When Ellon Ebanks first thought of presenting a special gift to Prince William and Princess Catherine in celebration of their marriage, it did not enter his mind that his search for the rare pink conch pearl would take him 444 miles off Grand Cayman.
So intent on giving a gift symbolic of the Cayman people, Mr. Ebanks’ travels took him all the way to Honduras and back to acquire the rare pearls he needed to complete his masterpiece – a pendant made from a 24 carat gold coin inlaid in an 18 carat gold band with four dangling pink pearls.
To create the pendant, Mr. Ebanks purchased the coin from Miquel Powery and set to work looking for the pearls, which he said had to be the correct size, colour and shape.
“At one point I thought I would never complete the piece because I could not locate the pearls,” he said.
The journey begins
“I flew from Cayman to La Ceiba and after gaining information from fishermen in La Ceiba where I could purchase the pearls, I set out on a journey. I found one pearl on Hog Island, one in Sambo Creek, one in Chiquimula and the final pearl was located in a jewellery store in La Ceiba.”
The cost of each pearl was US$350,” he said.
When he returning to Cayman, Mr. Ebanks took only a few days to complete the pendant, but by that time the Premier had left the Island and the Royal couple had already said ‘I do’.
Mr. Ebanks is now thinking about what to do with the piece.
“I don’t really want to sell it, which I think could fetch a good $3,000. A lot of time was put into creating the piece, but if someone wants to buy it, I will sell,” he said. “If I don’t get it sold I will wear it or keep it as a souvenir. The older these pieces get, the more valuable they become,” he said.
Mr. Ebanks said he has checked local jewellery stores and none has a pendant like his. “They say it is beautiful and want to take a picture but that is just using tact. They do not realise the pearls are harder to find than gold and copying the piece would be a challenge.”
Mr. Ebanks, 76, is one of Cayman’s talented artisans who likes creating sculptures of famous people.
He drew attention after sculpturing a piece made from black coral and gold which he called The Fighter. This was presented to Muhammad Ali on his first visit to Grand Cayman in 1983. He has also designed a black coral and gold replica of Michael Jackson and has created a number of unique black coral designs for jewellery stores in George Town.
His passion for sculpturing began in wood from the time he was a little boy attending school, and most of his pieces tell of adventures captured in time – all of which are one-of-a-kind originals.
“This kind of work comes in like I don’t have to think much about anything. I have seen things from many years ago and still recall them, and I can sit down with a piece of wood and carve it. As I start to carve, the image comes to me. My boys also have that talent, but not everyone has the gift,” said Mr. Ebanks.
According to Mr. Ebanks working with black coral leads to health problems. “Sometimes when I do plenty coral work the dust gives me a cold so I have to stop for a couple of days and then go back at it again.”
Some years ago Mr. Ebanks supplied jewellery stores in George Town with gold and black coral sculptures, such as earrings, pendants and shells in any design that was asked for. Because of age and health problems, he no longer does such work – just special pieces now and then.