For centuries, precious pearls and strands of pearls have epitomized elegance and refinement. Pearls have been coveted and sought after by stylish women of every era…from Cleopatra to Queen Victoria, from Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel to Rihanna.
It is Mademoiselle Chanel, in fact, who is credited for first recognizing the universal appeal of pearls and popularizing them in her Paris collections. Pearls were a signature of Coco Chanel’s personal style…a legacy she passed down to other designers, women of style, and It Girls around the world.
A Fashion Must-Have Since the ‘30s
Since Mademoiselle’s first collection of jewelry in 1932, pearls have been a staple of “the Chanel look” and have influenced generations of designers, society ladies, models and celebrities. Chanel is known to have mixed real and faux pearls and jewels with abandon, giving license to her legions of followers to do the same.
Style icons of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, including Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Windsor, were often photographed in their cultured pearls — à la Chanel. Jackie Kennedy’s famous 3-strand faux pearl necklace, by Kenneth Jay Lane, is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
Between 1988 and 2007, Lorenz Bäumer designed collections of High Jewelry and Fine Jewelry for The House of Chanel, including spectacular pearl and diamond pieces. Since then, the Maison has developed its own Studio of Creation, which produces 18K gold, diamond and pearl designs, including those featured here from the 2016 collections.
The Karl Lagerfeld Era
Today, on the Chanel runway, creative director Karl Lagerfeld interprets Mademoiselle’s layered pearl look on 21st-century It Girls, including style ambassadors Kristen Stewart and Willow Smith. But in the Karl Lagerfeld era, Chanel pearls don’t stop at the neck.
From pearl-encrusted suit jackets to pearl-studded sunglasses to pearl camellia-style earrings, hardly a look goes by that doesn’t include pearl jewelry and accessories in an ode to the House’s founder, Coco Chanel.