She’s known at the “Pearl Lady” here at the Markets having first joined us back in 1997. “Because I’ve been at the markets so long, I’ve met regulars who moved overseas and came back, and were surprised to see that I’m still here,” says Karen with a laugh.
Before getting into the business of designing and selling pearl products, Moondrop Pearls Owner Karen Kowald worked for the fitness industry in sales. Being a bit of a gym junkie herself, she proudly wears her pearls at the gym. “I’ve got people who will vouch for that,” says Karen.
Her career trajectory changed when Karen one day walked into a jewellery shop that happened to sell pearls. After speaking with the lady in charge, she was encouraged to get into the business herself. Six weeks after their encounter, they became business partners and it provided Karen with the experience before starting her own business.
“The number one question I get is, “Are they real?””
Over time, Karen learned through experience and research about the value of pearls and how to screen them. She sources her pearls from various places such as areas in Indonesia and the Cook Islands. “A lot of people don’t realise that the Australian pearls are the most expensive in the world because a particular oyster is only found in Broome,” says Karen. While she has ordered single pearls, the price of a strand can go up to $200,000.
That’s an extreme example of how highly priced pearl products can be. Fortunately Moondrop Pearls has a variety of products to cater to as many customers. “I have a huge variety that suits anyone who wants to spend $25 up to a couple thousand and a lot in between,” says Karen whose products include an array of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings each with unique designs.
Karen happily gives advice to customers who are interested in knowing how to determine the value of a pearl. Without getting into too much detail, she advises inspecting the lustre, the colour, and the opalescence, which touches on the sheets of colours and their reflection. “The number one question I get is ‘Are they real?'” says Karen. She ended up placing a sign at her stall to efficiently address the frequency of the question, all in good fun. One technique that’s discouraged is rubbing the pearls with your teeth. You can instead rub two pearls against each other to get a feel of their “roughness”.
With too many moments about the markets to share, Karen considers every week her favourite as it can bring a completely different experience from the last one. With a such a good environment to meet interesting people, she can’t get enough of that buzz the market tends to get when things really get busy. As an admirer of other stalls and their beautiful products, she considers Sarah E Gallery as one of her favourites.
“I’ve met regulars who moved overseas and came back, and were surprised to see that I’m still here”
Outside of the markets, Karen has also been involved with various charities and promotions. One being the Canberra Hospital for whom she raised money for their neonatal clinic. Another is Barnardos Australia for their cause to prevent child abuse. For the latter, she donated strands of pearls going towards a raffle that acted as a fundraiser.
“The reason I don’t have a website is that most of my things are one-offs,” says Karen. She instead recommends to follow her Facebook page @MoondropPearls and her Instagram where she uploads photos of her latest creations.
To see the beautiful designs by Moondrop Pearls, visit them on Sundays at the Old Bus Depot Markets, and especially on our annual jewellery-centric event, Jewel of Canberra, this 11 November.
To keep up with the latest on Canberra’s Sunday Best, make sure to follow us on Facebook @OldBusDepotMarkets.