The pearl necklace used to be a rite of passage. It was what doting fathers gave to their daughters for their 18th or 21st birthdays and it’s still hard to beat for its ability to add radiance to the face and cheer up a humdrum sweater. If you’re missing that classic piece, let me direct you to Pearl Magpie where you’ll come upon a huge range of strings (as well as rings, earrings and bracelets) of almost every sort of pearl – freshwater, Akoya, South Sea, creamy white, black – at very reasonable prices. There is, for instance, a three-string Akoya saltwater-pearl necklace with a white-gold and diamond clasp for £2,800.
For sheer prettiness, Esther Eyre and Rosantica stand out. Eyre combines pearls with precious stones, as seen in a double string of diamond beads and grey freshwater pearls (£3,900) and a baroque-pearl necklace with a huge amethyst and drop-pearl pendant (£11,500). Rosantica, meanwhile, makes bold freshwater-pearl necklaces, such as a four-strand design (£670, exclusive to Net‑a-Porter) with each pearl cradled in gold-dipped brass.
Ruth Tomlinson has a delicious single‑pearl, gold and diamond pendant (£950) and another version (£240) in silver with antique-glass beads, while Yvonne Leon has some charming bee earrings (€2,125) with a pearl body and diamond-encrusted wings.
Fashion brands have also sashayed into the arena, from Dries van Noten with its dramatic faux-pearl and silvertone-hoop necklace (£540) to J Crew’s stocking-filler Captured necklace (£98) with each glass pearl encased in a burnished-brass cage. Then there are edgy pieces by young designers like Melanie Georgacopoulos, who set out to “challenge existing preconceptions of classic pearl jewellery”. She has collaborated with Japanese firm Tasaki on a fascinating collection of deconstructed freshwater-pearl pieces. Fortnum & Mason has a selection of her rings – one (£2,900) with a “cage” holding a cluster of pearls and another (£2,700) with a sliced pearl combined with gold – but see her website for a larger range, including a beautifully unusual necklace (£26,400) of cut pearls and gold.
For something truly spectacular, look to Tom Binns, whose oversized multistringed Swarovski-pearl necklace (£2,125) – part of his punk-inspired Ultra Pearl collection – is exclusive to Net-a-Porter, but other pieces are also available through Dover Street Market.
Finally, for a really modern take, there’s Lele Sadoughi, a Dallas-born designer inspired by industrial-era techniques. Her gold-plated Groove necklace ($370) is a striking and original way of combining the prettiest of glass pearls with the precision-cut look of gold.