In response to my findings, Gwen of BeAd Infinitum gave an excellent suggestion on how to better-fit the smaller pearls to the design by removing four seed beads from each pillar. I gave it a try with the same peacock pearls that I used in the second bead in my original experiments, and here's the result:
I'm happy to report that it works out great! The bead is much less squishy, and it does a better job of showing off the pearls!
This variation also works well with other smallish teardrop-shaped freshwater pearls. Here's a pair of earrings with some peach-colored drop pearls that I bought at the last Rings and Things roadshow:
Finally, I made a pair of earrings and a bracelet using this variation to match the Bubble Box pendant made with pearls in the same color scheme. Both of these pieces are available in my Etsy shop:
I can't wait to try this variation with some green pearls I bought at the BABE show! Much thanks to Gwen for the excellent suggestion!