In a Pearl Period

"Pearls are for everyone; it’s all about your point of view.”

Whether they’re being used as a favorite detail on apparel and accessories, as a signature style element on their own, or layered in with other jewelry, pearls have been on a fashion high for some time with no sign of interest waning for them.

New York Fashion Week for Spring 2021 sent the message out loud and clear that pearls would be the most prominent jewelry trend this year. Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Prada, Moschino, Givenchy, Dior, and Chanel are some powerhouse brands accessorizing their fashions with pearls. Carolina Herrera and Versace made a case for piled-on pearls at their shows, which the style blog The Zoe Report hails as the most prominent jewelry trend of 2021.

Every popular lifestyle publication and platform writes about pearl jewelry as the ultimate fashion movement this year, including Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Marie Claire, Glowsly, and Fashion Allure. hails pearls 2021’s most timeless jewelry trend, citing the surprise element this year lies in the styling of layered and mismatched pearls, as seen on the runways.   The style portal also encourages “the more, the merrier.”

Perhaps the most significant nod to pearls popularity is they’re also being hailed as a boy’s best friend, a trend that has been gaining traction on the celebrity scene for the past few years. Harry Styles, Jaden Smith, Patrick O’Connor, Troye Sivan, and ASAP Rocky are popular young male entertainers who donned pearl necklaces. Hypebeast, a leading online portal for men’s contemporary fashion, proclaims “2021 the year of everyone wearing pearls.”

Most pearl brands would not argue that!

“The category of pearls has been thrust into the spotlight in a way it hasn’t before, and everyone has been paying attention,” says Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development for Imperial in Providence, Rhode Island. “We are not in a pearl moment, but a pearl period. We’ve been so happy with the growth of this category for more than five years. Our audience is broader, wider, and more diverse. Everything I have hoped for in this category.”

Undoubtedly, our new Veep Kamala Harris and her love of pearls have positively impacted the category, seeing Raymond Mastoloni Jr. for the New York-based pearl house Mastoloni. “She’s been photographed wearing all different types of pearls. And, with her in the spotlight for at least the next four years, her wardrobe choices will make others think of pearls for themselves.” He underscores that any woman in a powerful position has pearls in her wardrobe.

Pearl Jewelry Trends

Not only are the leading pearl houses like Imperial, Mastoloni, and Honora having fun with pearl jewelry designs, but so many designers have embraced the gem. Cheers, Grenier, for bringing such creativity to the category as they look at pearls differently.

Among the hottest fashion styles with pearls, says Grenier, has been the paperclip link design, Chinese freshwater pearls matched with 14K gold links. “We launched earrings, necklace and bracelet styles, the right touch of pearls and gold.” She says the earrings have been a bestseller.

Pearl hoops, in particular, have been giant for Mastoloni, framed with tiny pearls or wire hoops that float or drop a pearl — modern, everyday, affordable styles, finds Sarah Cuidon, marketing and communications for the brand.  Also popular has been the brand’s Eclisse collection, a striking combination of 18K rose gold, black Tahitian pearls with diamonds in Art Deco-inspired designs. A cocktail ring from the collection, featuring a 12mm-12.5mm Tahitian center, captured the fashion category of the 11th annual Cultured Pearl Association of America’s International Design Competition this year.

Cuidon continues to see interest in baroque freshwater pearls in different shapes and colors, fashion-forward styles, seed pearls around hoops, bands, bracelets, and more.

Many of the latest pearl collections by Honora, a Richline brand in New York, also speak to the pearl jewelry trends spied on runways, red carpets, and sidewalks of late. Among the brand’s popular styles are Chinese freshwater baroque, circle, coin, and Keshi pearls with silver curb or thick woven byzantine chains and gem beads, as well as the mother of pearl inlay in sleek gold and silver. Favorite design themes in pearl jewelry run the gamut from nature and vintage to geometric and architectural.

Genderless Gem

Gender fluid, natural and organic, luminous and lustrous pearls are a timeless design element that can be used in many trendy ways, describes Cuidon.

Pearls are the perfect complement to any precious stone or metal, a chameleon gem that works with any wardrobe. So, it’s not surprising that pearl is considered a genderless gem, says Grenier, who reminds us that men have connected to pearls throughout history, from the Maharajas of India to European royalty. “Pearls are for everyone; it’s all about your point of view.”

Grenier notes that men are embracing product that already exists. While it may take time for the trend to take hold, she recommends that jewelers in more fashion-forward communities, like metropolitan areas, take the product they already have, cross merchandise, and market it to men.

Especially popular for some men in the limelight have been pearl necklaces — choker, multi-strand, pearl and chain, pearl earrings, especially stud, and for guys like Harry Styles, even pearl drop earrings.

As the New York Times reported last fall, “for men, the pearl necklace represents both the unraveling and buttressing of gender norms” when it comes to dressing. Author Nick Haramis eloquently describes the pearl as “a gateway to genderless fashion that emphasizes the very distinction it’s meant to dismantle. Pearls are elevated objects from the bottom of the sea, and they represent exactly what they are: a silky orb that lives inside an armor of rock-hard grit.”

Mastoloni says that while the brand does not have plans to launch a broad men’s collection, it is keeping an eye on the trend and considering the development of an everyday, fashion-forward pearl line for men. “We’re happy to see everyone wearing pearls; the more people wearing pearls, the better,” he declares.