The Anything-But-Classic Pearl

To take stock of pearl jewelry as the holiday season approaches would be wise. Staples, from a single strand of high-quality pearls to a pair of pearl studs or drops, are typically a safe bet, appealing to a wide range of shoppers whose personal style varies, as do their budgets. As high-profile women hit the campaign trail from now until November—Kamala Harris among them—we’ll no doubt hear even more about pearls (I have already received a number of emails regarding Harris’ wearing of pearls, and there is a wealth of jewels on the market to mimic the look).

Assael pearl charm bracelet
Charm bracelets in 18k yellow gold with baroque South Sea cultured pearls or Tahitian pearls and moonstones $7,000–$7,200; Assael

But the classics won’t appeal to all shoppers, not seeing themselves in the politicians and royals splashed across the pages of the news, draped in elegant pearl pieces or adorned in demure strands. I appreciate any good pearl artistry, whether I could see myself wearing it or not, but right now, I’m just not feeling the classics. Maybe it’s because they feel so buttoned-up in a very unbuttoned, very sweatpants-heavy world. Whatever the reason, I’ve had trouble feigning enthusiasm for the gemstone at all recently, simply because it seems so high maintenance.

Meadowlark Thea drop earrings
Thea drop earrings in 9k yellow gold with natural freshwater pearls, $2,665; Meadowlark
Wwake pearl necklace
Pearls collection neck cuff in 14k and 18k recycled yellow gold with mother-of-pearl, 0.21 ct. t.w. opals, 0.12 ct. t.w. sapphires, and 0.1 ct. t.w. diamonds, $3,179; Wwake

Until recently, that is. We’ve talked about the “new pearl” for years—for so many now that it feels this nontraditional take on the gem is no longer the exception to the rule (see Amy Elliott’s list of 23 opulent pearl jewels). Why, for so long, have pearls been held in this box, limiting their ability to be more than one thing? I, for one, should know better—I see cool jewels every day and still can’t help but think of the pearl as a one-trick pony (a pony that, mind you, is as vital to a jewelry store—and a jewelry box—as a pair of diamond studs).

Pacharee birch pearls alphabet bracelet
Alphabet bracelet in 18k gold plate with birch pearls, €288 ($340); Pacharee

So these new pearl designs—by which I really mean, those styles that take the pearl from outside their claustrophobic box and make them feel fresh, young, and even daring—are obsession worthy in my book. When something can completely change my perspective and have me clamoring for a gemstone I never really thought I’d clamor for, that’s quite special.

Brent Neale pearl Knot ring
Splash collection Knot ring in 18k yellow gold with cultured pearls and diamonds, price on request; Brent Neale

And so the pearl will trend, in all forms, but the classics will reign because that’s what we’re going to be seeing and discussing for the next few months and perhaps even longer. But for those who want to pay tribute to the glory of the pearl by wearing their own with a sense of casual flair, might I highly suggest the pieces pictured throughout?

Top: Major necklace in 18k yellow gold with mother-of-pearl crescent moon pendant on a rainbow stone bead and baroque pearl strand, $13,150; Harwell Godfrey

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JCK Contributing Editor

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