Elizabeth Taylor: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo. Jackie Kennedy: IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo
So, while diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, pearls have proven to be their evergreen partners in style.
Fashion, of course, has played a crucial part in granting them such timeless charm. Coco Chanel was one of the first to use them on the catwalk (though hers were fake), making them an integral part of the modern woman’s look — one of her most famous maxims, after all, was ‘a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls’. Dior, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga all reinterpreted the gemstones in myriad different ways through their accessories and collections, bringing pearls into the realm of casual attire and making them the most covetable item for career women and young debutantes alike.
Over the past decade in particular, pearls have surged again after a brief lull in the 1990s as a marker of panache, re-emerging in unexpected, sometimes bold combinations — and on a whole new demographic. The comeback is surely in part due to Dior’s 2013 Tribales earrings, which featured a gobstopper-sized pearl on the front of the earlobe and a smaller one on the back, and went on to become something of a cult piece. The pearl-encrusted jacket in the 2015 Balmain x H&M collection, had its role, too, in shedding the prim connotations around the gem. So did Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Alessandro Michele at Gucci (who sent a pearl balaclava down the runway on the brand’s 2018 Resort show).
And then of course, there’s been the pivotal work of the jewellery world’s greatest and brightest. From Cartier and Chopard to Van Cleef & Arpels and BVLGARI, heritage brands have been quietly modernising pearls through cool, bold reconfigurations of classic collections, creating contemporary pieces that have become highly sought-after.