Celebrity Jewelry: Forget Bling, Bring Back Pearls!
By Amy Drescher
Call me old fashioned, but Ill take glamorous stars like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor over spoiled pseudo-celebs like Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, Nicole Ritchie and their ilk any day of the week. Whereas Old Hollywood oozed class, sophistication and mystery, todays overexposed starlets lack graceand sometimes even talent! Take the way they present themselves: Todays stars walk the red carpet barely clothed, dripping in outrageous, tacky bling, yammering on about their personal lives. Yesterdays iconsJackie O and Lady Diana come to mindprojected a glamorous elegance one would actually strive to emulate. They dressed with flair, accessorized with style and kept their private lives private. Whats more, many of the Old Hollywood elite wore my favorite gem, the pearl, whose ladylike, demure reputation is so fitting for these elegant women. Luckily for me, and the rest of the world, pearls are making a big comeback. Lets hope Hollywood revives old-style ladylike behavior along with the ladylike gem. As an homage to Old Hollywood glamour, lets take a look at the pearl jewelry made famous by some of our most beloved female icons.
Elizabeth Taylor: Perhaps the most famous jewelry collector of our time, legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor also owns the most famous pearl, La Peregrina. Given to her in 1969 by then-husband Richard Burton (yep, hes the one Liz married twice), La Peregrina, an enormous, pear-shaped white pearl, was found by a slave in the early 1500s in the Gulf of Panama. First given as a wedding gift to Mary Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VIII, the rare and extraordinary gem was owned by a succession of royalty before being purchased at auction by Burton for Taylor as a Valentines Day gift. (Why she divorced him I dont know. Why she divorced him twice is even more of a mystery. Any man who gave me jewels like that would be a keeper.) After receiving the huge pearl, which was hanging from a thin chain, Taylor instructed famous jewelry designer Cartier to create a ruby and diamond necklace incorporating the gem. The breathtaking result is absolutely stunning. (Search online for a photo; the necklace is truly special.) Trivia: Taylor once lost the famous La Peregrina pearl in her white-carpeted home. A frantic search turned up the enormous white gemin her dogs mouth! Thank goodness Taylor found it before it was scratched!
Marilyn Monroe: You wouldnt think luscious Marilyn, emulated by every modern day celebrity from Madonna to Lindsay Lohan and Christina Aguilera, would sport a demure single strand of pearls. With her blonde locks, eye-popping cleavage and breathy voice, the Marilyn Monroe we love is more over the top than thatbut a single strand of pearls is exactly what she wore. Marilyn received the luminous saltwater pearl strand from baseball slugger Joe Dimaggio, her second husband. Joltin Joe presented Marilyn with the gorgeous 16-inch Mikimoto necklace made from forty-four matched round white Japanese akoyas while they were on their honeymoon. Perhaps Dimaggio, in giving luscious Marilyn the gorgeous pearl strand, was trying to turn the sexy star into the perfect 1950s housewife? They were known as Mr. and Mrs. America, after all. Alas, their marriage lasted but a year.
Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffanys is a classic film not only because its a wonderful romantic comedy that stars beloved screen legend Audrey Hepburn, but because it showcased the waiflike Ms. Hepburns elegant and effortless style. The dress she wore in the film, her now-famous simple black sleeveless style, was the perfect backdrop for the six-strand pearl and rhinestone necklace she sported as adorable Holly Golightly. (In the film, the beguiling but penniless Golightly would endearingly stare in the renowned jeweler Tiffanys window, daydreaming of owning the treasures within.) Trivia: Hepburns necklace in the film is faux, made from marquise-shaped rhinestones (not diamonds) that cascade gorgeously from the imitation pearls. Faux or not, the ornate pearl necklace looks just gorgeous on Hepburns graceful neck.
Jackie O: Surprisingly, Jackie Os famous and much-photographed triple strand pearl choker is also simulated. The gorgeous pearl choker shes known for featured round white pearls” on strands of graduated lengths, and typified Jackies signature crisp, elegant style. The necklaces popularity went through the roof when Jackie was photographed holding her son John-John while he played with her pearls. Trivia: Jackies triple-strand faux pearl necklace was up for auction in 1996. The simulated pearls, nearly valueless were it not for their association with Jackie, were expected to fetch $500-$700. The Franklin Mint bought the piece for $211,500!
Princess Diana: Another beloved icon of style, wealth and class, Princess Dianas most famous pearl piece is probably her dangling pearl and diamond tiara. Dubbed the Cambridge Love Knot, this exquisite piece of jewelry was given to the princess by her mother-in-law, the Queen of England. Copies of Lady Dis pearl tiara are now worn by brides the world over on their wedding day. But Lady Di wore the Spencer family tiara on her wedding day, not the Cambridge Love Knot, and paired it with a sapphire and pearl choker she received as a wedding gift from her husband-to-be, Prince Charles. Over the top? Not when you consider the dress this jewelry was meant to accessorize: Princess Dianas ivory silk gown had a 25-foot long train and was decorated with 10,000 pearls and sequins. Fit for a princess, indeed.
Other famous pearl admirers
When dishing about celebrity pearl jewelry, no article would be complete without mentioning fashion maven Coco Chanel, the scrappy French designer who made pearls her signature look in the 1920s. Wearing pearl ropes as easily as other women wear jeans, Cocos House of Chanel used pearls in many jewelry pieces, and put out such gorgeous jewelry as a bracelet made of 105 akoya pearls surrounded by diamonds and gold. Recently, the Paris-based fashion house premiered its annual jewelry collection, which features one-of-a-kind pearl pieces priced from $29,000 to $450,000.
When talking about celebrity pearl jewelry, we must also mention Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress and modern day style icon who made layered oversize pearl necklaces chic in her memorable Gap ads from last year. Nor can we neglect Rene Russo. The necklace the model- turned-actress wore throughout the movie Tin Cup, which featured white pearls evenly spaced on fine chain, received almost as much attention as the Golden Globe-nominated romantic comedy. Renes Tin Cup necklace, now a jewelry staple, sparked a new trend in modern, sophisticated pearl jewelry. Today, several stunning variations of this simple and elegant Tin Cup necklace can be found in jewelry stores worldwide.
Speaking of modern chic, Kiera Knightly rocked pearls at the premier of her movie The Black Pearl by sporting a black baroque pearl choker made with different shades of Tahitian pearls. (Lucky girl not only gets to wear gorgeous jewelry, she also gets to work alongside Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp.) Life isnt fair! And we cant forget style icon Kate Moss; the fashionable model is also frequently seen in long pearl strands.
So how about it young Hollywood? Why not drop the outrageous bling, daring dresses and outlandish behavior in favor of the ladylike glamour, sophistication and enigma that surrounded the screen legends of the past? America is sorely lacking screen icons that we admire, much less want to emulate. Lets bring back style, class, and pearls.
About the Author: A graduate of the Gemological Institute of Americas Graduate Pearls program, Amy Drescher is a fashion writer and accessories buyer for
. She welcomes your comments and questions. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.