A Time of Opulence

Fashions at the Turn of the 20th Century

During this period of new industrial fortunes, ostentatious wealth and ornate style, pearls found favor with American society figures and also with royalty and titled families from Britain to Russia. An all-white effect was sought in fine jewelry, achieved by masses of pearls or pearls with diamonds. Swags, garlands, bows, and tassels were favorite motifs in jewelry design.

Conch pearl necklace
Natural conch pearl (4.71 grams),New York, 1900-1910 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Conch pearl necklace
Natural conch pearl (4.71 grams),
New York, 1900-1910

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore


George F. Kunz, noted gemologist at Tiffany & Co. and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, designed this unique necklace for Henry Walters of Baltimore. The basket holding the pearl can be opened and the gem removed.