Professional Jeweler Archive: Pearly Whites

March 2003


Pearly Whites

Single pearls highlighted in spectacular designs along with richly ornamented strands and torsades lead the way

Cultured pearls will continue as a strong jewelry category, as the more traditional white pearls once again nudge aside colored and black pearls in popularity. Designers continue to be inspired by marrying pearls with colored gemstones. “The use of sapphire, diamonds or rubies helps update pearls,” says Susan Creitz, sales manager at Ed Levin, Cambridge, NY. “Sapphire, especially, is a great stone because of its range of colors.”

When it comes to the metal, opposites attract. “Mixing 18k yellow gold with white pearls is rich and warm,” says Sam Ziefer, executive vice president at Mayers, Hollywood, FL. “For black pearls, 18k white gold and platinum are the best choices.”

The quality of Chinese freshwater cultured pearls is nearing that of Japanese cultured akoyas, and consumers have noticed. “The improvement in quality of freshwater pearls has everything to do with it,” says Pat Liquard of Esslinger & Co., St. Paul, MN. “Appearance has improved to the point that customers are very happy with the look they get for the money. They get a higher quality that includes better luster, fewer blemishes, a rounder and smoother look at a lower price and good availability.”

Jewelry Trends

Earrings – Pearls found at the end of a long spiral or functioning as the center of attention (such as the center of a flower) lead the category. Dangles, pearl studs and leverback pearl earrings remain in demand. “Drop earrings suit all the pearl categories,” says Devin Macnow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center, New York City. “However, studs and clusters are most common with akoya and freshwater cultured pearls.”

Necklaces – Sphere pendants that surround a pearl and sit on a neck wire are popular, as are collars with pearls fixed to a front clasp. Solitaire pearl pendants are universal must-haves. “Tahitian and South Sea cultured pearls and diamonds set in or hanging off metal, akoya single strand chokers, and leather and rubber seen with triple Tahitian or South Sea pendants are also hot,” says Macnow. Torsades and bibs using freshwater cultured pearls continue to sell well.

Rings – Classic and small looks lead this category, whether it’s white pearls with diamonds or a mixture of black and white pearls. “South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls, single pearl akoyas or button pearls are important for rings,” says Macnow.

Bracelets – Because pearls are fragile, bezel settings in bracelets help protect them. Traditional one-, two- and three-strand akoya bracelets are also popular. “Bangles set with Tahitian or South Sea cultured pearls – either set-in or hanging – and freshwater multistrand twists are popular in the bracelet category,” says Macnow.

Brooches – Bigger brooches – to be worn on blazers, suits and coats – are an important category. Gold pins with a single pearl are modern and softer in style, says Macnow. Animal and free-form brooches are popular also.

The Future

Look out for unusual pearl shapes as cultured pearl jewelry moves away from the traditional. There will be more interest in materials where the design is built around the pearl for more emphasis.

– by Lorraine M. O’Donnell, A.J.P

Suite features white cultured mabe pearls set in yellow gold.

Nancy B & Co., Culver City, CA; (800) 421-0464.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

14k gold necklace is set with a 10.5mm Tahitian cultured pearl in a carved quartz crystal flower with 0.25 carat of diamonds hanging from labradorite beads. Suggested retail, $1,800.

Steven Lee Designs, Aiea, HI; (808) 488-1000, fax (808) 487-3159.

Pavé diamonds and 10 pistachio South Sea cultured pearls in 18k yellow gold graze the wrist.

Donna Vock for ProVockative Gems Inc., New York City; (212) 980-4249, fax (212) 355-4282,,

Outer necklace features heart- and coin-shaped cultured pearls with ruby beads. Suggested retail, $598. Matching earrings, $98. Inner necklace features freshwater cultured button-shaped pearls, alternating dyed white and black. Suggested retail, $125.

Shogun Trading Co., Harrison, NY; (800) 458-8004, fax (914) 381-7235,,

14k yellow gold cultured pearl jewelry suite includes baguette diamonds. Suggested retail, $260 for the pendant, $450 for the earrings and $380 for the ring.

Mayers, Hollywood, FL; (954) 921-1422, fax (954) 921-1441.

Platinum and 18k pink gold pendant is set with 0.81 carat of white diamonds and 0.28 carat of pink diamonds with a Tahitian cultured pearl drop. Suggested retail, $9,150.

Suna Bros. Inc., New York City; (800) 456-7862, fax (212) 869-5922.

18k gold ripple earrings are set with white cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $785.

Akiyo Matsuoka, New York City; (212) 625-3265, fax (212) 625-3264.

18k white gold lariat features 0.27 carat of diamonds, one 13.5mm white South Sea pearl and one 13mm black South Sea pearl. Suggested retail, $2,900.

JMP Associates, Wheaton, MD; (800) 790-3033, fax (301) 942-3977.

South Sea cultured pearl strand comprises 30 11.2-16.4mm pearls. The platinum pendant holds a 21mm-by-20.3mm South Sea cultured pearl and 3.50 carats of diamonds. The 18k white gold clasp has 0.25 carats of diamonds. Suggested retail, $40,800. Pendant only is $27,000.

Assael International Inc., New York City; (212) 819-0060, fax (212) 764-1965.

18k white gold necklace features natural multicolored 9mm-10mm Chinese and Tahitian cultured pearls and 4.89 carats of diamonds.

Schoeffel/KWM Exclusives Inc., New York City; (212) 570-6065, fax (212) 570-6720,

14k white gold jewelry suite features freshwater cultured pearls. Suggested retail, $280.

Esslinger & Co., St. Paul, MN; (800) 328-0205 or (651) 452-7180, fax (800) 548-9304 or (651) 452-4298.

14k gold Omega and slide pendant. Slide is inlaid with Australian opal and a black Tahitian cultured pearl. Suggested retail, $1,500.

Idaho Opal & Gem, Pocatello, ID; (800) 635-9800, fax (208) 233-0120.

From the Pearl Quartet collection are 14k gold dangle earrings featuring a matched quartet of 3mm pearls. A 16-in. 14k gold neckwire pierces the 4mm pearl and gold pendant. The earrings are $225 keystone, the pendant is $360.

Ed Levin Jewelry, Cambridge, NY; (518) 677-8595.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

14k and 18k white and green gold barrels complement cultured pearl strands. Each barrel is accented with diamonds. Suggested retail, $160-$2,200.

Makur Designs, New York City; (212) 730-8696, fax (212) 730-8786.

Earrings feature 9mm-9.5mm freshwater cultured pearl and diamonds in two-tone 14k gold.

Strand USA, New York City; (212) 575-3866, fax, (212) 575-3867,

South Sea cultured pearls on an 18k gold necklace feature a Bella Lisa clasp. Clasp is made of cabochon blue topaz, pink tourmaline, amethyst, peridot and citrine with diamond accents.

Laura Munder Fine Jewelry, Palm Beach, FL; (561) 840-9995, fax (561) 845-0391,

Pendants feature Australian South Sea pearls with color couplets and diamonds, available in onyx, lapis, tourmaline, coral, mother of pearl, and other gems. Individual pendants range from $3,000-$7,000 retail, depending on pearl size and luster.

Ellagem, New York City; (212) 398-0101, fax (212) 302-0153,

24k gold rings with mabe pearls are $1,300-$1,740 suggested retail.

Gurhan, New York City; (646) 230-1122, fax (646) 230-1112.

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications