Pearls Light Up Jewelry Market

by Karla Klein Albertson
(Action Central News)

Pearls Light Up Jewelry Market

Lustrous in appearance and smooth to the touch, pearls top collectors’ wish lists because they are perfect for any occasion. Gloria Lieberman, head of Skinner’s jewelry department, sums it up: “Pearls are always correct. When you don’t know what to put on, you put on pearls.”

Pearls transcend politics as well. Both Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain wore pearls when they accompanied their husbands on the 2008 campaign trail. In the past two years, Mrs. Obama has made them a favorite fashion accessory in the first lady’s wardrobe.

Over 500 years ago, pearls were an important part of the treasure found in the Americas by the first explorers. Christopher Columbus discovered an abundant source off the coast of Venezuela in 1498.

From England to Russia, European royalty had a voracious appetite for the seaborne gems. News of an American pearl supply was greeted with enthusiasm back home, in part because it freed jewelers from their previous dependence on imports from Asia.

The most famous American pearls received special titles. “La Peregrina” – discovered off the coast of Panama or Venezuela in the mid-1500s – ended up in the Spanish royal treasury. A suitable match was found and the two pearls were made into earrings for the queen.

This tale is only one of the fascinating historical vignettes related in Tiffany Pearls (Abrams 2006), an excellent reference by John Loring, now design director emeritus of the famous jewelry firm. One illustration is the famous circa 1588 portrait of Elizabeth I of England. Large pearls outline her famous red hair, decorate the royal robes, and hang in multiple ropes around her neck.

In an interview before his retirement, Loring said, “When people see those historic portraits in museums of women covered with pearls, they think they are Oriental pearls, but they’re not – they’re American. Pearls enjoyed enormous popularity with painters because they were really the only gem that a painter could render accurately.”

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Read more about how pearls light up the jewelry market and see stunning photos of pearl jewelry including a Salvador Dali design of ruby lips with pearl teeth.

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