Pearls: More Precious Today Than Ever
With unmatched versatility and elegance, the popularity of pearls has survived the ages with intriguing style. Today, it’s easy to notice a contemporary surge in the popularity of this timeless gem. Even a curious glance around town can easily reveal: twenty-somethings sporting a trendy, high-low mix of pearls with jeans and scooped necklines; a chic shop owner with a pearl-studded leather jacket; double strands and pearl studs gracing the outfit of an Egyptian Theatre patron; or that fabulous pearl choker and drop earrings attached to a power suit dashing off to her morning meeting.
A Rare Organic Beauty
Though most jewelry is created out of precious metals or jewels found buried deep within the Earth, then cut or polished to reveal its beauty, pearls are the only gems found perfect inside a living creature. Natural pearls of value are found in less than 1 in every 10,000 wild oysters.
Legacy and Lore
Earning their place in history, the earliest record of pearls as precious objects are artifacts from Mesopotamia dating back to 2300 BC. At the height of the Roman Empire, historians reported that Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings.
Greek mythology proclaimed pearls to be tears of joy shed by the goddess Aphrodite. Ancient legend oft en refers to pearls as drops of heavenly dew, the eyes of spirits, raindrops filled with moonlight or tears of nymphs, angels and mermaids.
The Versatility of Pearls
So, what’s the best way to wear pearls today? Almost any way your heart desires. Even Jackie Kennedy is remembered for saying, “Pearls are always appropriate.” What’s clear is that you don’t have to wear your strands in a traditional, abiding-by-your-grandmother’s-proper-pearl-etiquette fashion. This year, pearls have been spotted all over modern runways seen in an extensive variety of ways from delicate pearl buttons to the more dramatic embellished dresses, and from stylish pearl-accented sleeves to edgy jean jackets and beyond. Shoe designers are adding pearl embellishments to heels, boots, and flats. Th e applications and renewed love for pearls seem endless, and the fashion world promises there’s much more to come.
THE GREAT PEARL EXCHANGE
This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest pearl trades ever. In 1917, Pierre Cartier, the Cartier founder’s grandson, sealed the infamous deal.
It is reported that Maisie Plant, the wife of Morton Plant, the son of a railroad tycoon, was quite enamored by an extraordinary double strand necklace of rare pearls offered by Cartier. At the time, the pearl necklace was valued at $1 million, according to The New York Times. Cartier had reportedly been searching for a prestigious location for his jewelry business since he moved to New York in 1909. The Plants then owned a neo-Renaissance style Fifth Avenue mansion.
At the time, that incredible piece of real estate was actually valued at less than the strand of pearls. Diamonds were becoming less valuable due to ever-increasing discoveries in Africa, and cultured pearls were not yet readily available. In exchange for a building then valued at $925,000, Cartier proposed a trade of $100 plus the pearl necklace for the Plants’ grand residence on Fifth Avenue. That stunning location, now with landmark status and a recent luxurious renovation, has served as Cartier’s U.S. flagship location ever since.