When one used to think of pearls, one would often associate the organic gems with prim and proper styles; images conjured up were that of Jackie O and Coco Chanel‘s string of pearl necklaces and elegant studs. And while jewellery houses have successfully updated pearls’ image over the years, these elegant gems have never seen a more exciting resurgence than now thanks to a gamut of new, independent designers — many borne out of Instagram success stories — who have successfully blended their personal stories and unique sources of inspiration with innovative new finishes, forms, and materials including resin, jade, and even this year’s favourite jewellery trend: seashells.
Alighieri straddles the line between melancholy and creativity. Founder Rosh Mahtani founded the brand whilst in a dark place; as such, it is inspired by the 14th century epic poem Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, a narrative that takes the poet through 100 poems outlining hell, purgatory and paradise.
Mahtani’s pieces are distinctly battered-looking and imperfect, which lends a beautiful juxtaposition when incorporated with the prestigious-looking pearls. Her ‘Snow Lion of the Baroque Necklace’ echoes the narrative’s ‘The Land of the Lawless’, where the souls in hell have no regard for law or order. On a paper clip gold-plated bronze chain, silver and gold medallions intermingle with a freshwater baroque pearl. The ‘Wreck of Alba’ earring features a large, imperfect baroque pearl on a jagged piece of gold-plated bronze, akin to the fragmented Cornish coastlines.
But Alighieri does more than jewellery. Its Atelier arm creates made-to-order camisoles made of 900 freshwater farmed conflake pearls intertwined using a gold chain.
Mizuki Goltz is one of the world’s most famed contemporary pearl designers, and she’s got the awards to prove it. The winner of multiple pearl design awards fuses her Japanese knack for tranquility with her background for visual arts and sculpture design. In her Spring/Summer 2019 collection, she incorporates black Tahitian pearls with charcoal rustic rose-cut natural diamond and pave white diamonds on a two-finger band, and balances white cultured pearls on a gold collar for a modern take on the classic pearl necklace. Elsewhere, these take on more updated forms with pearls cascading off a gold choker in a fluid shape as a diamond sits atop it.
For a modern, geometric take on pearls, look to Meadowlark, a favourite amongst free-spirited celebrities like Lorde, and Zoe Kravitz. The pearl pieces are featured in unorthodox forms; think fluid, curved snakes in the Medusa Drop earrings, abstract shapes, or fastened on a thin, elegant choker. Each of the pearls are unique, and hand-selected as the best way to embrace the gem’s natural shape and texture irregularities.
Made to order, the designs are made from sustainable materials. Precious metals are derived from recycled sources, including unused metals discarded from jewellery manufacture, and refined once more. Stones are conflict-free, and sourced from environmentally responsible mines, or are reclaimed. All of these are put together and handcrafted in a local workroom.
Mateo New York started off a jewellery line for men, but a successful capsule collection for women shifted the brand’s direction. Jamaican founder Matthew Harris was a self-taught designer, who adored a simple and minimal aesthetic that draws inspiration from ‘modern art for the modern woman’.
This artful approach can be seen in its designs, particularly so with the Salvador Dali-inspired Eye of Protection necklace, which sees a mother of pearl wedged between 0.30-ct diamonds in a curved shape and forming an eye. Harris continues that artistic touch with all his pieces, including the Pearl Orbit ring which gives the illusion of the gem floating on a rotating axis.
Timeless Pearly is not for purists. Its creator, Moroccan Leslie Chetrit, spent her childhood creating collages out of fashion magazines and photographs, and crafting bags out of jeans. It is this creative streak that eventually propelled the former pret-a-porter buyer to assemble jewellery out of pearls she bought, and then subsequently mixing these with materials and charms. Chetrit then introduced her brand to Leandra Medine, editor of Man Repeller, who subsequently loved her designs.
The ‘timeless’ in its name references Chetrit’s love for well-worn jewels, and the mismatched. Her designs feature pearls assembled with large hand jade pendants, seashells, and resin charms in eccentric shapes, and strung into the Instagram hit initial pendants, and painted beads.