House tour – tea and anecdotes with tribal jewellery collector Peter Adler

Are you familiar with the trademark statement jewellery hanging around Iris Apfel’s neck? Some of her vast collection comes from Peter Adler’s appointment-only tribal jewellery brand Pebble London, where the 95 year old style icon is a regular. Seen the fashion-forward men in huge metal necklaces at hip menswear brand Casley-Hayford’s recent S/S17 fashion show? Those were from Pebble London. Lupita Nyong’o wearing wooden necklaces in US Vogue, shoots for just about every Vogue, characters in Game of Thrones, Paloma Faith in a Sumatra headdress at the Baftas, even rooms in the World of Interiors decorated with elaborate necklaces by Nina Campbell – to summarise, if you’ve spotted gorgeous tribal jewellery anywhere notable it’s probably from Pebble London.

The brand’s founder, the son of famous Jazz harmonica player Larry Adler, Peter was born in Beverly Hills and has been collecting tribal pieces since he himself was a musician. Since turning his hobby into a profession, he’s maintained his collector’s passion – only buying what he loves from all around the world (Thailand, India, China, everywhere…). He also designs pieces that are made by master craftsmen in Afghanistan. I visited Peter and his two Bengal cats, Mitsu and Mitsu, under the guise of finding out what it’s like living in such a colourful, busy house. Over a cup of tea and many funny anecdotes, it became clear our conversation would not take such a straightforward or linear path “How you react to colours, patterns, paintings or music – it’s not something you make too many conscious decisions about, it’s just an instinctive thing,” Peter says. Thus, below are some excerpts from our conversation alongside images of Peter’s wonderful home-cum-showroom. We’ll start in what describes as “a minimalist room.”

Image from Pebble London

On collecting since childhood 

“My [English] mother reminded me that as a child I loved collecting shells from the beach and small stones. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the colours and shapes of small crystals. I still just love what nature produces. I have stones from China, from a river where they only take out the ones that are more or less perfect. The water has a very high metallic content and so pyrites crystals form over millions of years in these circular patterns. They’re absolutely extraordinary and when I first saw them I thought they had to be artificial. I made a table with fossils found in Dorset, Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast. You should go there after a big storm because that whole cliff, which is crumbling and is very unstable, is packed with ammonites so after a storm there’s hundreds on the beach.”

On his tribal beginnings

“I love traditional tribal, mad stuff and I buy as a collector, never as a profiteer. If I don’t like it I won’t buy it. I started off as a collector when I was in the music business and became fascinated by traditional tribal stuff. Originally because we were touring America and I was seeing traditional American Indian art. Then when I became aware of African and Oceanic and Polynesian traditional art, I became less interested in American Indian art and textiles became a key thing. In the early days (the 70s and 80s) – Sotheby’s and Christie’s used to have pieces becuase of England’s colonial past, most of which they’d reject as being not important enough to put into sale – and so did the market. But if they did (they’d have whole boxes of 19th century beadwork which is stunning), people were always making jokes ‘oh there’s Peter buying his beads and his stools  and his pottery’ – because I loved it and it went for nothing. Now the market has rather caught up and they’re making more of a fuss about it.”

On who comes to Pebble London 

“We’ve done a lot of jewellery for wonderful series like Game of Thrones – right from the beginning. The shell necklaces [pictured on the top shelf below] are from Guinea and because of their size and weight, mostly decorators would buy them for their clients. Nina Campbell has just bought a load. The last time Iris Apfel was here she bought three or four of them and I said, Iris these are really heavy. She said ‘honey, I know the parties I’ll be wearing these to and I’ll be sitting down.’ She’s incredible, she has the enthusiasm of a teenager.

The main problem is editorial. For instance last week, was pandemonium because Mario Testino was going to India to shoot for four different Vogues. Charlotte Tilbury was doing the make up and there was a whole massive team going out for ten days. Lucinda Chambers from UK Vogue, the French editor, Sarah Jane Hoare from New York, Indian Vogue. All four Vogues selected different pieces, and therein lies our problem because often pieces don’t come back and you’ve got to be on it and chase it. So we photograph everything before it goes out and write it up. Editorial shoots happen all the time and we have a lot of private clients.”

On the importance of travel

“The more you travel and explore the more you realise what you don’t know and the more there is out there that is extraordinary. I still have loads of places I want to see. Most of South America. As you get older, something you might be attracted to now, you might not have been twenty years ago. It’s bizarre. But I think it’s because wherever you are, you’re absorbing visual information. I’m always trying to go somewhere I’ve never been before. In India you could travel the rest of your life and still not scratch it. When I’m there I try to do half the time in workshops, in Jaipur principally where I’ve worked for years, and the other half exploring new areas. You have every type of landscape in India. Nature is very important to me, especially with my new obsession, crystals and fossils.”

On attitudes to colour

“I suppose I tend to favour softer colours than harsh ones but sometimes in jewellery – not the stuff I’m designing, which I try to keep simple – I love strong and happy colours. I have always been a great believer that there is no such thing as good or bad tatse, there’s only taste. In other words your taste is totally valid for you. You can walk into a museum or an exhibition or whatever and without thinking about it will be attracted to one painting and not another. Just not thinking about it, but making a choice. Of course that probably evolves the more you see. How you react to colours, patterns, paintings or music. But it’s not something you make too many conscious decisions about, it’s just an instinctive thing. I chose red for this room because I just liked it, it’s kind of brick red. It’s warm and it’s so packed with stuff. I’ve always thought this whole place is a tribute to minimalism.”

All images by the author except for the main room and Iris Apfel photograph. Pebble London is an appointment-only showroom, find the details for it here.

Banner image: Philip Volkers for Pebble London Facebook

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

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