At the vanguard of change, are several jewellery designers pioneering a new genre of pearl jewellery that is both provocative and playful. Melanie Georgacopoulos, head designer at M/G Tasaki, has been navigating this new pearl landscape for over a decade. “My job is not to repeat the past but to create something new and a reflection of current times,” says Georgacopoulos. “My very first collection for M/G Tasaki went against the status quo. I started slicing pearls to see what was inside. Revealing their hidden beauty formed the basis of my first collection, The Sliced Series. I wanted to showcase the organic side of pearls. You can have a perfectly matched pearl strand, but once you cut them, inside you can see tiny imperfections and marvel that a little creature created such beauty.” A standout piece includes the 18ct gold and freshwater pearl bracelet (£7,210). Georgacopoulos says she wants to surprise. “I want to make them think that what they are seeing is unprecedented and unique. And of course, I want to inspire those who have never worn pearls to want to wear them.”
New York-based designer and CFDA finalist Matthew Harris of Mateo shares Georgacopoulos’s sentiment: “Pearls are making a revolutionary comeback. We are modernising the way they are used.” Take Mateo’s playful 14ct gold and pearl Blizzard Mobile earrings ($1,750), inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobile sculpture, Blizzard. “Our aesthetic of simplicity and minimalism gives the pearl a more updated feel,” says Harris. “I love the fact that no two pearls are truly alike with their iridescent colour and mystical lustre. For me, they have a sense of purity and calm. They look great with anything and everything.”
Julie Nielsdotter – a hip millennial designer based in Copenhagen – has a collection that focuses on pastel gemstones and pink and cream baroque pearls. From statement-making Sputnik hoops to the – dare I say it – more conventional baroque pearl Sticks earrings (£620); there is little doubt that, driven by “passion and playfulness”, Nielsdotter is injecting cool back into pearls. “I want to break boundaries,” she says. “I refuse to feel restricted by traditional perceptions of how to use pearls.”
“What drives a more adventurous silhouette in pearls is the need to look different in an era where differentiation is key,” explains French designer Anissa Kermiche. “I have always loved pearls since sneaking them out of my mother’s jewellery box when I was younger. I wanted to include them in my collections in ways that I would wear them.” Indeed, her 14ct gold and pearl Encerclée choker (£2,280) transcends any traditional pearl necklace. I love the energy and sense of movement that resonates from the pearl-studded gold hoops.
Taking a slightly more contemplative approach, Milan-based Lia Di Gregorio refers to pearls as “silent stones that are simultaneously strongly communicative”. Di Gregorio’s exquisite 18ct gold and Akoya pearl Pointillisme ring (€2,300) reveals something of the designer’s intrigue with form and function. The graphic composition is reminiscent of dots on a piece of paper or fabric. “I perceive pearls as shapes more than as precious stones. The idea of inverting the position of the pearl so it was hidden changed the whole concept of the piece.”
The time is right for reinvention and I am excited by this new generation of designers who are passionate about creating jewellery that is both timeless and relevant.
Juliet Hutton-Squire is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (adorninsight.com).