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Pearls of Wisdom - Beautiful Indonesian Jewelry

strings of pearlsWord of mouth is a powerful force in the retail world - and that's probably the way most people have found Fandiasta, by hearing about the pearl shop from a satisfied customer.

I remember my first introduction to Fandiasta in the mid-90s. A friend who lived in Pondok Indah told me about this great pearl shop where you could get necklaces made while you wait; but it was far, far away. “Where?” I asked. “In Kemanggisan,” she said. Well, since I lived in nearby Kebun Jeruk, Kemanggisan didn't seem so far away to me. Since that first visit, I've referred numerous expats to the shop and haven't had a disappointed friend yet. What a find!


Located in the residential neighborhood of Kemanggisan Ilir behind Slipi Jaya Plaza, Fandiasta is a jewelry lover's paradise. Hundreds of ropes of almost every type of pearl imaginable and a wide assortment of ropes of semi-precious stone beads, are laid out on the counters, hung from racks or displayed throughout the shop.

Tiger eye NecklaceIbu Fan Sindhunata established Fandiasta in 1976, providing accessories for Javanese traditional wedding dress. Some of these accessories still remain in the shop, evoking memories of their early years in business. Today, her husband, Pak Sigit Sindhunata, their son Indra and their nephew Robby carry on the tradition of customer service that Ibu Fan was famous for.

In the 90s, the focus changed completely to the creation of pearl jewelry, utilizing pearls (mutiara) cultivated in farms in Maluku. The more recent introduction of semi-precious stones and crystal jewelry has further expanded the range of goods sold at Fandiasta. The semi-precious stone beads come both from Indonesia and beyond its borders, with over 30 types of stones - from Amethyst to White Onyx.

Look through the pearls that adorn the counters at Fandiasta; you're sure to find something to please you. The cost per standard 16-inch (40 cm.) strand ranges from Rp 45,000 to over Rp 4 million.

While the perfect round spheres sought after by well-to-do pearl connoisseurs are tucked away in the special Malachite and Tiger eye pearl braceletscollection, the so-called art-shaped pearls, also known as baroque (imperfect), or semi-baroque, are displayed throughout the store in abundance. The baroque pearls are increasingly popular and come in a variety of non-spherical shapes and colors and are referred to by their shape - rice, corn, pear, and others.

To cater to the tastes of fashion-conscious women, Fandiasta also stocks dyed pearls. These are pearls of a lesser quality which have been colored either through a laser process or through the food substances that are fed to the oyster while it is forming the pearl. Purple, blue and green baroque and semi-baroque pearls can be combined with natural colored pearls to create a truly unique necklace or bracelet.

Create your own necklace

Illusions necklaceUnique to Fandiasta is the on-the-spot assembly service they offer. Just choose the ropes of pearls or stones you want, select the accent beads or clasp design you want to use, then work with the skilled jewelry makers to design the piece you want to your exact length and design specifications. All that remains is to take a seat and chat with your friends while the skilled young gals assemble your jewelry.

One of the most popular items is the floating or illusion necklace where small pearls are set at a distance from each other on a super thin filament of nylon. Even from a close distance the thread seems to disappear, giving the illusion of pearls floating on your skin.

While ropes of pearls and stone beads are the specialty of the store, a small selection of earrings and set pearls are available as well.

Well-known secret of avid expat shoppers

The nationality of shoppers at Fandiasta ranges the full breadth of the international community in Jakarta. Avid Giok Jade necklaceJapanese collectors seek the excellent quality pearls for good prices and the average day will see a steady stream of Europeans, North and South Americans and Asians enjoying the excellent quality, good service and friendly atmosphere as well.

The shop is a well-known secret of the diplomatic and international business community. Guests of state are accompanied to Fandiasta by embassy and ministerial staff. Charts with translations of the names of stones in Japanese and Mandarin are available as all items are labeled in English. Even famous Indonesian jewelry designers can be seen having their creations made by the skilled artisans at Fandiasta.

Consult with Indra, the owner's son, or Robby, the owner's nephew and they'll help you put together the perfect necklace or bracelet.

Pearl cultivation in Indonesia

For centuries, pearl divers have sought oysters in the clear waters of the Indonesian archipelago. The oysters were harvested for their valuable inner mother of pearl shell, which was used to make buttons. On rare occasions pearls Barok Necklacewere found inside, a valuable find. Stories of life in Batavia in the 1600s make mention of Arab traders of pearls and their popular wares.

Traditional diving and its very low rate of success in finding pearls has been largely replaced in recent decades by the cultivation of cultured pearls. In the late 1800s, three Japanese inventors, the most famous of which was Mikimoto, discovered the technique to culture both saltwater and freshwater pearls. Pearl farms, found in China, Japan, the US and the tropical waters of Southeast Asia produce millions of beautiful cultural pearls annually, which is primarily what is found on the market today.

The Japanese have been interested in cultivating pearls in Indonesia. By the mid-1990s, heretofore minor interests had led to major investment by domestic and Japanese investors in the cultured pearl industry in Indonesia, not only in the province of Maluku, but also in Southeast and Central Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, Lombok and Lampung. In the last few years, some pearl cultivation has moved out of the areas of unrest in Maluku and Sulawesi and pearl cultivators are finding new sites in the clear waters of Papua and off other islands to cultivate their treasures.

Stringing a pearl necklace.In Indonesia, the primary cultivation is of South Sea Pearls, grown in saltwater farms in the silver lip or gold lip oyster (Pinctada Maxima). This type of oyster grows well in the waters off Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan. The natural colored pearls produced by these oysters include silver/white, silver, pink, cream and golden. The proper term for these pearls is “saltwater cultured pearls”. The high-luster, perfectly spherical white pearl commands the highest price, as it can take the oyster many years to grow the largest pearls.

Whatever the shape or size, the work of the oyster to deposit the thousands of layers of thin calcium carbonate crystals, creates beautiful pearls which have been treasured by women for jewelry and ornamentation for centuries. Neither cut nor polished, pearls are the only natural gem that comes ready to wear.

A Layman's Guide to Pearls

Pearls are graded by experts on their:

Luster (surface brilliance, the shine on the surface of the pearl that reflects light)

Nacre (thickness of the coating the mollusk forms around the center)

Blemish (imperfections that disturb the surface smoothness of the pearl)

Shape (round, pear shaped or irregularly shaped)

Color (natural color depends on the species of the pearl. It's a combination of body color (white, light pink or pink, light cream, and dark cream, yellow or golden) and overtone (pink, silver, and green)

Size (the larger the pearl, the rarer and more expensive)

Mabe pearls are also very popular with expats in Indonesia. Also known as button or blister pearls, mabe are a half-spherical cultured pearl which is grown on the inside shell of the same type of oyster that grows the South Sea pearls inside the mollusk's body. The pearl is cut away from the inner shell, and then backed with mother-of-pearl. They are especially attractive as they are big in size and lay flat.

Robby, Owner
Jl. Olah Raga I/1B
Kemanggisan Ilir, Slipi
Jakarta Barat 11480
Tel. 536-4520, 533-0021, 534-6771
Open Monday through Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm

Witten by Danielle Surkatty

A version of this article was first published in Jakarta Kini, a publication of Indo Multi Media.
Photos by Jan Dekker