Women and yes, even men who wear pearls have a brand of confidence about them. Without relying on sparkle, logos or eye popping details that scream out for attention, individuals inclined to wear these natural gems exude effortless yet enduring style. In my years of observing fashion and its countless evolutions and revolutions, pearl-wearing subjects have also impressed as the types who have truly “arrived” and have nothing to prove. It’s also been mentioned and written about since time immemorial that pearls are the gems of icons like Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Onassis, Grace Kelly. For centuries, royals have also been depicted in rows upon rows of pearls.
In more recent months, we’ve been witnessing sartorial looks that reimagine how a string of pearls or studs could work as modern statement pieces. US Vice President Kamala Harris does it brilliantly with a suit and a pair of Converse sneakers. For some time now, Harry Styles has been shaking up men’s fashion with the proposition of pearl necklaces as a staple. More and more men have since gotten into wearing pearls. Model and reality star Kendall Jenner has also been posting snaps of her pearl and beaded necklace. Among the younger stylish set, these natural beauties have become the gem du jour for friendship jewelry.
This rekindled love for the ocean’s lustrous treasures have inspired a new crop of brands and inspired collections fit especially for the summer months. New designs from some of the most exciting brands today have made pearls more relatable to modern lifestyles. No longer outdated heirloom pieces immediately reminiscent of our mother’s or grandma’s estate collection, pearls have become the chic, contemporary choice for everyday. Ideal to wear at work, formal functions and even a quick workout, this edit of reimagined pearls are the style essentials for summer and beyond.
ARAO is a Hong Kong-based label dedicated to creating fine jewelry with the South Sea Pearls as its centerpiece. The company is uncompromising when it comes to partnering with responsible pearl farms in Palawan, Philippines. Since launching in 2020, ARAO has been supporting and promoting ethical pearl farming. Founder Mirabel Rosar explains, “We strive to be sustainable in everything we do—from packaging, sourcing and the creation of products that last.”
The brand marks its first year with the launch of a new collection this summer. Aptly dubbed as PARADOX, pieces were inspired by the various stages, seasons and contrasts in a life. Combining pearls with seemingly polar elements like metal and gemstones every piece was envisioned as “modern classics” to grow and evolve with. A Pearl Lab will also be launched on the brand’s website soon, allowing customers to create their own pearl jewelry with their favorite gems. With a wide range of gems and South Sea Pearls to mix and match, clients are able to express themselves and let their light shine through pearls from ARAO.
A pair of baroque South Sea pearls, hanging suspended from a flawless diamond, emerald, citrine or sky blue topaz stone are striking choices to take you from breakfast to bubbly hour. I also love how the brand is currently focusing on the use of baroque pearls. It reminds and inspires us to regard our imperfections as the precious gems they truly are.
EUGENIA KIM has always been known for creating hats and other headgear. The go-to brand for many sun worshippers has gained a large following for its vibrant color ways and witty designs. Just this year, the brand decided to venture into vintage gems. The team at EUGENIA KIM explains, “We have been putting more emphasis on sustainably-sourced materials for our Spring Summer 21 Collection and of course, the vintage jewelry.”
Pieces from the Vintage Gems range are all sourced from renowned vintage and antique dealers around the world. Everything is handpicked by the brand founder and designer herself. In keeping with the whimsical and quirky sensibilities of its hats, every piece is reflective of an eclectic yet timeless sensibility. The team adds, “This new line comes as part of the brand’s investment in quality, lasting pieces, rather than fast fashion.”
AARON BASHA’s take on jewelry has always about stringing special moments and emotions through jewelry. From its iconic baby shoe charms and pendants to travel-inspired arm stacks, pieces from the brand have always been an extension of its wearer’s personal journey. I’ve always loved how Basha’s creations are nostalgic, timeless and yet easy to wear for everyday.
This season, they reimagined the beaded friendship bracelet with pearls and diamond studded evil eyes. Using Fresh Water pearls, these summer staples are ideal when layered with gold chains or other beaded arm candy. They make for beautiful bestie or sister gifts for all occasions.
