Perennially popular pearls are having yet another moment in the spotlight as this year’s must-have jewels. During the Spring/Summer 2021 fashion shows, held mostly virtually, pearls were everywhere adorning outfits from Marc Jacobs and Jason Wu to Badgley Mishka, Miu Miu, and of course Chanel. Each design house had a different take on pearls, some designers accessorized with pearl jewelry, others used pearls to adorn their clothes. Any way that pearls are used, their glowing luminosity and subtle iridescence are always alluring.
Throughout history pearls were so rare and highly coveted that at one time only royalty was allowed to wear them. Finding a pearl in the depths of the ocean was a dangerous task and it took many dives to come up with enough pearls to make a strand. They were the ultimate show of wealth.
Centuries later, pearls are going strong and continue to percolate with the fashion set. Coco Chanel is famous for the ropes of pearls that she often wore and the gem has become synonymous with the design house. Audrey Hepburn was always elegant in pearls. Actress Blake Lively and model Gigi Hadid have made wearing pearls cool again. Men are in on the action too. Harry Styles of One Direction fame, has been sporting a pearl choker that has become his signature piece.
Pearls are also the go to jewel for women in politics who favor these gems for their understated, yet powerful presence. Over the years, pearls have changed from being the ultimate show of wealth to a prim and proper accessory, finally morphing into a boldly chic statement straight off the runways.
Today’s jewelry designers have changed our perception of pearls from a stodgy strand in the back of grandma’s jewelry box to a stylish statement. Some designers have embraced perfectly imperfect baroque pearls, accenting them with gems and layering them with other pieces making pearls more modern and turning the pearl into a fashionista favorite.
Artist Naomi Sarna brings her visionary approach to pearls taking the most unusual of these gems and turning them into wearable art. “There is a sensuousness about pearls that has always appealed to me. They slide over your hands like silk, but they have a grittiness if you rub them on your teeth, which is how you determine if a pearl is real. If it is gritty it’s real, if it feels smooth when you rub it on your teeth, then it’s not real,” says Sarna.
When Sarna finds the pearl that speaks to her, she inherently wants to adorn it. Guided by the hues of the pearl’s iridescence and its body color, Sarna selects gemstones – usually colored diamonds or sapphires — that enhance those tones creating harmonious jewels that tell the story of these angels from the ocean. Her innovative use of pearls has won Sarna several awards for her artful designer jewelry creations. She favors baroque and colored pearls, “I like the unusually shaped baroque pearls because I feel that they reflect my carving style.”
When you’re shopping for a gift of pearl jewelry, whether for yourself or someone else, the choices are numerous. For those with more traditional tastes a classic strand is perfect, for the more adventurous a baroque pearl brooch adorned with precious gems that can be worn on a coat lapel or hat is a fashion forward choice.
In the introduction to their book “People & Pearls” authors Ki Hackney and Diana Edkins, summed up the allure of pearls stating that “when a woman wears pearls it is she who shines.”