Pearls are Everywhere

Part of the Pearls exhibition.

Our Own Great Age of Pearls

With the arrival of cultured pearls on the international market in the 1930s, pearls became more available and more affordable than ever before. Although some people initially rejected cultured pearls, a handful of designers, most notably Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, embraced them, using the gems in her elegantly casual designs. By the 1950s, cultured pearls were essential accessories for well-dressed women in the United States and Europe. Over the last several decades, designers have been inspired by the broad range of colors and sizes of cultured pearls to create both sophisticated pearl jewelry and whimsical pearl-decorated objects. Pearls may be everywhere today, but they are still as glamorous as ever; images of movie stars, first ladies and supermodels wearing pearls only heighten the gems' popularity. Indeed, we are living in a new Great Age of Pearls.