I’ve always loved pearls. The classic beauty of lustrous pearls project elegant perfection. Grace Kelly loved them: “I favor pearls both on screen and in my private life.” “The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.” Her signature style, still copied today, was a single choker framing her face, reflecting her own natural elegance and luster.
Pearls have in fact long been favored by queens. Cleopatra was said to have dissolved one of her large natural pearl earrings in a goblet of wine, drinking it to impress Marc Antony with her wealth and power.
In most recent times, Jackie Kennedy Onassis claimed, “Pearls are always appropriate.” She had her own signature style, an impressive, graduated triple strand she was often photographed wearing, which has become a signature style for first ladies. And our current Vice-President, Kamala Harris, is known for her signature pearl strands which she often wears, some interwoven with gold.
Before Mikimoto perfected the science of culturing pearls, natural (non-nucleated) pearls were the only type available, and extremely expensive. Case in point: in 1912, the flagship Cartier boutique on 5th Avenue in New York was acquired in trade for a double strand of natural pearls, worth approximately $1 million at the time!
Today cultured pearls in all forms, shapes and sizes are ubiquitous. Fresh new fashion-forward styles incorporating South Sea and Tahitian, freshwater and Keshi are “not your grandmother’s pearls.” But classic single strand and post earrings are still very popular, especially for bridal, graduation and anniversary gifts.
And note a new trend: pearls for men! Hip Hop artists such as Pharrell are embracing the fashion-forward style of multiple high end layered necklaces, furthering the tradition of artists wearing diamonds and gold “bling.”
And then there are diamonds! “A girl’s best friend,” as popularized by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 musical “Gentleman Prefer Blondes”. Diamonds currently account for approximately 54% of jewelry sales in the US market. Since the early 20th century when De Beers’ marketing campaign, “A diamond is forever”, propelled the wide adoption of diamond engagement rings, diamonds have become virtually synonymous with jewelry for many.
Their sparkle and dazzle make them the perfect choice for the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood red carpet. Some consider them dressier than pearls and so more suitable for evening wear. They’re the perfect choice for anniversary, birthday and holiday gifts and for women self-purchasers. Currently diamonds in more natural forms such as raw diamond slices and “salt and pepper” diamonds are gaining popularity.
Projecting royalty, they have been incorporated into the crown jewels and regalia of countries world-wide for millennia. The lore is legendary of important world-class diamonds such as the Hope, currently in the Smithsonian, and Kohinoor, currently part of the British Crown Jewels.
Lab-created diamonds currently are creating buzz – and controversy. Time will tell whether lab-grown diamonds continue to grow in market share in the jewelry industry. But one thing’s for certain, diamonds “are forever.”
So are you a diamond or a pearl person? Bottom line – why choose? Though some may strongly prefer one or the other, of course you can love both (and colored gems as well), which I do!