If you’ve never uttered the word “wardrobe” in the same sentence as “pearls,” now might be a good time to start.

Let pearls take center stage in your wardrobe this season. Want to shift your energy on Mondays? Be sure to wear pearls. Earn double positive energy points if you were born in June (pearl is the June birthstone) and wear pearls on any given Monday – even Merlin will have to step back!

This “magic” of sorts is exactly why one needs a pearl wardrobe.  The occasions to wear pearls are limitless, their feminine allure unparalleled, and unlike their glitzier cousins, pearls can be worn in layers without arousing (too much) attention.


A rare diamond and pearl bow brooch, by Cartier, circa 1960. The looped ribbons set throughout with brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, suspending two large baroque pearl drops, each with a brilliant and single-cut diamond cap, diamonds approximately 14.00 carats total. Copyright © 2009 Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Elegant? Always. Traditional? Sure. Predictable? Hardly. There isn’t a woman on any best dressed list that doesn’t have the following pearl jewelry basics in her jewel box.  Here’s a test – try to imagine any of these style icons without their pearls: Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Diana Vreeland, Coco Chanel, Anna Wintour, Kate Middleton.

The pearl is the most feminine of gems while still exuding a powerful confidence. Think Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Meg Whitman, Martha Stewart, and any Queen you can name.

However, before you launch your candidacy for President of the United States, here are five pearl essentials that will form the basis of an everlasting wardrobe.

1. Pearl ear studs


Earrings set with freshwater pearl. Courtesy Lafonn

Need we say more? Always age appropriate and often the very first gemstone a woman receives. Perfection day or night, pearl jewelry is modern in its clean geometry, yet timeless in its understated luxe. And for bridesmaids, pearl ear studs are a very nice “thank you” gift, indeed.

2. Pearl drop earrings

Needle earrings in 14K yellow gold with Tahitian pearl by Andrea Gutierrez. Courtesy Andrea Gutierrez. Photo: Elio Tolot

Yes, these can be long and dripping with diamonds or a simple, lone baroque teardrop on a wire hovering seductively just below the earlobe. Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” gets it just right. Whether designed as a single pearl suspended from a sparkling diamond or shoulder-dusters that are red-carpet-ready, pearl drops add movement and charm.

3. String (or rope) of pearls


The Baroda Pearl Necklace is comprised of natural pearls selected from a necklace owned by the Indian Maharajas of Baroda and features a diamond and platinum clasp by Cartier. While a necklace of this quality is out of reach for most of us, you can achieve a similar look with more affordable cultured pearls. Photo © Christie’s Images

Elegance personified. Without question, a pearl necklace is the traditional gift commemorating a wedding, a graduation, a christening or really any life moment. It is an instant heirloom that is powerful and serious at 9mm+ with a suit, while equally sweet and simple at 6mm to 8mm with a sundress.  Switch from 18” to 32” and from white to black; add a tuxedo and now you’ll be setting the trends.

4. Pearl pendant necklace


A single pearl in sterling silver evokes the classic elegance of the Roaring Twenties. Pendant in sterling silver with a freshwater cultured pearl. Courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

What is more beautiful than a simple single pearl on a delicate chain? Enhanced with a sparkling diamond, wrapped with golden wire or set in platinum, a pearl nestled in the hollow of your neck is a luminous focal point. Or if something more raw and edgy sounds enticing, an organically charged asymmetrical black South Sea pearl on a leather cord laced with mesh captures an artisanal spirit.

5. Pearl ring


Marilyn Cooperman Pearl Ring. A South Sea cultured pearl set in a ruffled and hammered mount of patinated silver edged in 18K yellow gold. Courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Prior to Mikimoto developing the modern technique to culture pearls in the 1910s, pearls were extremely rare and expensive. Today, there are pearls – and pearl jewelry – to fit virtually any budget. Pearl rings can be skinny and stackable, edgy and multi-finger, or gumball-sized and softly baroque in a hammered metal setting. A pearl ring becomes a symbol of purity and love, or a bold, handcrafted artist’s statement that punctuates your every gesture.

To choose a pearl with confidence, do your homework. Learn about GIA’s 7 Pearl Value Factors, ask the right questions and build your pearl jewelry collection with both quality and value. And a large dose of style.

Main image courtesy of Todd Reed: 18K gold, sterling silver with patina, tahitian pearls, black brilliant cut diamonds (1.015ctw). 

GIA Guest Blogger: Dawn Moore, GIA AJP
Drawing on her experience as Regional Director at Harry Winston, Mikimoto and Chopard, Dawn Moore writes about world-class jewels for The Huffington Post, C Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and Santa Barbara Magazine. Read more about her: www.mooreabout.com