The chatter over pearls has been growing to new heights, as it seems they are everywhere and adorning everyone these days.
New York Fashion Week for Spring 2021 boldly delivered the message that pearls would be the biggest jewelry trend of the year, with dozens of fashion houses accessorizing in pearls. Just about every popular lifestyle publication and platform is also writing about pearl jewelry as the ultimate fashion movement with no sign of waning interest.
The two of the most talked about pearl trends that have everyone buzzing is the growing popularity of pearls as an accessory for men, as well as their use as a center gem for engagement rings.
Hypebeast, leading online portal for men’s contemporary fashion, proclaims “2021 the year of everyone wearing pearls.” This pearl trend is gaining traction on the celebrity scene with the likes of Harry Styles, Jaden Smith, Patrick O’Connor, Troye Sivan, and ASAP Rocky among the popular young male entertainers donned in pearl necklaces and earrings.
Also out of the norm, more people are giving themselves permission to consider something other than a white diamond for their engagement ring, with pearls in the spotlight as a choice thanks to celebrities like Emma Stone, Michelle Williams and Ariana Grande, who recently were proposed to with a pearl.
“Pearls are for everyone, it’s all about your lifestyle and point of view,” cheers Kathy Grenier, vice president, 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 this category.”
Pearl Jewelry Trends
The category of pearls has been thrust into the spotlight in a way it hasn’t before, and everyone has been paying attention. Undoubtedly, our new Veep Kamala Harris and her love of pearls has had a positive impact on the category, cites Raymond Mastoloni Jr. for the New York-based pearl house, Mastoloni. “She’s been photographed wearing all different types of pearls. With her in the spotlight for at least the next four years, her wardrobe choices will make others think of pearls for themselves.”
Pearl earrings have been topping pearl jewelry trends lists for both fashion and bridal wear these days. Pearl hoops in particular have been huge for Mastoloni, either 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. She also cites pearl studs with interchangeable jackets popular for their versatility.
Cuidon describes pearls as a timeless design element that can be used in so many trendy ways, from Art Deco inspired looks like Mastoloni’s Eclisse collection that marries 18K rose gold with black Tahitian pearls and diamonds to Chinese freshwater pearls set in sleek paperclip link designs.
Favorite design themes trending in pearl jewelry run the gamut from nature and vintage to geometric and architectural, as found in the gold and silver jewelry collections of
Honora, a Richline brand based in New York. Among its bestsellers are styles that mix Chinese freshwater baroque, circle, coin and keshi pearls with silver curb or thick woven byzantine chain and gem beads; as well as mother of pearl inlay designs.
What’s been most unique, particularly in bridal wear, has been a growing interest among brides to choose pearls that are not white and round, but rather unusual baroqu shapes and different colors of pearls, especially black Tahitian, Cuidon reports.
Perhaps pearls sustainable message is capturing the attention of Millennial and Gen Z jewelry consumers. With climate change and global warming raising the issue of environmental sustainability to the top of their agenda, the ability of responsibly cultured pearls to be a renewable resource, and at the same time contribute to the health of the ocean biosphere, provide them with special appeal. Moreover pearl farming sustains families, offering economic development opportunities to remote communities.
Pearls have the potential to be a sustainable luxury product, and a great medium to engage with and educate consumers.
“Pearls have a wonderful story of goodness — a story of passion, love, sustainability, economic opportunity — pearls have it all,” touts Grenier. “We exist in a world where people want jewelry that’s meaningful and withstands time. The people behind the jewels matter, too. Who are they and what do they stand for? What are the gems and metals used and where are they sourced? These questions are more important than ever. Equally important are the benefits to people, the economy, and environment from the creation of pearl jewelry. Luckily, pearls are best positioned to shine in this conversation.”
Unlike a mine that has a finite life span, a pearl farm can continue producing indefinitely, on condition that it is responsibly operated. Because pearls and their oysters should be cultivated in pristine marine environments, pearl producers have an inherent need for marine conservation. Such responsible practices are more likely to be applied in places where sustainable social and economic opportunities are also present, reports Dr. Laurent Cartier, a pearl and gemstone specialist at the Swiss Gemmological Institute in Basel, Switzerland, and one of the world’s preeminent experts in sustainability in the cultured pearl sector.
Pearls have such a compelling story to tell, concurs Cuidon. “Pearls are so different from any other gemstones. Organic and natural, pearl is connected to life, symbolic of rebirth and renewal. There is something so special about the way it shines, a gem that glows from within.”
Social media is a critical communication tool in today’s fluid shopping environment, as consumers look to these platforms for inspiration, advice, and ideas with Instagram and Pinterest especially popular for pearl jewelry.
Grenier underscores how important it is to provide content with the intended end user in mind, which is something brands like Imperial work hard to provide retailers to help them easily communicate the right messages.
Mastoloni applauds his retail customers for doing a great job of engaging their client base during these COVID times by amplifying their social media efforts, email campaigns, and good old-fashioned clienteling through virtual meetings, events and other customer services. These efforts, he says, have resulted in closer relationships with customers.
When it comes to marketing pearls, leading pearl houses like Imperial, Mastoloni and Honora have all the bells and whistles that retail jewelers need, from branded displays and packaging to a library of high-resolution images and custom advertising material for print and online campaigns. Moreover, the Cultured Pearl Association is a resource for knowledge and marketing materials that jewelers should tap into as well, including educational flash cards, videos of pearling regions, and a pearl specialist certification course, aka Pearls As One.