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When you think of classic, retro accessories, pearl jewelry is probably one of the first styles that come to mind. After all, icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe immortalized pearls both on and off-screen, and the style has continued to hold up for celebrities and everyday people alike. In fact, pearls are seeing a particularly strong resurgence as one of spring 2023's jewelry trends—news that's more than welcome for pearl fans like me.
"To me, pearls are just classic," agrees Omer Herzog, founder of jewelry brand Omè. "They are graceful, elegant, and very feminine. There is also such a variation of size and shape, including contemporary jewelry, which makes for endless design possibilities. Years ago, we saw Princess Diana wearing pearls, and now we see Kate Middleton wearing them—you just never get tired of women wearing pearls, because it's such a chic, refined look."
Jin Jungsura, founder of luxury, Bangkok-based jewelry brand Matara, agrees that pearls, like diamonds, never go out of style. "Pearls have long been loved," she says. "They are not only timeless and traditional but also unique and dynamic. Some of the most precious gems have the power to span generations and remain covetable for decades, and pearls fit firmly into that sartorial realm."
But if you associate pearls solely with old-fashioned style, think again. Not only are traditional pearl pieces versatile enough to incorporate into a modern wardrobe, but there are also a number of contemporary styles and innovations now taking the pearl market by storm.
Inspired by my own love for pearls, I've tapped Herzog and Jungsura to learn everything there is to know about pearls, from what to look for in a high-quality pearl piece to how to style the most popular pearl trends today.
Shopping for Pearls
Style is often a matter of personal taste, but there are a few basic pointers to remember when shopping for pearls—particularly if you've never done it before.
"Go for natural or cultured pearls," Jungsura advises. "Worn often and properly cared for, these pearls can look as good in decades as they did the day they left the store!"
Indeed, my grandmother took painstaking care of her jewelry, and the pieces look just as fabulous today as they do in photos from when they were new.
And in terms of design? Herzog says this aspect of your shopping decision "depends on one's preferences and mood." She elaborates, "Sometimes I'm in the mood for a discreet, subtle necklace, and at other times I feel like wearing something long and overstated—perhaps even large pearls, or crazy baroque pearls."
If you're new to buying jewelry and are still unsure, or if you're getting a gift and want to play it safe, Jungsura says to go "classic or contemporary, but minimal. Those can never go wrong, and you’ll still love it 10 years later."
Finally, if you have sensitive skin and want to be sure that your pearl pieces won't irritate you, never fear.
"I’ve never known or heard of anyone allergic to pearls," says Jungsura. However, if your pearl pieces incorporate metals and other materials, take care to check if they'll activate your allergies and consider consulting your dermatologist before you buy.
If you're concerned that your pearls are destined to collect dust in your jewelry box, don't be! Herzog and Jungsura agree that pearls are versatile enough to be worn with just about any style, from an everyday office look to an elevated formal ensemble.
"A necklace of round eight millimeter pearls can go well with a sporty outfit, or casual jeans and a T-shirt," suggests Herzog. "It's simple and gorgeous."
And for a lavish look? "Three or four strands of seven millimeter-sized pearls—perhaps in gradual lengths and maybe even with (a not-too-big) diamond-encrusted clasp,—will go with any formal look, from an evening dress to a skirt and shirt," she says.
Jungsura also recommends pairing your favorite formal frock with "a classic strand-of-pearls necklace." As far as other accessories go, she says that fancier outfits also look great when "paired with a statement pearl ring with paved diamonds and pair of pearl earrings with colored gem-like stones for a pop of color."
Finally, Herzog reminds us that you don't necessarily need the pearls to call attention to themselves in order for your pearl jewelry to jump. Instead, you can opt for a unique clasp—a touch she cites as a recent trend, which "is an effortless way of taking your look to the next level."
I'm obsessed with these pearl hoop earrings from Monica Vinader, which are right on trend with their uneven baroque pearls and unique, ornate clasp.
This strand of pearls by Latinx-owned brand Étiou is comprised of pearls that increase in length between four and 10 millimeters, adding an asymmetrical touch to the traditional pearl strand.
I love this statement collar ring from Southeast Asian-owned brand Angara. It features a stunning freshwater pearl at its center, surrounded by diamonds and set on your choice of rose gold, yellow gold, white gold, or platinum.
These stunning earrings are comprised of round mabe pearls set against vibrant green tsavorite—for when you really want to make a statement.
If you've ever shopped for pearls, you've probably noticed that they vary in size and shape. While some, like those you might spot on the neck of Marilyn Monroe, are perfectly round, others are uneven and more elliptical in shape.
Jungsura confirms, "There are two primary shape categories that all pearls fall into: traditional and baroque. Traditional pearls are round, while baroque pearls are virtually anything else."
She explains that "traditional pearls are generally more valuable," and Herzog adds that round pearls "are a classic choice" and that "they're perfect for that elegant, timeless look."
To keep up with the current incarnation of the round pearl trend, Herzog suggests a single-strand necklace. They also work with single-strand bracelets, long drop necklaces, and even rings.
With this simple necklace from Stone and Strand, tit's all about the details: In the center of this freshwater necklace is a gold, diamond-encrusted charm of the initial of your choice.
