Keeping It Cultured: Vintage Pearls

February 2, 2015 • Magazine, Vintage

Vintage Pearls, Pearls today

In keeping with the vintage accessory trend, let’s talk pearls. They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but there is something about pearl jewelry that is understated, worldly and supremely sophisticated. Pearls can accent your style as daintily or boldly as you like. They come in different sizes, and vary in color and grades, making this vintage trend easy to fit any budget and personal preference.

Natural pearls are created in the soft tissues of a living shelled mollusk, the rarest and most expensive of which are found naturally in the wild. The majority of pearls in the modern marketplace are called cultured pearls and are harvested from pearl oysters in fresh water reserves under controlled conditions and environments. These tend to be more affordable while still offering quality.

Pearls have been used as jewelry and adornment dating back to ancient times, possibly as early as the fifth or sixth century, throughout India and China and then migrating to Europe as the pearl trade expanded. The rarity of the pearl (as they were only being harvested by divers) was sustained for centuries and only enjoyed by royalty and the supremely upper class. It wasn’t until closer to the 20th century that pearl farming became common practice, making this adornment more widely available and affordable. There was a huge spike in pearl jewelry and accessories in the 1920s and seemingly again around the 1940s-1960s. In the present day, they are used as embellishments on RTW clothing but also can be used for formal wear or passed down as a family heirloom only to be pulled out for special occasions.

For the sake of this vintage article I kept it strictly to pearl jewelry; however for the more adventurous vintage trend shopper you can work to incorporate pearls in the form of a pearl embellished sweater, or shoe, a lovely evening clutch or a beaded skirt. Every woman should own some form of pearl jewelry. Real pearls, cultured, or faux are all acceptable when looking to add a piece to your collection. Just remember it’s all about having fun, looking great and feeling good.

1. 1920s Flapper Pearls

2. Vintage 14k Pearl/ Emerald Pendant Necklace, $175

3. 1950s Grace Kelly Pearls

4. Mikimoto Akoya Pearl Earrings, from $400

5. Vintage Freshwater Pearl Bracelet, $58

6. David Yurman X Earrings with Diamonds and Pearls, $975

7. Chanel 2014 Spring RTW

8. Konstantino ‘Classics’ Pearl Ring, $610

– Carmen Turner

Image Layout: Second City Style

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