Designers / Fashion / Industry / Pearls

Assael’s Peggy Grosz on the Enduring Appeal of Pearls


If you’re searching for a pearl jewelry advocate, look no further than Peggy Grosz. As senior vice president at Assael, a luxury pearl jewelry manufacturer based in New York City, Grosz has been cheering on the pearl renaissance since she first noticed fashion magazines spotlighting the gems about five years ago.

Peggy Grosz
Peggy Grosz

“Pearls are always desirable, and they glow, which I think a lot of retailers forget about,” she says. “You lose the whole point of why you want pearls around your face or ears if you forget about that luster.”

Grosz spoke to JCK about fashion’s love affair with the gems, guys in pearls, and Assael’s new $500,000 print campaign, shot on location in Miami by fashion and beauty photographer David Benoliel.

In addition to running in luxury lifestyle magazines such as W, Town & Country, and Architectural Digest, the campaign also includes a cinematic brand video—accessible on YouTube and the Assael website—starring models Michaela Kocianova and James Lorenzo wearing Assael pearl and coral jewelry.

“There’s no such thing as not-a-pearl person,” Grosz tells JCK. “There are only not-a-pearl people yet!”

Can you bring us up to speed on the pearl business circa 2022?

Pearls have been a thing for a good few years. When I started with Assael five and a half years ago, I let some people know that I was there and some retailers I’d known forever said things like, “Great old company, but I don’t think people even want pearls anymore.”

I started making some new jewelry for Assael and the fashion gods were also smiling down upon us and the fashion world knew it before the jewelry business knew it. Our graphic artist and I started sending each other everything we saw about pearls from magazines like Vogue—headlines like “In case you’ve been living under a rock, pearls are the No. 1 fashion accessory.” And we started keeping a book. I gave physical and digital copies to our salespeople so when they heard “Pearls are for grandma,” I told them to take the book out and say, “Get a look at this!”

Assael Flex pearl bracelet
Flex bracelet in 18k yellow gold with akoya cultured pearls, $9,800; Sean Gilson for Assael

When did you really notice the tide had changed?

It was 2018 that we really noticed it and later in 2018 that we started putting together this “Pearl Revolution” book. You didn’t want to argue with a retailer, so we just kept adding to this book. We did an update to it not long ago and it hasn’t ended yet.

We all know things go up and come down. For a couple decades, everything is in white metal, then comes yellow metal with just diamonds. And now there’s something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime but I’m so happy about it: consumer awareness about colored stones.

But when pearls are at or near the top of the desirability/fashion chart, they stay for a long time. Sometimes it’s for hundreds of years, if you look at the multi generations of royals who always wore pearls in their photos, or it’s 25 years, if you look at the 1970s and ’80s. It’s never just for two or three years.

Assael Modernist South Sea and Tahitian earrings
Modernist earrings in 18k yellow gold with South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls, $12,400

What do you think triggered the current pearl renaissance?

Here’s what I think it is: I think it was naturally time because it had been quite a while. And we’re still in the adjustment period to world getting more casual. If you’re at home and you’re not socializing a lot and you want to celebrate something momentous, pearls are a pretty meaningful, nontraditional, non-bling gift. They’re a glow gift.

And there are an awful lot of people who feel they can put on pearls of any price or value and meet a friend for pizza. And there’s nothing wrong with putting them on for a black-tie event. They are multicultural and multi-lifestyle.

The other thing was the possibilities pearls held in design. Take somebody like a Melanie Georgacopoulos. Part of what was keeping pearls in the strand/studs box was tradition itself and part was the technical ability to use pearls in a different way. Melanie did it in a noticeable, out-there way by cutting them and using the shells mixed with pearls in a very fine luxury way.

Tell us about Assael’s 2023 pearl campaign.

We wanted to show people how easily pearls could be worn. And that’s what led to this campaign. We wanted to put different kinds of pearl jewelry on two different people. The female model is wearing everything from a Peter Pan collar of pearl strands, which is completely different, to two South Sea necklaces and a pair of really modern clean, sharp rings. One is more fairy-tale and princessy and the other is like “I’m a fashionista.”

Assael campaign model in Peter Pan pearl collar
Model Michaela Kocianova in Assael’s 2023 campaign (photo by David Benoliel/courtesy of Assael)

And the man—I’m so happy with this male model. I think he’s got such wonderful presence and facial expressions. And he looked confident in all the pearls. You have no idea if he’s straight or gay, or what he does for a living.

Assael campaign male model in pearls
Model James Lorenzo in Assael’s 2023 campaign (photo by David Benoliel/courtesy of Assael)

That’s the campaign—to show people how multi-lifestyle pearls are. Elegant doesn’t mean dressy and it doesn’t mean expensive or all blinged up. One diamond next to a white pearl in a ring and a strand around the neck. We wanted to try to prove the point of how wearable and individualized to a person’s personality, lifestyle, and attitude pearls are.

We’ve certainly seen male celebrities in pearls, but are your retailers actually seeing the men-in-pearls trend play out in stores?

It totally grew in public view with all the men who wear pearls, especially on the red carpet. Look at #meninpearls. It started with maybe the Jonas Brothers or Pharrell, and then it trickled to retail, and we have seen it more.

But fashion and celebrity trends always take longer than they should to trickle to reality. Retailers have to feel super secure about it. If they have strands that are the right length for a man—we recommend keeping 20- to 22-inch strands of akoya in stock—it’s still more likely that it’s going to be sold to a woman, but there is now a way more than negligible chance it’s going to be sold to a man.

Assael Frame pearl earrings
Frame earrings in 18k white gold with South Sea and akoya pearls and black jade, price on request

Any other trends you think retailers should know?

Oh, God, yes. Long strands. The less than average pearl: People are learning about keshis and natural pearls. And pearls in super modern designs, like our Black Frame earrings—they’re very avant-garde.

Top: Multi Bubble ring in 18k yellow gold with South Sea and akoya pearls, $15,500; Sean Gilson for Assael

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine

By: Victoria Gomelsky

Log Out

Are you sure you want to log out?

CancelLog out