Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Pearl Power

Pearls have seen somewhat of a revival in recent seasons, discarding their somewhat fusty old image. Designers have been using pearls innovatively both in jewellery and clothing, where they are used as surface embellishment in bold decorative clusters or as subtle accents. Sarah Burton probably started it all with her pearl-heavy Fall 2013 collection at McQueen. Many diverse designers followed suit using pearls in their summer collections: Oscar De La Renta used them head to toe, from jewellery to boots; Thakoon used long strings of pearls as bag chains; Simone Rocha embroidered pearls onto socks, shoes, skirts and necklines; Thom Browne accented nearly all his looks with pearl buttons; and Jenny Packham was similarly subtle with her use of pearls, setting them into the seams of a blouse (I'm sure someone else used pearl inset seams first, I can't remember who though!). 

Jenny Packham SS14

Of course the pearl historically 'belongs' to Chanel, but Dior had a major hit on their hands last year with the Mise En Dior jewellery range, most notably the Tribal stud earring which has been seen just about everywhere. Not to be outdone, Chanel modernized their use of pearls, using large gobstopper-sized pearls for the SS14 collection, spawning many copycat design. 

Mise en Dior Tribal earring

For me though, pearls are at their best not when humongous in size, but teeny tiny and clustered in their hundreds. Seed pearl jewellery may not be making its way onto a runway anytime soon, but its use in antique jewellry captivates me, satisfying my love of all things ornate and detailed. Peaking in popularity by the 19th century, strings of seed pearls were imported from China and India, and worked into designs so detailed they can resemble lace work.

Victorian seed pearl and gold long pendant earrings (ebay seller benalf2601)

Victorian chandelier earrings
 $1200 @ Gideon Antiques 

Indian c.1810 earrings

Late Georgian seed pearl pendant
$875 @ Renate's and Gina's Antiques Shoppe

c.1820 Georgian seed pearl brooch
@ Glorious Antique Jewelry 

Early 19th C. seed pearl flower drop necklace

Victorian seed pearl necklace
$599 SOLD @ Antiquarians 

c.1885 seed pearl and citrine festoon necklace
 $2450 @ Antique Masterpieces

I'll stop there, but you get the idea; clusters of teeny tiny pearls make for some beautiful 3D jewels. If you've enjoyed these pieces, you may want to take a look at the Pearl Carpet of Beroda, a magnificent rug constructed around 1865 featuring over a million pearls, amongst rubies, diamonds and sapphires. In 2009 it sold for nearly $5.5 million. Take a look at some detailed pictures of it here. The handiwork is incredible. 
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