By Ashley Davis
Last year, this water buffalo horn cuff with pink pearls set with rubies won the President’s Trophy at the Cultured Pearl Association of America’s annual International Pearl Design Competition.
New York—COVID-19 may have disrupted much of the typical fine jewelry market this year, but one contest is still giving pearl enthusiast designers something to look forward to.

The Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) has announced the 11th International Pearl Design Competition is underway, with entries due Oct. 2.

There are eight categories, with separate divisions for international and domestic designers.

The categories are:
President’s Trophy, for the design the judges consider the most beautiful and original overall;
Luster Award, reserved for a best-selling pearl design;
Orient Award, for a jewel priced attainably for new collectors;
Visionary Award for Classic Styles, given to a design that provides a modern update on a classic piece;
Wedding Day Pearls Award, for the best bridal pearl design;
Fashion Award; for a design that is creative, youthful and modern;
Spotlight Award; given annually to a design featuring a specific pearl variety, with this year showcasing golden South Sea pearls; and the
Popularity Award; awarded to a design that receives the most likes on CPAA’s Instagram.

Entries in the international division consist of renderings and sketches, while the U.S. division requires designers to first submit professional photographs of their entries by the Oct. 2 deadline, then, if chosen as a finalist, to mail in their finished pieces for judging.

Judges will privately notify designers if they’ve made it to the final round on Oct. 6.

Live judging will take place on Oct. 29, with the winning jewels immediately going to sell at Aaron Faber Gallery in New York City.

Aaron Faber co-founder Patricia Faber is one of this year’s judges alongside Jean Francois Bibet, workshop and production director at Cartier, and Michelle Graff, editor-in-chief at National Jeweler.

All will be present at the Oct. 29 cocktail reception (COVID-19 conditions permitting) following the awards reveal.

Entry fees have been reduced this year to $175 for designers’ first two entries in light of the pandemic. Additional entries after that cost $150.

Finalists who don’t make the final cut will receive a certificate and the possibility of still selling at Aaron Faber Gallery.

More information on contest rules are available on CPAA’s website.

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