Fashion’s Obsession With Pearls

It was the iconic French fashion designer Coco Chanel who proclaimed, “A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls!” More than a century later the same sentiment holds true. Season after season, pearls are hailed among the must-have essentials in every woman’s wardrobe.

So, talk by the media that pearls are “back in style” dumbfounds Kathy Grenier, Vice President of Business Development for Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island, who is pretty confident they never left the fashion scene.

“But what has happened and continues to happen is that designers have re-thought pearl jewelry design, from classic to cutting edge, creating new looks that have introduced us all to an exciting era of design,” hails Grenier, noting that the variety of pearls in color, shape, size and prices is inspiring more manufacturers to play with pearls, breathing new life into the category.

The last five years in particular have seen many leading fashion houses, brands and designers using pearls in runway shows and photo shoots, significantly contributing to the reimagining of pearls and acceptance of them within the millennial demographic, cites Cora-Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio.

Designers have used large sizes, abstract shapes, such as baroque, and also moved them off the neck and ear onto an array of accessories from denim jeans to studded suede jackets to footwear and handbags. “Accessorizing with pearl accents has become cool and contemporary,” says Colaizzi. “Luxury fashion brands have been the leader in positioning pearls among Millennials, who they’ve worked hard to target with all their products.

They have contributed to youth and Millennials no longer equating pearls to older people (i.e. pearls = grandma).”Not only are pearls on runways for top fashion brands like Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Prabal Gurung, and Stella McCartney, but celebrities, royalty, socialites, influencers, and bloggers are accessorizing in pearls, adds Dana Cali, Marketing and Communications for Mastoloni Pearls, New York. “Millennials are especially in-tune with pop-culture and constantly connected with social media where they are repeatedly seeing these fabulous figures with these amazing lives. They look up to them and aspire to be like them.”

Pearls are proving to be fun, fashionable and affordable, cheers Wendy Fox, Senior Director of Sales Independent Division of The Richline Group, New York City, including the Honora pearl brand. “Pearls can go from day to night, look amazing casual or dressed up, and virtually anyone can wear them and make a statement, classic or trendy. They’re probably one of the most versatile gems, so we want our product to speak to a wide range of people.”

Grenier says that pearls can do what other gems cannot, because they’re not about flash and bling. “Pearls draw people in, radiating a warmth and life that cannot be found in other gems,” she describes. “Pearls never upstage the wearer or look out of place. Pearls do what they need to do. Powerful, glamorous, poised, pearls are always right! There isn’t a situation that isn’t good for pearls. You can’t say that about diamonds.”

Fashion Trends

Versatility continues to be the trend in pearl design from long necklaces, lariat styles, and transformable jewelry. “Taking things apart and putting them back together or moving elements in a piece allow the wearer to customize her look,” says Grenier. “We’re always looking for new, innovative ways of wearing pearls.”

For 2019, Cali sees simplicity and nature among the prevailing design themes in pearl jewelry, classic or couture. “Simple statement pieces with organic and geometric influences are trending,” she cites. “Nothing too busy or impractical, traditional or classic designs are updated with a more modern twist in pieces that are more everyday as opposed to special occasion.”

Hoop earrings are very popular in all sizes and styles, says Cali, as are simple, delicate princess-length chain necklaces; bar necklaces with single pearl drops; pearl tassel earrings and necklaces; jewelry design that spotlight unique pearl shape and color combinations; open-style pearl rings worthy of wearing alone or stacked; and geometric cage pendants with removable pearls. “All of our pearl fashion jewelry is predominately in yellow gold; but we’re seeing more demand for rose gold.” Look for a new line with moonstone in rose gold debuting in June.

Among the new collections that Honora is launching at 2019 Spring/Summer shows, are fashion-forward lines like: Nebula, inspired by the patterns of the night sky, pairing pearls with diamonds; Fiore, with a floral bent featuring Ming Pearls set in gold with diamonds; and Reflection, coupling luminescent mother-of-pearl and high-polished sterling silver.

By using shell pearls Quality Gold has been able to design product with larger millimeter sizes and mix them with quality components to offer luxury and affordable looks to retailers and consumers at attainable prices, says Colaizzi. “Sales for our Shell Pearl Majestik brand has increased year over year. It provides affordable options in a marketplace where consumers are seeking the style but not the price tag associated with larger millimeter cultured freshwater or Akoya pearls.”

Colaizzi cites a rise in demand for micro pearls in jewelry design. “While micro pearls are generally more expensive than standard sizes, they’ve captured the attention of designers to create pieces featuring smaller sizes.”

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