Pearls are one of the most popular jewels on the planet and are the trendiest gem for Summer 2023. In recent shows celebrities are stepping into the spotlight in statement pearl pieces, bringing the beloved classic into a new context. Bella Hadid walked for Vivienne Westwood’s SS23 show adorned with ‘jumbo pearl’ earrings, and even male stars are adopting the trend. Pearl necklaces can be seen recently on the likes of Harry Styles and A$AP Rocky, blurring the boundaries between men and women’s fashion.
Klarna reports that there have been 32% more sales of pearl necklaces in the past year. According to ‘The RealReal’, shopper’s interest in pearls had more than doubled in late 2022, in contrast to diamond bracelets which dropped by 50%.
Amid the release of the new live action ‘The Little Mermaid’ Disney film, terms such as ‘pearlcore’ and ‘mermaidcore’ have been trending on social media. It’s really no surprise that pearls are now hitting the mainstream, but what is their history?
The History of Pearls
Pearls have been around since ancient times as a symbol of pure perfection. Did you know that the Latin word for “pearl” is “margarita” meaning “that which is precious or excellent”? The Latin name came from the Greek ‘Margarites’ and is where we get the name ‘Margaret’ from today.
For many centuries, in so many cultures over the globe, the gifting of pearls has been an important tradition. In traditional Chinese culture the pearl was considered a gift from the gods that signified purity and prosperity. The Huai River in China produced freshwater pearls which were the desired gift for Chinese Royalty. In Chinese mythology, dragons are often seen carrying pearls in their mouth as a symbol of wisdom.
Pearls were also a mark of status in Ancient Rome, where Julius Caesar made it law to prohibit non-royals from wearing them. They became so valuable that, at the peak of the Roman Empire, a single pearl earring belonging to the general Vitellius was traded for the money to fund an entire military campaign.
“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls” – Coco Chanel
In 1893, the first cultured pearl was developed by K.Mikimoto in Japan, making pearls much more accessible to the masses. By 1935, over 350 pearl farms were operating in Japan, which produced over 10 million cultured pearls pro annum.
Only a year later, pearl jewellery began to permeate popular culture, with Coco Chanel’s iconic multi-strand pearl portrait being at the forefront of fashion. We’ve observed many important fashion moments involving pearl necklaces since then; from 1960’s Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, to Marilyn Monroe’s Akoya pearl necklace, to the more recent 100-pearl necklace modelled by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw.
How do I style pearls?
Wearing pearl jewellery stylishly requires context- consider what sort of style you are wanting to channel. There are so many trendy ways that pearls can be worn in 2023, depending on what sort of aesthetic you want to adopt. For a more traditional and feminine look, pair pearls with delicate lace and sheer materials, with lower necklines to show intricate neck pieces in their full glory.
For a more modern chic look, pair pearl jewellery such as chokers with darker fabrics, corsets, leather and even workwear such as blazers à la Bella Hadid.
How do I care for pearls?
To keep your antique and vintage pieces in the condition they were bought in, we recommend you do the following:
- Don’t be shy to wear them every day: the natural oils in your skin moisturise pearls, keeping them dewy and keeps them radiant.
- Avoid contact with water.
- Perfume and perspiration can damage the nacre of the pearl and ruin its natural lustre, so wipe them down after use.
- To avoid stretching the string, don’t hang your necklaces and bracelets up. Lay them flat while in storage.
- Store them away from other materials such as metals where they can become scratched.
- Make sure air can get to them and store them in a soft cloth or pouch
At Jewellery Addiction we are dedicated to sourcing the most affordable and wearable treasures for your budget. Our skilled team are happy to assist you with finding the perfect timeless piece for your wardrobe, ensuring you get many years of wear from your purchase.