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The Timeless Look and Changing Tide of Pearl Jewelry
The Timeless Look and Changing Tide of Pearl Jewelry

Pearls are classic, with an appeal that transcends trends, fads in fashion and the fickleness of pop culture. Case in point: A traditional opera-length strand of same-size pearls will look as perfect today as it did yesterday and as it will look a hundred years from now.

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Seed Pearl, Diamond, Emerald and Ruby Tassel Earrings

But even pearl jewelry trends change with the times, particularly when young, chic designers get their hands on them, and even established companies, too, update and add to their aesthetic. Mikimoto, a highly regarded and seminal grower of cultured pearls, always offers its acclaimed and time-honored best-sellers, but today also mixes and matches pearls interspersed with faceted, Pantone-hued briolettes or turquoise orbs or precious-metal beads or interesting rondelles. Mastoloni, a company that focuses on pearl jewelry, has recently created delicate necklaces with open metal links, peppered with blush or black pearls, designed to be layered heavily (and at a price that allows for it) à la Coco Chanel —more is more and that’s better. There are also so many up-and-coming designers who put their own stamp on pearls. Kiwon Wang is a jeweler who has mixed elegant pearls with all manner of odd materials; her newest work includes stacks of circular pieces of newspaper, creating a tube of paper disks unexpectedly accented with pearls. She has even used slivers of ancient Korean poetry books in designs of her pearl jewelry.

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Tahitian Pearl and Black Spinel Bead Necklace

These days, even classic, opulent toursades (twisted multi-strand ropes that can undulate with the wearer’s movements) bear hints of semi-precious lapis, malachite, or peachy coral; we have even seen pearl jewelry accented with wood, ebony, and something as seemingly incongruous as denim. But regardless of modern updates and the influence of fashion on jewelry, your pearls of today are the heirlooms you will pass on to your children and grandchildren — collectible and timeless. Be a little adventurous, but don’t lose sight of the classics. Do not dismiss an archetypal pearl necklace, perhaps set with the twinkle of a diamond or two, as a perfect accessory for the bride, or as an anniversary or graduation gift, but also consider something with an up-to-the-minute twist: individual stud earrings are a wonderful gift for bridesmaids or Sweet Sixteens, but you might also consider those Dior double-sided “Tribale” earrings that have stuck around as well as spawned many good looking copy cats.

Pearls are all the more mysterious because they are one of the world’s natural gems, extracted from the deep without alteration. So, test the waters, dip your toe in, and wear your pearls proudly this holiday season and beyond.

Ruth J. Katz

From classic to cool, shop pearl jewelry below.

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