The Classic Pearl Necklace: A Wardrobe Staple Returns to the Spotlight

By Cynthia Sliwa — September 15, 2013

How lovely that the timing of my new blog coincides with the revival of an iconic style of jewelry: the classic pearl necklace.

There was a time when etiquette books recommended the purchase of a pearl necklace as the perfect gift for the college graduate, and when many a debutante’s neck was adorned with her first strand of pearls. As styles moved away from lockstep thinking as to what was exactly appropriate when, the formerly ubiquitous pearl necklace was sometimes utilized as the signature jewel of a protagonist prepster (think Ally Sheedy’s character in the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire)–an anachronistic reference to formality in a society that had become increasingly casual in matters of dress. Pearls have come to be incorporated in all manner of creative and even edgy designs, and I have written recently about some of the latest delightful examples of these inspired designs. What is fresh and new at this time, however, is the return to the pearl necklace in its classic form.

Vogue magazine is at the forefront of highlighting the return to classic pearl strands, it featured the look in three sequential issues this past spring, an extraordinary amount of press given to a particular design, and again features a single strand pearl necklace prominently in a 12-page fashion spread in the September 2013 issue.

Pearls 0913 Vogue basic strand rock styling REV

The September 2013 issue of Vogue  combines pearls with a mix of accessories with a nod to 1960s rock and roll style, photographed in the English countryside. The model wears a pearl necklace together with a heart pendant necklace, both from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane.

Pearls 0913 Elle classic strand dress over sweater look REV

In its September 2013 issue, Elle magazine accessorizes a variety of looks with a single strand of Akoya cultured pearls from Mikimoto. Above is pictured a Jill Stuart sweater worn under a dress from Carven, a style seen in various fashion editorials this season.

Pearls 0913 Elle classic strand nostalgia Pucci dress mink coat 72 dpi REV

Also from the September 2013 issue of Elle is this look, with the Mikimoto pearls accessorizing a silk dress and mink coat from Emilio Pucci.



The April 2013 issue of Vogue presents a beautiful fashion spread based upon Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film Real Window, with actor Tobey Maguire and model/television personality Carolyn Murphy playing the leading roles. Murphy wears vintage inspired fashions, including the above dress of point d’esprit tulle from Gucci with a three-strand pearl necklace from House of Lavande and Carolina Amato gloves. Her handbag is from Prada.

0513 pearls May Vogue vintage single strand pearl necklace REV

In the May 2013 issue of Vogue model Cara Delevingne is pictured wearing a cultured pearl necklace from Camilla Dietz Bergeron, Ltd. and resin-pearl earrings from Dior with a Jil Sander cardigan.

0513 pearls May Vogue Ellagem South Sea pearls REV

Delevingne wears a South Sea pearl necklace from Ellagem with a Nina Ricci cardigan and Ricci skirt in this photo from the May 2013 issue of Vogue.

0613 pearls June Vogue houndstooth skirt REV

The June 2013 issue of Vogue features model Dree Hemingway and “reimagines the windswept Floridian style of her great-grandfather Ernest on a lively Boca Grande getaway.” Pearls adorn a series of more casual looks. Above, a pearl necklace from Camilla Dietz Bergeron accompanies a bikini swimsuit top from Malia Mills; a Makie cashmere cardigan, and a houndstooth skirt from Carolina Herrera. Dree’s tiny gold rings are not identified.  Notice how the pearls repeat the brightness of the white pearlescent buttons of the sweater.

Style Swap Suggestion: Replace the pearl necklace with a delicate pendant necklace in yellow gold to match Dree’s rings. Choose a necklace in a length that sits with a margin of space inside the vee shape visually created by the bikini top and sweater. The swap will give the wearer the appearance of a longer neck and a sleeker line.

0613 pearls June Vogue pool splash REV

In the above photo from the June 2013 issue of Vogue, Dree Hemingway splashes alongside a swimming pool in a Gucci cashmere sweater and silk gingham shorts from Friends & Associates along with the pearls and a 14kt gold bracelet watch, both from Camilla Dietz Bergeron.

Jewelry Care Caution: Sun tan lotion and swimming pool chlorine should never mix with pearls and gold.

0613 pearls June Vogue CU Gucci flannel dress REV

In the above photo, also from the June 2013 issue of Vogue, Dree wears a Gucci dress with sunglasses from Dries Van Noten by Linda Farrow pictured again with the single strand of pearls from Camilla Dietz Bergeron. Vogue comments: “Sartorial mainstays of [Papa] Hemingway’s era–like wire-frame glasses and the single-strand pearl necklace–continue to have fresh appeal for new generations.”


Price Check:

Camilla Dietz Bergeron:  cultured pearl necklace (May Vogue), $5,500; single-strand necklace (June Vogue), $250; 14kt gold bracelet watch, $2,750

Dior:  resin-pearl earrings, $295

Ellagem:  18mm South Sea pearl necklace, $320,000

House of Lavande:  three-strand necklace, $448

Mikimoto:  Akoya cultured pearl strand with yellow gold clasp, $2,980

Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane:  pearl necklace, $1,695; heart pendant necklace, $1,695


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