Local flight attendant cultivates pearl passion
Jeri Briggs remembers her family giving her a single string of pearls when she was a young girl growing up in Georgia. And as many girls do in the South, where pearls are a sign of class and dignity, she treasured it and wore it with pride.
"I’ve always loved pearls, ever since I was given that string of pearls," Briggs said. "Being from the South, it’s just one of those things that little southern girls wear on special occasions."
Despite her lifelong love for pearls, it wasn’t until recently that Briggs decided to turn her passion into a business. As the founder of Park City-based The Flying Pearl, she imports pearls from China and sells them.
Briggs, who also is a flight attendant, gets her pearls mainly from Beijing, China, where she flies two or three times a month. She first got the idea for The Flying Pearl when during one trip to China — one of the world’s largest pearl producers, and where vendors line the local markets — she ended up bringing home a suitcase full of pearls. With China’s pearl market at her fingertips, she figured, starting her own retailer would be a perfect fit.
"I thought that while I’m there for work, I might as well make use of my time," Briggs said. "And I’ve had a great time. I enjoy doing it."
Though there are countless vendors in China, Briggs has settled on two for the majority of her supply. It was important to find vendors she could trust — ones who could provide consistent quality and back up their product.
"I know them and they know me," she said. "They know what I’m buying and the quality I want."
Also important is the difference in the two vendors’ styles. One’s jewelry is traditional, while the other is more current and provides an edgy flair to her products.
"They both bring their own strengths," Briggs said. "I have to go out of my box, because I know what my taste is, which is very traditional. But I have a 24-year-old daughter that keeps me in check. So I have to be able to have that variety."
Once she buys the pearls, Briggs sells them on her website, flyingpearl.com, and at trunk shows. She hosts shows locally, as well as many on the East Coast, where pearls are most popular.
"Friends of mine will host me and have their friends over," she said, adding that prices of her pearls range from around 10 to several thousand dollars. "We have a couple glasses of wine, and off we go. I’ve actually met a lot of people that way, and it has worked very well."
If Briggs doesn’t have the exact item a customer wants, she also can have one of her vendors custom make it.
"I have people that send me pictures of things, and I take them over to my vendors," she said. "I do that quite a bit, and it’s fun for me. It makes it more special for people. It’s more unique."
Though pearls aren’t as popular in Utah as in other parts of the country, The Flying Pearl has benefitted from the support it has received locally. Briggs said she’s fortunate to live in the Park City area, where she has discovered that more share her passion than in other areas of the state.
"It makes me realize that I’m not the only one who loves them out here," Briggs said. "It’s a southern thing, but there are a lot of people in Park City who love them, too. There are a lot of people who have migrated out here from the East Coast."
The Flying Pearl