"This ring is from our first ever fine jewelry collection and it holds a special place in my heart," says Jungsura. "The collection is crafted by one of the top jewelry makers in Asia, S. Maneephand. The founders are now business partners-turned-friends, and S. Maneephand crafts all our fine jewelry."
Jungsura says that this piece "is one of our signature designs and certainly one of the best sellers to date—it goes well with anything! You can wear it for a date night out, weekend brunch with girlfriends, or even a beach vacation."
For jewelry that incorporates mostly round pearls along with a sprinkling of tiny baroque ones, try this on-trend pair of pearl drop earrings from Child of Wild. They match everything while still managing to serve as a statement piece, and don't feel too heavy on one's earlobe.
"My go-to for everyday wear are simple button earrings, like our Don Earrings," says Herzog. "I don't like to wear too much jewelry when I'm at work, but these earnings effortlessly elevate any outfit and illuminate one's face."
Herzog says that currently, she likes "to wear a long pearl necklace that you can play with." To style, she says you can either "wrap it tight around your neck or wear it loosely." In particular she recommends this piece, made from freshwater pearls with a sterling silver clasp.
Round pearls may be classic, but Jungsura says, "Some prefer baroque pearls for their unique shapes." Personally, I love the distinctive, natural, almost unpredictable look of baroque pearls and tend to opt for them when I'm adding to my jewelry collection—and based on recent trends, I'm not alone.
"The abstract pearl necklace trend is picking up," continues Jungsura. "They are just so fun to wear and are an instant conversation starter."
Herzog agrees, adding, "Uneven pearls are more unique, so they offer an individualistic touch and are great for making a personal statement."
Below, some of our favorite baroque pearl pieces that are sure to draw attention no matter how you style them.
These long drop earrings are simultaneously dainty and show-stopping. Pin your hair into a slicked-back bun when you wear them to maximize the attention they get, and pair with a matching baroque pearl necklace.
These earrings are featured in Matara's Pret-a-Porter collection, which Jungsura highly recommends for pearl lovers. "The collection is designed by one of Bangkok’s most renowned fashion designers, Patinya Kyokong, who is also a dear friend of mine," she explains. "This collection is fun, colorful and so lively!"
These minimalist, affordable earrings adhere to the pearl trend and yellow gold trend taking over the jewelry industry these days, and I'm completely on board. And because this pair is small, it complements any outfit or hairstyle, and can be paired with a matching necklace without looking too busy.
Puerto Rican brand Isa Noy is dedicated to creating sustainably made, ethically sourced pieces meant to last a lifetime. Each piece is carefully made from high-quality, body-safe materials, and this piece in particular recalls the brand's chic, beachy origins.
"Our Elliot Wrap Necklace features round pearls along with two uneven pearls at each end, creating a more intriguing and unique appearance," says Herzog. "With the right pairing, this necklace can help achieve a bold rock 'n roll vibe."
Now that warmer weather is just on the horizon, it's time to start thinking about spring and summer fashion—and that includes accessories. Body chains are among the most opulent ways of spicing up a crop top or even a swim suit, and this gold and baroque pearl option is at the very top of my wishlist.
If you're more into vibrant, rainbow jewelry, you can still indulge in the pearl trend. In fact, colorful pearls are among the most popular pearl pieces among jewelry aficionados and casual shoppers alike.
"Another crowd favorite is definitely the combination between pearls and colored gem-like stones," Jungsura confirms. "These pieces are playful, stylish, and more contemporary than ever."
She adds that colorful pearls are perfect for everyday and weekend looks. When styling a casual outfit, she recommends wearing "a pair of pearl earrings with colorful, gem-like stones—and stack the rings up!"
Herzog says that she, too, has been donning the recent colorful pearls trend. Lately, she tells me, she enjoys "wearing a colorful string bracelet with a single dark pearl."
Below, a collection of colorful pearl jewelry to suit any and every taste.
"I love our Hailey Bracelet," Herzog gushes. "It can be worn alone or paired with other bracelets or a watch. It adds a touch of sophistication, and now that summer is approaching, it's the perfect accessory to elevate your look."
This flattering shade of green is perfect for spring and summer. Plus, its heart-shaped charm adds a unique, clunky touch to the traditionally dainty strand of pearls.
Big fan of black? No problem. This stunner from Cult Gaia is made from black freshwater baroque pearls, and wraps lightly around the neck for an experience that's both fashionable and comfortable.
If you're in love with two gemstones and don't want to choice between them, then indulge in this half-and-half trend. Made of yellow gold, malachite, and freshwater pearls, this necklace from Jia Jia is truly the best of both worlds.
If you're feeling especially edgy, check out this eye-catching orange option from Girlie But Not, which baroque pearls so uneven they're just about jagged. It's a great way of balancing the delicacy of pearls with a bit of edginess.
Meet the Experts
Omer Herzog is the founder of Omè, a luxury jewelry brand predicated on a commitment to creating versatile, wearable pieces that make their wearers look and feel their best.
Jin Jungsura is the co-founder of luxury jewelry brand Matara. An expert on luxury jewelry and pearls in particular, she is currently based in Bangkok.
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Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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