to $1.5 million, the variance based on size, color, roundness, what she cleverly refers to as “degrees of beautifulness.”

“A strand of Australian South Sea pearls is a beautiful piece of jewelry that you can wear everywhere,” she says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s morning, noon or at a gala.”

Yet, she personally favors baroque pearls for their unique shapes and sizes, which give each a special character.

McKinney allows that she has been infatuated with Australia’s pearl industry for decades since first meeting Aji Ellies, Australia’s only independent pearl farmer. She recalls that her first trip from her home in Brisbane to the remote outpost on the northern coast of Australia required two airplane trips, a helicopter ride, and a boat ride to reach the farm. She stayed five days on that visit and has been making returns for the pearl harvest ever year since.

“I watch as each pearl comes out of the oyster. I choose every pearl,” she says. “I just can’t help myself. They’re just so beautiful. And I can design whatever my heart desires because I have the most beautiful pearls to work with.”

McKinney holds that her collectors’ infatuation with her creations extends beyond the piece of jewelry in hand. “People want to know the story behind what I do and every piece of my jewelry has a story and it’s the experience around discovering that story that I think really enhances the whole experience of buying a piece of jewelry,” she says.

McKinney designs are carried by Bergdorf’s and Neiman Marcus, which is planning a series of experiences for collectors. In June, McKinney will escort a group to Germany to meet with her gem cutters and early next year, they will be invited to Los Angeles for the “G’Day USA” gala, co-hosted by McKinney as part of an Australia/U.S. business initiative.

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