Throughout history, pearls have held an unparalleled allure, captivating the hearts and minds of iconic figures from Cleopatra to Queen Elizabeth, and modern-day luminaries from Audrey Hepburn, Maharani Gayatri Devi to Michelle Obama.
The very first recorded mention of pearls is in the ancient Mahavamsa, which mentions eight varieties of pearls being gifted to Emperor Ashoka. For thousands of years, pearls were exclusive treasures retrieved from the seabed by skilled divers making them an indispensable part of every Indian woman’s jewellery collection. The Kings of Malabar were said to wear a necklace of 108 rubies and pearls that was passed on from one ruler to the next.
The appeal of pearls is not restricted by borders or time periods. Cleopatra, the legendary Egyptian queen known for her unparalleled beauty and charisma, was an avid collector of pearls. Legend has it that she dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drank it to impress Mark Antony with her wealth and opulence.
Fast forward to 15th-century England and you find Queen Elizabeth I also known as the ‘Virgin Queen’ adorning herself with pearls. Pearls represented purity and chastity, aligning perfectly with her image. Her fondness for pearls set a fashion trend that endured for centuries. Pearls’ iconic status also owes much to the influence of style icons who embraced them as an essential part of their personal style. On the silver screen, the most famous actresses of all time Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, favoured their pearls above all else. Monroe was known for her eclectic style of wrapping strings of pearls around silk scarves. And who can forget Audrey Hepburn’s exquisite layered pearl necklace in her most known performance ever as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Grace Kelly, the iconic Hollywood actress, was gifted a stunning pearl and diamond set by the Prince of Monaco on their wedding day. Princess Diana wore a beautiful seven-strand pearl choker for her legendary ‘revenge dress’ look. Back home, Maharani Gayatri Devi, our very own celebrated royal and fashion icon, known for her impeccable style, often adorned herself with strings of pearls, embracing them as an integral part of her royal attire. Her combination of traditional Indian jewellery with pearls showcased their versatility.
In recent times, Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, has been seen wearing pearls numerous times, making them a symbol of empowerment and grace.
What makes pearls iconic is their universal appeal. They transcend cultural, generational, and societal boundaries. Whether in ancient Egypt, Elizabethan England, or modern-day America and India, pearls have consistently symbolised femininity, sophistication, elegance, and grace. Their delicate sheen and lustrous beauty make them suitable for various occasions, from casual gatherings to formal affairs. Wear a string of pearls with a classic black dress for an evening out or a multi-layered necklace with a sari or a lehenga to a wedding.
These landmark looks cement pearls as evergreen and a permanent fixture in all jewellery brand’s catalogues. They are incomparable pieces of jewellery that house an everlasting feeling of beauty and serenity from the Nizams to now.