You’re always fully stocked with white studs and Jackie Kennedy–style triple strands,
but what do you need to keep pearl lovers on trend this season? JCK has you covered.
It may seem counterintuitive to consider pearl jewelry in the context of fashion trends—after all, a string of pearls is a perennial classic, regardless of what’s happening on the runways. But looking ahead, a survey of the fall 2018 shows in New York City and London points to a whole new morning for pearls, and with it, opportunities to bring your customers ever-new and exciting options, from open rings and statement cuffs to convertible earrings.
That pearls popped up as a favorite new motif everywhere from Michael Kors to Erdem means looking critically at your fall and holiday assortment of traditional pearl jewelry and peppering in designs with an edgier, more fashion-forward feel.
To help guide your selections, we spoke with retailers, pearl designers, and our industry’s top jewelry trend spotters. The takeaway? Shop with an eye for day-to-evening versatility. Consider the asymmetrical and unusual. And if you can picture it with jeans and a leather jacket, go for it. Read on for insider tips and an overview of the trends to jump on now.
“Hoops are the thing for sure when it comes to pearl jewelry in the fashion world,” says Lauren Kulchinsky Levison, owner of Mayfair Rocks in East Hampton, N.Y. Having attended both the New York and London fashion weeks in February, the jeweler observed pearl embellishments—and jewelry—in abundance on the runway.
She was also seen at several shows wearing a pair of coaster-size pearl hoops, custom-made for her by “one of the industry’s top pearl artists.” Featuring mixed baroque pearls in shades of pink, white, and blue, Levison’s hoops attracted the attention of buyers, designers, makeup artists, and editors, many of whom went on to place personal orders. The earrings also caught the eye of street-style photographers.
“They know what’s up,” Levison says. “They look for what’s new; I assume the jewelry industry will get it in a breath or two if what I was photographed in is any barometer.”
While the cognoscenti are newly enamored of pearl hoops—the bigger the better—top pearl merchants will likely evolve (and enlarge) their hoop styles in the coming seasons, with pearls dotting the circumference like spokes on a wheel, or all the way around like a pearl collar in miniature.
White freshwater fluid gold pearl XL rod hoops; $5,320 (sold as pair); Mizuki; firstname.lastname@example.org; mizukijewelry.com
Twins hoop earring with freshwater pearl and emeralds in 18k yellow gold; £650 ($915) each (sold as singles); Delfina Delettrez; delfinadelettrez.com
Consider the athleisure trend, and how millennials tend to favor included and otherwise imperfect gems that reflect the vagaries of Mother Nature, and the current appetite for baroque pearls is not surprising. “As the country continues to move into a more informal style, baroques are embraced for their casual and individual appeal,” says Amanda Gizzi, jewelry style expert and director of public relations and special events for Jewelers of America.
Mastoloni Pearls in New York City and Nashville-based designer Vincent Peach have successfully debuted baroque pearl styles that deliver on the promise of taking a customer from the conference room to a cocktail party. “Our pearls have an everyday feel to them,” affirms Peach, who often pairs pearls with leather cords and equestrian-inspired clasps. “I design for consumers who want something versatile and beautiful.”
Meanwhile, other designers have chosen to explore the asymmetrical shapes and nuanced colors offered by luxurious Tahitian and South Sea baroques, encasing the gems with lashings of diamonds or creating deliberately mismatched earrings (a popular look on the red carpet). “Designers like Savannah Stranger, Mizuki, and Sophie Buhai are using them beautifully and artistically,” says Marion Fasel, founder and editorial director of online fine jewelry magazine The Adventurine.
Faceted aquamarine and square freshwater baroque coin pearl and diamond 18k yellow gold bracelet; $9,845; The Mazza Co.; 800-654-3400; mazzajewelry.com
Pendant with baroque pearl and 0.93 ct. t.w. diamonds in 18k white gold; $10,532; Yael Designs; 415-989-9235; yaeldesigns.com
Pearl strands strung in a light-to-dark progression of tones reflect a trend that’s been thriving across all aspects of fashion, from wedding cakes to workout gear. Tonal color-blocking always looks modern, and jewelry designers have embraced the trend by clustering light blue, periwinkle, and cornflower blue sapphire melee in a brooch, for example, or placing a row of oval, pastel-to-deep pink tourmalines in a prong-set ring.
Now that neutral-colored stories are gaining momentum in pearl jewelry, an ombré pearl necklace that starts out white, moves to gray or silver, and culminates in a spectrum of blue to black tones feels new and exciting. Like baroque pearls, it’s also a quick and easy way to indulge a pearl craving that in no way resembles what your mother or grandmother wore—the reigning consumer mindset, according to the pearl experts we consulted.
Natural-color South Sea and radiant orchid freshwater pearls with 9.61 cts. t.w. diamonds in 18k white gold; price on request; Yoko London; 917-213-8161; yokolondon.com
Tahitian and white South Sea 10 mm x 11 mm bracelet with a sterling silver black rhodium magnetic clasp; $680; Baggins; 213-624-2277; bagginspearls.com
SHADES OF GRAY
The American Gem Trade Association reports a strong interest in gray and silver Tahitian, South Sea, and akoya pearls, with semi-round and baroque akoya pearls in this color family among the most desirable. “Prices are still reasonable in the 6- to 9-millimeter size, but dealers say that this may not last long,” says AGTA’s CEO, Douglas K. Hucker.
Why? “It doesn’t sound glamorous, but the silver-gray color and shape of the akoya is due to a bacterial infection that alters the oyster’s environment,” says Anil Maloo, president of Baggins, a pearl company based in Los Angeles. In other words, it’s a happy accident that suppliers can’t quite control. “The color is gorgeous, but difficult to obtain,” adds Maloo, whose firm has become a go-to source for these akoyas while they’re still available.
Consumer demand for gray-toned jewels is a reflection of the color’s popularity not only in fashion but also in other jewelry categories such as engagement rings and chunky bead necklaces hung with pendants. “I believe the silver color adds a cool factor to the traditional reputation of pearls much in the same way gray diamonds and moonstones are a little edgier than white diamonds or blue moonstones,” Fasel says. As in other jewelry categories, the combo of gray pearls with vibrant colored gemstones is especially appealing. “The grays play extremely well with the green tones of tsavorite, chrome diopside, or emerald,” says designer Steven Mazza of The Mazza Co. in New York City.
18k white gold earrings with 37.1 cts. t.w. pearls, 1.61 cts. t.w. diamonds, and 1.51 cts. t.w. paraiba tourmalines; $23,003; Yael Designs; 415-989-9235; yaeldesigns.com
Moonstone, diamond, and pearl eternity earrings with Tahitian baroque Dracula pearls; price on request; Featherstone Fine Jewelry; 212-343-0604; featherstonedesign.com
Top: Freshwater baroque pearls with 18k gold clasp, $4,450, 18k gold removable pendant with 25.27 ct. faceted aquamarine and 0.2 ct. t.w. diamonds, $5,270; The Mazza Co.; 800-654-3400; mazzajewelry.com