Always a sophisticated jewelry choice, pearls remain the quintessential wedding gem for brides.
However, the type of pearl jewelry brides are choosing to adorn with is far from traditional. While a classic pearl strand is lovely, modern brides have become much more adventurous, exploring the vast variety of pearl types and designs available to accessorize their wedding day look.
“Pearls have been a bridal tradition, but brides today realize that you don’t have to align tradition with traditional,” says Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development, Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island. “Brides are choosing more fashion-focused designs.”
Grenier reports that while half the pearls sold for bridal are in classic styles including high luster Akoya pearls, the other half are fashion-forward and embrace color and unusual shapes. Brides are going for designs that are versatile and can be worn beyond the wedding day.
Among the trendier looks becoming more commonplace for brides have been baroque pearls, as well as black Tahitian, finds Sarah Cuidon, marketing and communications for the New York pearl house Mastoloni, who is curious to see how the bridal season unfolds this year after the non-traditional year 2020 presented due to COVID.
Popular Pearl Picks
Brides magazine recently proclaimed pearl earrings the staple bridal accessory that is timeless, romantic, and makes a great addition to any wardrobe post wedding day.
Most popular have been classic pearl studs that can accommodate interchangeable jackets, sees Cuidon. “A modern version of the traditional pearl and diamond stud, their versatility is a huge selling point, with several ways to wear a pair.” She also finds the brand’s latest pearl wire hoops and drops a fashionable and affordable pick for brides as well.
The choker necklace is another on-trend accessory for brides. Cuidon cites styles that combine pearls with links and pearls with bezel diamonds, and multi-strands of tiny seed pearls (2mm-4mm). “We’re not really seeing long necklaces trending for brides at the moment.”
Pearls and diamonds are a mainstay of bridal basics, with Honora, a Richline brand based in New York, offering three great examples of wedding day fare in its Diamond Drop bezel-set gold earrings and necklace, a celebration of movement and light; gold Karat Cluster stud earrings and solitaire necklace, simple elegance with extra sparkle; and Embrace, pearls suspended in golden circle and swirled drop cages.
Pearl Gifts for Bridal Party
Pearl jewelry has built a reputation for being the ideal gift for the bridal party, a symbol of enduring friendship and sisterhood, and the perfect accessory for the bridesmaid to wear on the wedding day.
Grenier hails classic pearl studs in all varieties and colors a bestseller for bridesmaids. In fact, The Knot in 2019 found that nearly 60% of brides gift earrings to their attendants.
Cuidon also cites floating pearl pendants and tin cup style necklaces popular, as they can add pops of color that complement the bridesmaids’ dresses and can be worn well after the celebration. “They’re available in various metal/pearl combinations and the price points are great.”
Engaged in Pearls
If there is one new trend that speaks boldly to how popular pearls have become these days, it is the growing interest in pearl as a center for engagement rings. Celebrities including Emma Stone, Michelle Williams and Ariana Grande were all recently proposed to with a pearl.
“I was a little shocked at first when Emma and Michelle picked pearls,” Severine Ferrari, founder and editor-in-chief of Engagement 101 told JCK last October, one of the many publications and platforms chatting up this micro-trend. “However, there is a growing trend of celebrities picking unconventional engagement rings that are only worn for public appearances and special occasions. And, everyday women have multifaceted lives and often don’t wear their engagement rings all the time for practical reasons. If this is your lifestyle, the durability of the center stone is not on the top of your list.”
While pearls may not be as practical as diamond or other hard gems like sapphire and ruby for daily wear, at the end of the day a gem is chosen based on what it means to the couple.
“Pearls’ heritage as a symbol for love and celebration is legendary — unlike diamonds (a marketer’s creation). Some might ask if a pearl is appropriate for daily wear, but it really depends on the individual. It’s a matter of lifestyle and personal choice,” said the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) in a statement about the trend.
A choice that Jennifer Markas, executive director of the Women’s Jewelry Association, made sharing with JCK that growing up in Southern California she loves that the gems are harvested from the sea. She finds pearls fresh, classic, elegant, and something that goes with everything.
Ferrari advises retailers to not discourage couples from getting a pearl if that’s what they want, and instead just be honest about the properties, value, wearability, and care of a pearl ring, without “raining on their parade.”
The rules of engagement have expired,” says Grenier. “People are giving themselves permission to consider something other than a white diamond for their engagement ring. It’s about uniqueness and personalization.” She says that major retail jewelry chains, like Signet and Zales, have been asking what Imperial has in pearl engagement rings.
The New York Times even featured the trend last year, noting that the sudden popularity of pearl engagement rings could be both part of a larger movement against tired traditions surrounding marriage, as well as a nod toward sustainability.
A great example of a possible pearl engagement ring, by Mastoloni, won the Wedding Day Pearls category in the 11th annual CPAA International Design Competition. The ring features a floating 13.5mm white South Sea pearl clasped between the top curves of the bold, pared down design of the 18K yellow gold setting, with shimmering rows of 72 brilliant white diamonds totaling .26 total carats. Cuidon describes the look as marrying an Art Deco vibe with contemporary cool.