MJSA. Professional excellence in jewelry making and design.

A Royal Suite for Mardi Gras

Jewelry custom made for a king—and his entire court

Designers: Pav & Broome Diamond Jewelers

Today, most Americans think New Orleans when they think about Mardi Gras, the bacchanalian celebration just before the Christian season of Lent. But Mattew Pav—an owner of Pav & Broome Diamond Jewelers in Gulfport, Mississippi—and his wife, Gail, like to point out that Mardi Gras actually started in Mobile, Alabama, before moving west to Biloxi, Mississippi, and finally to the Big Easy. So when that festive season rolls around each year, chances are there will be dance, song, and revelry not just in New Orleans, but pretty much everywhere along the Gulf Coast. The ties run deep.

Thus it was a real pleasure when one of the Pavs’ long-time clients, Butch Oustalet, and his wife, Andi, came to the jeweler with a special request. Butch was the newly elected King of the Gulf Coast Carnival Association, and the couple wanted to create a custom-designed pendant for Butch to present to his Queen, a prominent woman in the area. The plan was to present her with the traditional gift at Gulf Coast Carnival Association Ball, a lavish event on the night before the Mardi Gras ball, at which the King and Queen hold court with a whole range of elaborately dressed attendants, including captains, dukes, maids, and pages.

Andi’s Original Ring

Pav & Broome had recently created a spectacular ring for Andi (above) from an affordable gemstone called Pinkberry Quartz, a lavender quartz from Cambodia that’s trademarked and distributed exclusively by CPS Gems in Los Angeles. Andi had received so many compliments on the gem’s color that she and Butch wanted to use it in the pendant. The couple also had another motive: The gem just happened to contain hues from one of Mardi Gras’s signature colors, purple, which they asked Pav & Broome to combine with green and gold to represent the three symbolic colors of the festival season.

As the true jewelry aficionado of the family, Andi was the first to sit down with the store’s artist, Vanessa Edwards, a fine arts major who works with clients on custom designs. Some of the early ideas focused on the classic symbols of Mardi Gras, such as the jester’s hat. Then, after some thought, Vanessa had a new idea.

Sketch of Mardi Gras Queen’s Pendant

She suggested a fleur-de-lis symbol complemented by a crown (above). "A fleur-de-lis, though seen during the festival, is a symbol you can wear all year long, whereas a jester’s hat is pretty specific to Mardi Gras," she told Andi. To retain a bit of the feel of "fun," however, Vanessa sketched a pair of dangling peridot briolettes on the pendant, akin to those seen in jester’s hats. They would be removable, so the Queen could choose to wear the pendant without them for a different look outside of Mardi Gras season.

To give the pendant depth, Vanessa added a side treatment, using scrollwork for decoration. (The scrollwork referenced a key part of the design in Andi’s original ring, as well.) Though not necessarily a symbol for Mardi Gras, scrollwork was popular in baroque French architecture at just about the time when the French settled in the southern U.S., and is thus a much-used decorative touch.

Vanessa also created a hidden space at the top, through which a chain or cord could be threaded. Andi, who usually gives Vanessa free reign in the creation phase, loved the design, and the basic style scheme was set.

That’s when things started to get interesting.

The couple was so excited about the design that they began thinking about how they could expand it into gifts for the rest of the members of the Court.

"Typically, the King only gives a significant gift to his Queen," says Matthew Pav. But these true jewelry lovers decided that everyone—from the past Queen and Queen’s mother, to the wives of the dukes and captains, the maidens, and even the female workers at the association’s planning offices—would get a different piece of jewelry that complemented the Queen’s creation. "It was an incredibly generous gesture to his court and to the workers who labor so hard to bring about the yearly Mardi Gras celebration," says Pav.

Unbeknownst to Andi, Butch also secretly put in an order for a 2 inch long oval pendant set with a huge Pinkberry Quartz gem, along with matching earrings, to complement Andi’s original ring. Butch ordered pendants for his six daughters as well.

The staff at Pav & Broome took a deep breath—the order was for 38 pieces. Though the time frame was manageable, it was a large order for the store, given all its other work. Matthew Pav knew immediately what to do. Although he’s an expert CAD designer and wax modeler, he turned to an old friend who had recently started a service bureau for CAD design and wax making, Chi Huynh, the designer and owner of Galatea, Jewelry By Artist in San Dimas, California. 

