People are talking about pearls. How can they not when Lupita Nyongo shows up at the Academy Awards this year in a custom Calvin Klein dress strung together with more than 6,000 pearls? On the same red carpet walks in Felicity Jones in an Alexander McQueen pearl studded halter-top gown. What are the odds?
Pretty good considering pearls have become a red carpet favorite, with other Oscar stunners that night including Viola Davis in pearl and
diamond gold collar, Van Cleef & Arpels; and Zendaya Coleman in pearl and diamond gold drop earrings from Chopard’s High Jewelry Collection.
Pearls also have rocked the runways season after season, from Chanel and Valentino to Moschino and Alice + Olivia, be it clothing embellishment or bold jewelry statements in layers of pearls. You’d be hard pressed to open any style magazine and not see them in the layout, and young bloggers are exulting pearls a top trend that happens to be an eternal classic.
“The influence of pearl is far reaching, extending beyond jewelry into accessories, fashion, cosmetics, even home décor,” hails Kathy Grenier, marketing director, Imperial Pearl, Providence, Rhode Island. Grenier, who also is spokesperson for the Cultured Pearl Association of America, advocates pearls as the right product for every jeweler and specialty retailer today because of the extensive variety of product, price point, design options, versatility, and profit.
There are two distinct directions on the market in pearl trends: updated classics and fashion forward designs.
Twists on Classics
Like the little black dress, pearls are a must-have jewelry staple with timeless appeal. The pearl is an icon of confident feminine style, class and influence, rich with symbolism, heritage and legacy.
Pearlclassic stance makes styles like studs, solitaire pendants and strands always a favorite. But these value driven basics work best with a new twist, hails Joel Schechter, CEO for Honora, New York. “We’re always looking for ways to beef up the elements (i.e. adding diamonds, gemstones, and chain to the mix) to do something to make the jewelry feel more special.”
A bestseller in the classic category for Stuller has been pearl halo styles, cites Alix Gonsoulin, fine jewelry director for Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana. “It’s an updated, refreshing spin on a timeless look.” She also notes that everyone has a strand of pearls. “It’s classic and simple enough to layer on with other looks. You can’t go wrong! Just show them how.” Consumers are asking for direction, evident by a recent Wall Street Journal Style Section article “Pearls Wisdom: Finding a Versatile Necklace for Any Look.”
Schechter notes that there’s a lot going on in strands, especially thanks to the variety that exists in pearls, with Chinese freshwater offering lots of affordable options. “You can put together a layered wardrobe in different shapes, everything from round and oval to button and coin and it all works together.”
Mixing colors in strands is very popular, too, especially in South Sea and Tahitian pearls, says Fran Mastoloni of Mastoloni, New York. He also cites the continued popularity of baroque shapes in strands. “You can’t wear a Riviera diamond necklace or big chunky gold chain in most scenarios, like you can a pearl necklace—from boardroom and classroom to community fundraiser and cocktail party, pearls are always appropriate!”
Fresh & Exciting
Mastoloni hails the subtle charm of pearls as drawing the eye in to the wearer, and casting light on the face when framing it. Not only is it easy to wear, Schechter notes, this soft gem pairs well with other design elements, from heavy metal and crystal to leather and fabric.
In pearl jewelry, designs are fresh and exciting—be it organic, geometric, hard-edged with soft lines, or wearable in interesting new ways, hails Grenier, “The landscape of design options has grown along with a new pearl jewelry profile and audience.” She cites layered pearl strands mixed with chain; front-back earrings—in the same color or two tone; ear climbers; bracelets—all pearl, pearl/leather, and with chain and gemstones, and clustered on cuffs; and natural color pearls and one-of-a-kind baroque shapes in demand.
Grenier credits jewelry designers enamored with dreamy natural colors, funky baroque shapes and big sizes in affordable pearls as pushing the envelope in pearl jewelry design. In fact, new freshwater pearls from China in bigger sizes, round and baroque, white and natural colors like rose, mauve, and bronze have got Imperial’s creative mojo on overdrive, with new ring designs in warm rose gold in its Windsor Collection. “These rings make a fabulous statement piece, a big impression for a great value!”
Mastoloni, too, is doing some innovative things with rings, launching new convertible designs with matching earrings. The pearl house also continues to expand styles that mix pearls with diamonds and chain, with its latest bestselling combination golden pearls with black diamonds on long chain necklaces. “There’s a lot to be excited about!”