It feels strange to admit it, but a string of pearls—the most archetypally “ladylike” jewel in existence—conveys solidarity with womanhood perhaps more than any other piece of jewelry right now.
Congratulations, pearl necklace. You have made the successful (and unexpected) transition from symbol of fusty femininity to emblem of women’s autonomy and achievement!
We can thank Vice President Kamala Harris, whose ever-present pearl strands are an homage to her Howard University sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha (the first Black Greek-letter sorority), for shining a glorious spotlight on pearls’ powerful side. But pearls have also been utterly embraced by millennials and Gen Zers—generations far enough removed from the prim and proper cult of pearls that percolated from the 1950s through the 1980s to rebel against it.
All this considered, it makes perfect sense that the Bonhams jewelry department is choosing to celebrate International Women’s Day—March 8—by holding an online sale, Powerful & Pretty: Pearls Online, that centers the power and beauty of luminous pearls. The sale will take place virtually March 8–12.
“Pearls have been valued for millennia for their beauty and luster, but also for the fantastic stories associated with the gem,” said Emily Waterfall, head of jewelry for Bonhams Los Angeles, in a prepared statement. “They are symbols of Aphrodite, Eve, and Cleopatra. Historically, they were dangerous to acquire, needing to be brought up by hand from the depth of the sea. Both rare and costly, only the wealthiest royalty had access to pearls until the 20th century. Bonhams is pleased to be able to offer this unusual and timely sale of exquisite and affordable pearls.”
Headed for the auction block is a selection of 60 pearl jewels from the 20th and 21st centuries, including earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings, and brooches. Jewel styles run the gamut, from classic to contemporary.
A preview of the lots shows a handful of relatively affordable pieces, including multicolored cultured pearl drop earrings expected to go for $2,000 to $3,000, and several opulent pieces, including a platinum and 14k white gold cultured pearl bracelet with diamonds, estimated to sell for between $8,000 and $10,000, and an 18k white gold cultured pearl, sapphire, and diamond necklace expected to sell for between $18,000 and $22,000.
Access the auction here.
Top: Platinum and 14k white gold cultured pearl bracelet with diamonds, estimated to sell for between $8,000 and $10,000 (photo courtesy of Bonhams)
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