Matthew and Chi had been bench buddies for years, and Gail had known Chi back when he was still hand carving what she calls "amazing" waxes for another business. Chi had fully embraced the CAD/CAM revolution, and his new business was called 3D Galatea. Matt knew that Chi’s team, under the supervision of Sang Ngo, manager and 3-D specialist, could execute his CAD designs and make the wax models, giving his in-store staff the time needed to cast the models, add the gemstones, and finish the jewelry.

So the order was placed. Now came the work of detailing all the design variations. It’s at moments such as this that most staff artists would buckle under the pressure, but Vanessa sharpened her pencils and got to work with Andi. They decided that the one motif to appear in every piece would be the fleur-de-lis, but other elements would vary, so that each piece complemented—but didn’t exactly match—the Queen’s pendant:

Queen’s Pendant

The Queen’s pendant featured a white-gold crown with a pear-shaped Pinkberry Quartz and tiny round quartz and diamond accents, complemented by peridot briolettes dangling from a yellow-gold and diamond-accented fleur-de-lis.

Pendant for Queen’s Mother

The pendant for the Queen’s mother would have the fleur-de-lis, plus a round Pinkberry Quartz gem.

Dukes’ wives’ pendants

The Dukes’ wives would receive a pendant with the fleur-de-lis and a small band of diamonds.

Captains’ wives’ pendant

The Captains’ wives would get a pendant with the fleur-de-lis and a small band of diamonds, plus a pear-shaped Pinkberry Quartz center stone.

past queen’s pendant

Vanessa and Andi decided that the past Queen’s pendant would, like the current Queen’s, have a white-gold crown in the front-although only the current Queen’s pendant would feature gemstones.

Maidens’ pendant

The Maidens’ pendant would contain both the fleur-de-lis motif and the crown, but the crown would be behind the fleur-de-lis and both would be yellow gold. The pendant would include an oval Pinkberry Quartz and just one peridot briolette dangle.

Office staff pendant

Office staff would receive pendants or brooches featuring the gold fleur-de-lis and a pear-shaped Pinkberry Quartz center stone.

Andi’s pendant

Andi’s pendant from her husband was crafted to complement her existing ring. Its dominant feature is scrollwork encrusted with diamonds (akin to the scrolls on her ring, as well as the scroll work on the sides of some of other pendants) and small fleur-de-lis accents. A cushion-cut Pinkberry Quartz center stone anchors the piece.

Once all the designs were settled, Matthew Pav began the complex task of detailing each order to be sent to 3D Galatea. "With any written instructions we put together for Galatea," he says, "I scan in Vanessa’s rendering, measure the stones we’ve sourced, and give a worksheet to them with all the measurements and sizes I’m looking for."

Pav’s instructions for the Queen’s pendant, for example, are a model of clear and visual instruction to a subcontractor. They include all the details above, complete with arrows to the relevant parts on the rendering. He also gave instructions about the beading along the edges of the pendant, and indicated the metal areas where he planned to add a texture.

He also asked 3D Galatea to make the peridot briolettes removable, using the Galatea Clover-Lok Jewelry System, which owner Chi Huynh introduced in 2010. It’s a clover-shaped hook secured to the back of the pendant, over which an open, clover-shaped bail, attached to the peridot briolette, is hung. It keeps dangling elements securely fastened, but allows them to be removable.

Once Pav had the waxes in hand, he and his staff began casting, setting the stones, and working on the metal finish he had in mind for the backgrounds of the fleur-de-lis motifs, to give them depth and substance. His initial idea was to create a rippling effect on the metal, but his clients weren’t happy with the look, so he changed it to stippling. When the pieces were complete, they were each wrapped differently by store staff, for presentation at the King’s ball.

  Now Pav could turn to the King’s ring, which the Queen, Laurel Luckey, had ordered as a surprise for her King. For the signet, Vanessa created a crown and fleur-de-lis motif in high-polished gold, which was placed on a hammered gold background surrounded by diamonds. The design complemented the Queen’s pendant, as well as the jewelry created for the rest of the court.

On the sides of the ring, Vanessa added important details about his year of kingship and club, and gave instructions that the classic comedy mask appear on one side and the tragedy mask on the other (also traditional Mardi Gras symbols).

Because Butch is known locally as Big O, Vanessa created a gallery under the ring’s top that read "Big O". The Queen was delighted with the design, which Pav also had 3D Galatea create in CAD and model in wax.

It was a King’s finish, and for Pav & Broome, the end of a design challenge they won’t soon forget.


MJSA Advantage

MJSA members can order articles for free, as well as access exclusive online content.