Yes, I have a passion for pearls! I got the amazing chance to sit for an interview with the Athens Magazine and, in the process, I made a great friend too! I am so proud of the article Andrea wrote about The Pearl Girls in the Athens Magazine last month. She seemed to be able to capture all of my passions... my passion for pearls, my passion for women, for connections and, of course for travel. Reading this article really made me say, "Yes!" It just confirmed that I am truly on the right path and enjoying every minute of it! To read Andrea's article, "Passion for Pearls" click here I also copied the article, "PASSION FOR PEARLS: ENTREPRENEUR INDIA ROWS SCOURS THE GLOBE FOR PRECIOUS GEMS" below:
When India Rows speaks of her penchant for globetrotting, her passion for adventure is evident. She has a travel log as exotic as her name and she’s more than willing to recount stories of people she’s encountered and cultures she’s experienced.
“French Polynesia was great because both men and women wear pearls,” she says. “Their food is amazing too because they eat their fish raw.”
Out one night anticipating a dinner of sea urchin, India recalls overhearing an unsettling conversation between diners.
“[They said] this is the best season for eating sea urchin because its mating season and the gonads are especially large and delicious,” she says. “I became a bit deterred after hearing that.”
For this southern-born debutante, the occasional gastronomic slip-up simply enhances the allure travel.
But her real reason for voyaging isn’t found in the cuisine- it lies deep below the surface, buried in the flesh of oysters. India Rows treks the globe in search of pearls.
“I love the symbols in life that bringing people together, the sentimental value of [pearls],” she says.
When asked what sparked this passion, India recalls a gift from her father when she was just 8 years old.
“My dad bought my sisters, my mom and me a full set of pearls, a necklace, bracelet and earrings. I wore those pearls to church, as a debutante, my high school graduation and when I got married.”
Fully aware of her emotional ties to pearls, it wasn’t until she and her husband traveled to Asia in 2006 that India began moving beyond her own affinity. “We’re traveling through Asia and I’m seeing even more pearls and they’re gorgeous. I started buying more for myself and then for my mom and sisters. Then, I got some to sell,” she says. “I went back to Asia six times that year.”
It would take two more years before The Pearl Girls would begin to take shape in a business venture with one of her two sisters. In 2010, the siblings decided to part ways and with the split came a sense of what the future might hold for this passion-fueled venture. “This was the start of my knowing that this isn’t just a hobby. This is something I was fully committed to growing.”
With a formal education from the Gemological Institute of America, India knows the quality of the pearls she buys and is familiar with working conditions on farms she’s visited in China, Japan, the Philippines and French Polynesia.
“I went to French Polynesia a few months ago and I actually opened up the oysters to get pearls out,” she says. “It’s like the coolest thing ever! You never really know how it’s going to look.”
After years of traveling for pearls, India set out to discover gems closer to home. Research into pearl farming in the United States ultimately lead her to a source that lies beyond the Georgia line in the Tennessee River.
“Pearl divers get the mussels and it’s sort of a big ol’ treasure hunt,” she says. “In natural pearls, it’s a free-for-all; you never know what entered that mussel to cause that irritation to produce that pearl. I mean…there was one pearl that looked very similar to a snail.”
Deciding to bring the process home to the United States has spawned a new line of American pearls designed, created and marketed by the women who make up The Pearl Girls.
The company, which is headquartered on Barber Street in Athens and tucked into a building with Team Clermont and 1000 Faces coffee, employs locals as part of its business model.
“I decided I wanted to contribute to the growth of the local economy. The mamas, like me, who want flexible well-paying jobs. Retired women. So suddenly, we’ve got the Pearl Girls making the jewelry and wearing the jewelry. All these amazing women were drawn to The Pearl Girls for so many different reasons.”
The Pearl Girls also contributes pieces of the jewelry line to raise funds for a number of local charities and holds global travel excursions allowing others to join in on the discovery of these precious gems.
“I had no idea this would be my path but it has combined a lot of my loves,” India says. “My love of travel, people, women and all the wonderful stories that we get to tell. It’s amazing how it brings together the things I really enjoy.”
To find out more about India and to see her full product line visit www.thepearlgirls.wpengine.com
Story by Andrea Griffith-Girtz
Photos by A.J. Reynolds