Pearls, Top Go-To Gem
Pearls have never been out of style, but there is nuance to how to best wear them at any given time
Closets of today are looking a lot less like wardrobes and more like mood boards, with an overarching theme that speaks to an individual’s taste, hails Pinterest in its annual trends report.
Coined “the visual discovery engine for ideas,” Pinterest has proclaimed pearls the go-to accessory and embellishment of the year, and it underscores its accuracy by proclaiming that eight of its 10 predictions for 2021 came true.
Pinterest arrives at its claim after analyzing search terms from its over 400 million monthly users. What it uncovered is that people are more than ready to dress up their everyday uniform and many are searching for pearls and pearly ideas.
Pearl is perfect for this honor, as this iconic chameleon gem works so well with diamonds and color stones, chain and leather, silk and denim. “It whispers strength, letting the person wearing pearl shine in its radiance,” describes Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development, Imperial.
Classic and timeless, pearls have always been a symbol of good taste and elegance, says Cora Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold in Fairfield, Ohio. “Pearls go well with a ball gown or t-shirt. They’re perfect for the office or classroom. Pearls are a fantastic investment that is currently trendy, but can and will be worn day or night regardless of the decade.”
Honestly, pearls have never been out of style, but there is nuance to how to best wear them at any given time. As Pinterest finds for this year, it’s all about the unexpected pearl, in shape, design, color, and placement.
PureWow, a women’s lifestyle platform discussing the “pearlcore” movement, tells its readers to have fun with pearls: “Don’t be afraid to mix pearls with other jewelry styles, both luxe and kitschy.”
The way people wear pearls is definitely evolving, says Jessica Zerega, director of merchandising gems and pearls for the N.Y. based Richline, parent company for the pearl brand, Honora. “We’re having great success with mixing bold gold chains with pearls, as well as in the dainty form, using off-shaped, baroque pearls with chain accents, from linear ears to laying pendants.”
Zerega finds layering wristwear — pearls and gem beads — a fresh way for younger consumers to sport pearls that represent their personality. “Pearls are definitely advancing into the gender-neutral zone,” she says. “As a whole, we see the gender-neutral business doing fantastically, especially as men continue to be purchasers of higher ticket, and trend right jewelry.”
So, far the demand for men, especially among young men, is primarily for simplistic strands and studs, finds Sarah Cuidon, marketing, production and sales assistant for Mastoloni. “But this is just the beginning. I’m interested in how the trend will evolve.” She mentions that retailers are asking the New York-based pearl house about pearl jewelry for men.
A new generation is discovering the beauty of pearls, as they challenge stereotypes and seek the best styles for them, cheers Colaizzi. “While Quality Gold is not known for pearls, in the last five years, we have worked hard to improve our assortment and keep a consistent quality of a variety of pearl types, shapes and sizes in stock.”
Colaizzi sees white and gray as the most popular colors in pearls, with men more attracted to black pearls. “Colored pearls are growing in popularity, as designers mix them with natural stones, leathers, and woven metals.”
By far, Colaizzi says that pearl strands and stud earrings are the core pearl products and bestsellers at retail in this category.
Fortifying the core, a strong selection of fashion pieces is key to anchor the classics, says Moss Makhoulian, senior vice president of merchandising for Richline. “We are looking to maximize both the fashion and classic pearl business with our partners. Fashion still drives a strong portion of the independent business, and we’re looking forward to reinvigorating their cases with additional offerings.”
Apart from the traditional round pearls, Makhoulian sees increasing acceptance of other shapes and types of freshwater pearls, such as large, off-shape and baroque pearls in different colors. “As we go further into 2022, we will continue to observe, and see how the market shapes itself, and how consumers react.”
Making pearls accessible and wearable for everyday jewelry is trending, says Grenier. “We’re interpreting the hottest trends in fashion in pearl jewelry with different colors, shapes, varieties.” As an example, she shares how Imperial gleaned the spirit of the popular paperclip link design element in earring, necklace and bracelet styles that pair Chinese freshwater with 14K gold. “We use smaller links and link elements, with the pearl always central to the design. The earrings have been a bestseller.”
Special Occasions Rise
Not surprising, with the pick-up in 2021 of special occasions like weddings, parties and formal events, demand for pearl strands and studs progressively grew throughout the year, says Zerega, and will continue to grow in 2022, forecasted to be the year of the wedding.
Pearls for bridal-wear have stayed mostly traditional — pearl and diamond stud and dangle earrings, pearl and diamond pendants, and basic pearl strands and bracelets, says Cuidon. She cites an increase in requests at Mastoloni for small pearl strands and studs in the 3mm to 5mm size range.
“Interestingly, we also are seeing demand for South Sea pearls in larger millimeter sizes.” Cuidon says requests are up for 15-16-inch choker and 20-inch lengths. And, she finds floating pearl necklaces and simple pearl bracelets among the favorite styles to gift for the bridal party.
Zerega concurs, “What better way to thank your closest friends and family for supporting you on your special day than with a gift of pearl jewelry that will last a lifetime?” She now sees the trend getting stronger for Gens Y and Z to fashion style with pearl classics; and wedding day jewels for the bride and entourage have become more fashion-based with a focus on earrings and necklaces.
A benchmark study conducted last July by MVI Marketing for the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA), surveying more than 1,000 U.S. jewelry consumers, aged 25 to 55, with 73% women and 27% men, reveals strong consumer pearl preferences and lots of opportunities for category growth.
Survey results reflect strong interest in cultured pearls, which most consumers are familiar with, own, give and receive. Pearls have cultivated a following across demographics, with excitement for pearls strong among young consumers.
When it comes to pearl colors, 34% of consumers consider white/cream their favorite, followed by 16% who like pink and black, and 11% who cite blue. When asked to pick their favorite jewelry style to give or receive of 16 diverse pearl designs presented, 35% each chose white pearl studs and a large pink pearl solitaire ring, 32% picked a multi-shade Tahitian strand, 22% a white freshwater pearl and chain necklace, and 20% a white Akoya pearl set in a gold band.
When asked what style of cultured pearl jewelry they desire, 42% of women pick a pearl strand, 40% pearl earrings, 27% pearl ring, and 23% pearl bracelet.