What do the cover pages of US Vogue in June 1959, British Vogue in September 1965 and Vogue India in April 2020 have in common? Their cover stars all wore a bite-sized pearl paired with a frosting of natural diamonds. Across decades, time zones and zip codes, the oceanic gem, when paired with natural diamonds, still holds a prime spot in the jewellery boxes of grandmothers, granddaughters, and even Harry Styles. What we love most about pearl and diamond jewellery is the beauty that lies in their unadorned simplicity. But whether pavé or prong, baroque or freshwater, there is a more adventurous take on the classic pairing that goes beyond the simple strand. We take a look at the many mixes and matches of the tried-and-true duo.
Jewellery expert Valery Demure, founder of curated shopping concept store Objet d’Emotion, explains the lasting allure of this match made in jewellery heaven: “The pairing of diamonds and pearls is timeless and beyond trends. Pearls are equally precious as diamonds—their smooth, matte surface makes for a beautiful contrast against the sparkle of a diamond.” It is why the combination is considered a marriage of equals. Jewellery designer Ishu Datwani of Anmol weighs in: “When compared to coloured stones, pearls have a subtle elegance about them. Combining diamonds and pearls is rare, but if you get the design right, the output is classy and iconic.”
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When you look through time, the twinset has always been worn by figureheads. Take for example Queen Elizabeth II and her signature pearl drop earrings held in place by a diamond stud, or former FLOTUS Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her wedding bracelet, which was gifted to her the night before the ceremony by her husband. It was the ‘something new’ in her outfit. Designer and heir to the Fendi family, Delfina Delettrez Fendi says, “Diamonds and pearls are a combination of strength and sweetness. Pearls are associated with the moon, and so are very feminine, and diamonds are called the stones of the warriors as they are unbreakable. These feelings are embodied in the regal, but at the same time, sweet and delicate figures of the English royal family.”
Closer to home, the oceanic gem found its place in the jewellery boxes of maharanis and maharajas, usually paired with uncut diamonds also known as polki. Sometimes, beyond the jewellery box, diamonds and pearls were woven intricately together in carpets and canopies. Case in point, The Baroda Pearl Canopy made up of 9,50,000 Basra pearls, diamonds, coloured glass beads and gemstones that sold for a whopping $2,235,000 at Christie’s Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence collection auction in New York in June last year.
“Diamonds and pearls are a combination of strength and sweetness.”-Delfina Delettrez
We now find ourselves in the midst of a pearl and diamond jewellery renaissance. The pearl and diamond jewellery pairing is now seen in its most unexpected avatar. No longer lining only royal tiaras, they come dotted on denim or circling a pair of casual sneakers. Demure adds that the reimagined look of the time-tested duo in clothing is also seeing its echoes in jewellery, where construction of pieces is kinetic, allowing diamonds and pearls to move freely. New York-based Brazilian jewellery designer Yael Sonia says that the bold brilliance of diamonds, paired with the softness and delicacy of pearls, is what attracts her to the iconic combination. Far from its Victorian implications in the jewellery of European queens and kings, she uses diamonds “as paved structures or lining walls of gold to cocoon the pearl”.
In many cases the combination is moving away from the central figure to become the supporting act on which more contemporary designs are built. “Pearls are no longer just for the bourgeoisie. When paired with diamonds, they are fresh and edgy; representing the heirlooms of the 21st century for an entire generation,” Demure concludes.
As an ever evolving pairing, time-tested and time-honoured, pearl and diamond jewellery has gone from a royal’s best friend to a millennial’s mood of the moment.