Everyone loves a pearl. That’s just the way it is! From their translucent satin finishes to the way they glow against the skin, anyone without exception can wear a piece of pearl jewellery and feel elegant. From a double strand necklace to a simple pair of studs, they are effortlessly beautiful.
Pearls are truly magical. As the only precious gem created by a living creature, they are the hidden treasures of the sea. The planet’s blue-green depths are filled with conches, oysters and clams that construct these natural marvels we hold in such high regard. Whether natural or cultured (made with human intervention), every pearl is one of a kind, as no two pearls are the same in either colour or often in shape. For this article, it was our mission to find out why this water-based biogenic material yields such power.
From perfectly round cream-coloured freshwater pearls to Tahitian black pearls, this aquatic gem holds great importance in the world of haute couture, in all its glorious forms. Style icons and revered artists the world over have professed their love of pearls. Celebrated fashion designer Coco Chanel was known for never leaving her house without a strand of pearls around her neck, or a perfect pair of studs, to finish her look. The House of Chanel continues to honour its founder’s love of pearls by including them in many of its fine jewellery creations, as well as in the accents and details of its fashion collections. In her own words: “A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.” The epitome of timeless elegance, Grace Kelly favoured pearls above all other gems and was credited with the saying: "I favour pearls on screen and in my private life.” Finally, it was perhaps the fashion icon Jackie Kennedy who said it best: “Pearls are always appropriate.”
It’s important to note that women are not alone in their love of pearls. Over the years, men have developed an affinity for pearl jewellery. From single earrings to a simple strand worn around the neck, they have become stylish and daring accessories of the modern male wardrobe. Italian film director Federico Fellini was mad about pearls: “All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” Many pearl jewels today are created with a nod to the male perspective and with men at the helm of many pearl jewellery brands, this versatile wonder has become the most gender-fluid gem of the moment.
I had the great pleasure of asking two important pearl brands why they adore working with this delicate gem. The first was Nepalese-born fashion designer Prabal Gurung. Appointed the artistic director of the pearl-centric jewellery brand Tasaki over five years ago, this creative designer also heads his eponymous clothing brand which is known for daring and innovative designs. He has brought a unique energy to his work in fine and high jewellery, using pearls as his dominant medium. He explains: "Pearls are timeless. Taking classic elements and envisioning them in modern designs is one of the many reasons I love working with pearls. Pearls are also extremely personal and versatile - evoking understated elegance or making a glamorous statement - all dependent on the person wearing them and what mood they want to convey. The ability to tell a story through not only elements and the overall design, but also with the person in mind, is always my ultimate goal when designing any piece within Tasaki Atelier.”
Mr Haga, the design director at Mikimoto shares a similar view on pearls. Fascinated with their ability to be both striking and classic, Mr Haga is incredibly proud to be associated with such an important gem: “I feel proud of making Mikimoto pearl jewellery using only the highest quality pearls. It is a great honour to work for a company with such heritage and expertise, we will be celebrating Mikimoto’s 130th Anniversary next year and this explains why we continue to create outstanding pearl jewellery.”
Now as to why I love pearls, the answer is twofold. Firstly, pearls are easy to wear, and they beautifully elevate seemingly simple looks like the classic jeans and t-shirt combo. That little black dress that we all have in our closet becomes something more than an old faithful, it takes on an understated elegance which lifts your entire outfit. Secondly, the pearls in my jewellery box hold special memories which, like a familiar piece of music, evoke joyful recollections. Over the years I have been gifted pieces of pearl jewellery from dear friends and family members. From a modern Wilfredo Rosado pendant to a classic pair of Bucherer earrings, these are pieces that are not only beautiful to look at, but remind me of those I care for most.