Until the early 20th century


Until the early 20th century, natural pearls were the o […]

Until the early 20th century, natural pearls were the only pearls to be had. Highly valuable, they were priced accordingly and so extremely rare, it's said, traded a strand of natural pearls he collected over decades for the 5th Avenue property of Cartier's New York store.

Pearls are the perfect example of modern jewelry reinvention. They've been a feminine go-to for centuries, and the traditional, mid-20th century pearl strand is trending again — but now with endless re-interpretations and much modern flair. Mixed with various metals, stones and gems, re-done in endless styles, sizes, colors, shapes and prices, the majestic pearl is resurging in its chicness.

And these lovely gems are not just for women, either, adds New York jewelry designer, who also Freshwater pearl beads creates many of his pieces using pearls. "I wear a pair of pearl cuff links almost every day. My favorite set is made from an irregularly shaped pair of huge, light blue South Sea baroque pearls. People are constantly asking me what they are."

Pearls are so-called organic gems, because they are made by living creatures. A pearl forms inside the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk when the animal reacts to grit by coating it with concentric layers of crystalline calcium carbonate called nacre, or mother-of-pearl.

"I absolutely love creating jewelry with pearls," says a Los Angeles designer who works often with exotic pearls. "Pearls have always had a mystique and glamour but now there is impressive new energy in the market. It's really quite exciting for those of us who are big pearl fans."