Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

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Pearls have almost always been a special part of a woman’s life. No other gem comes close, writes Surekha Kadapa-Bose

The beauty of diamond and sapphire necklace gets enhanced further when pearls are used to break the design, as in this piece from Tanishq Wedding collection

Romance, love, melancholy, soft mood, soothing music, candlelights and pearls! No other gem, not even the Kohinoor, has any place in such an idyllic moment in a woman’s life. For thousands of years, pearls have been a universal symbol of feminine love.

Pearl is also the element of jewellery that has stood the onslaught of wars, cultural ravages, fashion and changing trends. And the finest quality of natural pearls has been highly valued gemstones for several centuries. These gems can be made into any piece of jewellery – necklace, earrings, nose rings, bangles, armbands (bajubandh), waistbands (kamarbandh), maang tikka or any other jewellery piece that one wants to mould it into.

The pearl choker is conjoined with a detachable shoulder necklace and a brooch with a peacock motif that can be worn off the shoulder or as a necklace. From Mirari’s Parure

Most women from the royal families – the late Gayatri Devi, Britain’s beautiful Princess Diana – and other graceful women like Jackie Kennedy, Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn and even the queen of romance novels Barbara Cartland have mostly been photographed wearing pearl strands with a diamond fastener around their necks and drop pearl earrings. In recent times, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton too have been photographed wearing strands of pearls. Even the old paintings of rich women done by the masters stand testi-mony to the fact that pearls have always had a special place. The nudes also have at least a single strand of pearl necklace around their neck.

But somehow in the last few decades, women have got more attracted to shining gem stones and the precious yellow metal, with the soft, white, pink, silver-cream or golden-coloured pearl almost being relegated to the backdrop.

“For some reasons, over the years pearl jewellery got associated with gracefulness, seriousness and older women, with the result that the younger generation shied away from it,” explains Delhi-based Mira Gulati of Mirari brand.

Rise in demand following population explosion also saw dwindling availability of natural pearls. Though good quality cultured pearls hit the market, they still couldn’t match the value of the natural pearls. This resulted in reduction in the crafting of sets of pearl jewellery. Now pearls are mostly used either as design enhancers of a jewel or as a slight change in the main design.

Neckpiece from Rose’s My Trousseau My Treasure collection

A real pearl is a hard object produced by the deposit of saliva around a microobject in the mantle of a living shelled mollusk. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth but many other shapes of natural pearls like baroque pearls do occur. The value of the pearl increases when it occurs spontaneously in the wild. Now these have become extremely rare. This has resulted in culturing pearls in what are known as pearl farms, where pearl oysters are raised.

Single natural pearls are often sold as a collector’s item, or set as centerpieces in unique jewellery. Today strands of natural pearls are almost non-existent. Buying them can set you back by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Laksh Pahuja, another designer based in Mumbai says, “I have used black Tahitian pearls in some exotic jewellery pieces. They look great and add enormous value to the design.”

Black Tahitian Pearls, which are cultured, are highly valued because of their rarity. They can never be mass-produced. In the near absence of natural pearls, cultured pearls have become very popular.

For some time, even imitation pearls flooded the market, causing dwindling interest in this sensual gem. But today, every established jewellery designer, jewellery house offers good quality cultured pearls in a wide spectrum of designs from contemporary classic, intricate baroque, architecturally structured to the minimalist design.

So, this festive season look sensually classy by opting for a good pearl jewellery piece.