Spring/Summer 2019 saw pearl earrings explode off the catwalk and onto the ears of many a fashion blogger on our instagram feeds. Large, irregular and often inlaid with semi-precious stones in surrealist settings, these pseudo-baroque creations are the latest take on the statement jewellery trend. No longer a revered hand-me-down from your grandmother or the ‘suitable’ option worn exclusively at birthdays, weddings and funerals, ‘Cool Girl Pearls’ have revitalized a gemstone that has fascinated the public imagination for centuries.
Pearl jewellery is thought to be so old that no one exact date of origin can be found. Following recent excavations in Abu Dhabi, Emirati experts announced that the world’s oldest pearl had been excavated from a stone age settlement near Abu Dhabi. Thought to be over 8,000 years old, pearls have served as a symbol of wealth, modesty and purity in most ancient cultures across the globe. During the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar ruled they could only be worn by the aristocratic elite whilst Queen Cleopatra is said to have crushed a pearl into a glass of wine to prove to Marc Antony that she was capable of holding the most expensive dinner in history.
Pearls have continued to enthrall wearers well into the twentieth century. Transforming from the jewel of European royalty to a mark of contemporary glamour, it seems fitting that Elizabeth Taylor’s acquisition of ‘La Pelegrina’, ‘the most infamous pearl in history’ connected Hollywood to a long line of regal predecessors.
In more recent times, independent designers like Alighieri, Sophie Pacheree and Nadya Shelbaya have sought to reinvent the idea of perfect pearls and the women that wear them. From imperfect shapes to unique, organic settings, contemporary designers celebrate the elegance of the pearl in its natural form. A fresh change from single-strand necklaces and modest studs, these so-called ‘cool-girl’ pearls break away from the conventional standards of jewellery popularised from the twentieth century onwards. Rather, these gems celebrate natural beauty, their organic and unrefined design mirroring the originality of the contemporary women that them.
Throughout history, the power of the pearl has never waned. As the latest chapter in the story that has enthralled wearers for generations, ‘cool girl pearls’ illustrate how a timeless jewellery trend has been reworked to suit contemporary consumer demands. Regardless of size, setting, shape or value, pearls remain a popular luxury of the natural world. To quote Jackie Kennedy, “pearls are always appropriate”; the girl with the ‘cool-girl pearls’ is undoubtedly here to stay.