MISSOMA is a sustainable UK-based label that has managed to elevate the art of layering pieces. Their designs look stunning worn alone or when combined with other layers. The company has been around since 2008, working from its Noting Hill headquarters to combine fashion and fine jewellery. Today, this is known as demi-fine. Its pioneer? Missoma. Brand Founder Marisa Hordern elaborates, “I started Missoma because I was trying to find fashion-forward jewelry that was high quality and affordable. I realized that it didn’t exist—so I set about designing it myself.”
This summer, the MISSOMA team celebrates “the summer of our lives” with a collection of colorful pearls, sea-inspired charms and beads. It is a fun and lively tribute to days spent luxuriating on pristine shores, under the warmth of a summer sun. And regardless of your summer holiday style, there is a piece for everyone. Baroque pearl drop earrings mismatched with a shell hoops are edgy choices for both city and seaside escapes. A string of baroque pearls with T-bar closures in gold bring contemporary flair to the timeless string of pearls. The collection has also integrated pearls onto other accessories like belts and eyewear chains.
BRYAN ANTHONYS is a brand that conveys powerful messages of love, support and empowerment through jewelry. It was created as a tribute to the life of co-founder Amber Glassman’s late brother, Bryan Anthony. Since inception, the brand has been anchored on “the verifiable truth of life’s fragility—we only have one life and time isn’t something that is guaranteed.”
Everything from Bryan Anthony’s is created with purpose and a message. Designs reflect chapters, turning points and milestones in a life. The team writes, “Our meaningful products are designed to inspire an authentic connection between us and help us realized we are not alone in our journey.”
Pearl chokers, earrings and bracelets are new additions to the Bryan Anthonys jewelry narrative. Referred to as Grit, they are fitting keepsakes to have following something as unprecedented as the pandemic. The brand’s founder, Amber Glassman, crafted a moving tale for Grit which reads: “She is unshakable not because she doesn’t know pain or failure, but because she always pushes through. Because she always shows up and never gives up. Because she believes anything is possible no matter the odds… She is just like a pearl — made from grit but full of grace.”
AGMES is creates wearable pieces of art made to last and to be passed on as heirlooms. The company, founded in 2016 by Morgan and Jaclyn Solomon combines simplicity, sculptural forms and sustainable practices in the creation of objects “designed to become heirlooms.” Metals used in their pieces are all recycled and produced locally from prototyping down to packaging.
A dream collaboration with Brooklyn-based sculptor and designer, Simone Bodmer Turner resulted in collection of abstract, curvaceous shapes missed with fresh water pearls. The artist, how has held artist residency in Japan and Oaxaca explains, “Working on a line of jewelry has always been a dream of mine, and for years I’ve been collecting sculptural, biomorphic silver pieces from my travels, flea markets, and designers I admire. When Morgan and Jaclyn approached me to collaborate with them on this line I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to bring this amorphic idea to life. It was a fun exercise in sculpting really small, and I am enormously grateful to AGMES’ team for working with my tiny sculptures to turn them into all the many small metal pieces that form this collection.”
The Bodmer earrings in silver or gold vermeil features a baroque pearl. Highly sculptural in shape and proportion, it is a statement piece that can be mismatched with simpler studs. Other stunning works reinterpreted with pearls include the Sandra Earrings and Diane Earrings. If you love art, fashion, and pearls, this is the collection to build on.
JUSTINE CLENQUET accessories always merge elements that are masculine with feminine touches. Made entirely in France using brass dipped in 24k pale gold and palladium, pieces are crafted so that they serve several functions. A choker can also be worn as a bracelet, while earrings are meant for mixing and matching. Creations by the designer have been worn by muses like Petra Collins, Lady Gaga and Charli XCX, to name a few.
Pieces fit both men and women as in the case of the Sidney ear cuff with pearls. Justine also offers a fresh and daring approach to wearing pearl necklaces by infusing a touch of punk influences—silver chains, circular loops and dangling metals that appear to drip on skin.