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Person Behind The Place: Holly Zhang

May 31, 2022 - by Sandy Vo

Holly Zhang, owner of Holly Zhang Pearl Gallery

Person Behind The Place:
Holly Zhang

Owner | Holly Zhang Pearl Gallery

Located inside The Shops at the Bravern, Holly Zhang Pearl Gallery holds some of the most captivating jewelry on the Eastside. Owner Holly Zhang hand selects and designs each product using high-quality saltwater and freshwater pearls to create stunning contemporary pieces that can’t be found anywhere else. Zhang said she’s proud of her business accomplishments and that it wasn’t easy. Just seven years before opening, Holly Zhang Pearl Gallery was a small traveling pop-up shop touring different hospitals around the Pacific Northwest.

Zhang started her career as a jewelry vendor in 2005, traveling to different hospitals in Washington and selling merchandise to patients, visitors and hospital staff. Eventually, business took off and Zhang expanded her tour to California and Portland, traveling to over 50 hospitals along the West Coast.

After years of selling at hospitals, she finally opened Holly Zhang Pearl Gallery in 2011. Zhang now sells everything from classic pearls and elegant bracelets to extravagant necklaces and rings. As part of her business, she still incorporates trunk show fundraisers at nearby hospitals, donating 20% of sales to support patient care and hospital programs.

Learn more about the origin of Zhang’s love for jewelry, why she loves working in Downtown Bellevue and her go-to spots in town.

Unique jewelry piece designed by Holly Zhang

How did you discover your love for jewelry making?

In 1997 I studied English in China and became an interpreter for a jewelry market that sold pearls. While on the job, I had a chance to learn all about the jewelry business. After that, I met my husband and flew to Washington where I designed my own pieces and sold them as a vendor in hospitals.

Why did you open your business in Downtown Bellevue?

I grew up in a very boring village in China, and when I saw Bellevue, I immediately fell in love with city life and saw a business opportunity here. Since opening in 2011, I’ve been able to watch the city grow into this amazing shopping culture that you can’t find anywhere else which also helped my shop thrive as well.

What makes your jewelry stand out from other styles or designs?

During my time as an interpreter in China, I noticed that people would fly overseas to Beijing and purchase freshwater pearls. There was clearly a demand for it in the U.S. My jewelry is designed with high-quality freshwater and saltwater pearls such as Akoya, Tahitian Black, and Golden South Sea pearls combined with other precious and semiprecious gemstones. It's something you don't find here often. 

What advice would you give to someone who's starting out in the jewelry business?

I would tell them that designing is harder than you think. To really succeed in this business, you must learn about the fashion industry and how other cultures have woven jewelry into their clothing. I learn by flipping through fashion magazines and seeing what modern and trendy looks are happening right now. I then go to my design crew and begin choosing colors, picking beads, and ordering parts to create the design.

A closeup image from Holly Zhang's photoshoot  /
Credit: Upma Sharma photography / models: Maricres Castro and Serghei Boldesco

Any recent accomplishments you’d like to share?

I recently launched a new jewelry fitting service specifically for weddings. Brides can come in and try pieces from our extensive collection to help them find the perfect jewelry to complement their wedding attire.

I’m most proud of the photoshoot I organized for the new service launch. I reached out to my network of community members and businesses and asked them to be a part of it. It was successful and resulted in a day filled with growth and support from those who agreed to help. I’m so lucky to have such a great support system here.

Why do you love working in Downtown Bellevue?

I love working in Bellevue because it feels like home. I love how clean and safe it is and the many lovely parks for kids to play in. It is an excellent environment to raise a family. Every day, I feel fortunate to work here.

Where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 3-5 years?

I see Bellevue becoming a large urban center. I hope our infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and public safety will support this rapid growth. 

Where are your favorite places to dine in Downtown?

John Howie SteakThe Dolar Shop, and Wild Ginger are my favorite places to dine and hang out with friends.

Do you have a favorite place to shop in Bellevue?

I used to love Neiman Marcus before they closed. Now, I go to Nordstrom because I love their style.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

As a business owner, I want to help the younger generation find their path to becoming an entrepreneur. I want to do something meaningful for the community and find ways to do better in the world.

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Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.