There has been much ado about Kamala Harris' jewellery choices, primarily featuring pearls in contemporary designs. But pearls have a long history of being worn by royalty and politicians alike.

Historically natural pearls were amongst the rarest and most expensive gems, available only to royalty and the very wealthy. Natural pearls are formed by the accidental intrusion of a foreign body into the shell, the oyster encapsulates the intruder in layers of nacre (the same material that lines the shell’s interior). On average, only one oyster in 10,000 will produce a pearl of moderate worth.

The most famous is probably La Peregrina (pictured above), found in the Gulf of Panama in the 1500's and instantly sent to King Philip II of Spain. It remained property of royalty and noblesse until Richard Burton purchased it at auction in 1969 and gifted it to Elizabeth Taylor.

Different types of pearl producing species

With the advent of Kokichi Mikimoto creating the first cultured pearl in the 1893, pearl prices plummeted and by the mid-century had become very much a symbol of the middle-classes. From June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) to Hyacinth Bucket (Keeping up appearances), they wore their pearl strands with pride.

Chanel popularized wearing multiple layers of faux pearls, firmly planting pearls on the fashion scene and making the look available to the masses. Two politician's wives who famously wore faux pearls are Jaqueline Onassis and Barbara Bush whose preferred their triple strands.

Pearls have remained popular as accessories for formal occasions and weddings ever since, with contemporary brides again selecting quality pearls over their cheaper alternatives.

brigitte adolph 18k white gold marilu pearl diamond pendant necklace designyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin ireland

We’re delighted to see the pearl make a comeback as contemporary designers include pearls in their designs again. But rather than the perfectly round white pearls so popular with previous generations, they prefer to work with the larger baroque and coloured pearls, creating powerful statements with natural organic materials.

cassie mccann 18k yellow gold anu south sea pearl emerald necklace designyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin ireland cassie mccann 18k yellow gold athena collection tahitian pearl green blue diamond ring designyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin ireland

The larger scale and more accessible prices allows the designer the full freedom to experiment, empowering some designers to push the limits by facetting or cutting pearls to reveal their inner structure.

Atelier Luz faceted pearl earrings

From the hopelessly romantic Brigitte Adolf, the classic Cassie McCann, to the edgy Josephine Bergsoe you will find a wide range of striking contemporary pearl jewellery at DesignYard. Book your appointment to see our pearl jewellery collection here.
June 05, 2021 — Nicole van der Wolf