I have always been enamored with pearls and their association with fashion but there is so much more to them…the history is fascinating…from natural pearls to cultured, from Haute Couture, to Opera, to Royalty, to Art, to Romance, and on and on….whether a single strand or a extravagant bib the pearl has so many interpretations….let’s look at some.

The natural pearl is harvested by mostly female ame pearl divers in Japan






Natural pearls…

”Cultured pearls are real, genuine pearls that are formed inside a living oyster with human intervention. When a nucleus is surgically implanted in the oyster’s flesh, the oyster recognises it as an irritant and begins to coat it with smooth layers of nacre. Over time, the growing pearl gets completely covered with the beautiful iridescent substance we call nacre, or mother-of-pearl. All pearls sold today are cultured pearls, with the exception of vintage estate jewellery and heirloom pieces that are more than 80 years old.“

“Natural pearls, on the other hand, are formed naturally by free-range “wild” oysters living at sea without any encouragement from humans. When a natural irritant such as a fragment of shell, a scale or a parasite becomes lodged inside an oyster or mollusk, it gets coated with layer upon layer of nacre. Contrary to popular belief, grains of sand do not form pearls. If sand were enough of an irritant, our ocean floors would be littered with millions of natural pearls! Natural pearls are actually very rare, mostly because pearl-producing species of mollusks were nearly hunted to extinction with most natural beds of pearl-bearing oysters depleted by over-harvesting in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, natural pearls are extremely rare. Only 1 in about 10,000 wild oysters will yield a pearl and of those, only a small percentage achieve the size, shape and colour desirable to the jewellery industry.” Source: Raw Pearls


Kokichi Mikimoto

“Mikimoto learned that Akoya oysters produced the best pearls. He explored methods of introducing a particle into the flesh of the oyster to stimulate secretions of “nacre” that build up in hundreds of thousands of layers, creating a lustrous pearl. He overcame many failed experiments and challenges of nature, from oyster-eating octopi to a disastrous “red tide” of bacteria that threatened the survival of his oyster beds.” Be sure to go the Mikimoto website, linked here, for the extraordinary story of the originator of the cultured pearl. Source: Mikimoto Pearls

Pearls in history….

A mosaic….


Queen Elizabeth I


Whoopi Goldberg hosting the Oscars several years ago…gowned as Queen Elizabeth I

Vermeer’s The Girl With The Pearl Earring


A bejeweled  Maharajah



Georges Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles, The Pearl Fishers….one of my favorite opera’s, of course the highlight, the duet, it is definitely my favorite operatic piece!!

Queen Victoria…


Mata Hari probably wearing Paul Poiret….


A couple of showgirls in costume…..

Of course, Gabrielle Chanel…..always mixing real and faux


Lagerfeld for Chanel….love these!!!

I’m obsessed with this look from the 1930’s


As well as this one…


The iconic Audrey Hepburn in the iconic black dress and pearls in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

First Ladies and their “pearls”….cultured and faux….



Liz with Queen Mary’s beyond exquisite La Peregrina pearl sold at auction for $11.8 million


Liz with more pearls…..

Marie Antoinette’s pear and diamond pendant sold at auction for $32 million



Something in a tiara perhaps from the English Crown Jewels….0371ED77-015F-4DBF-A285-08AA77FBA8DB

Gloria Vanderbilt at home…


The modernity of this classic on Rihanna…


Masses of pearls


The elegant embroidery of Lasage for a Haute Couture piece…


Nena in a treasured Adolfo jacket with wide pearl beading around neck, down the front of the jacket and on the cuffs…the beading,  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago


A few more books, one non-fiction the others fiction.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, from Pinterest photo credits unknown.


  1. tommy13020 January 16, 2019 / 4:40 pm

    Pearls are timeless. I think the more the better!

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 4:51 pm

      True, true and true!!!

  2. Dianne Erpenbach January 16, 2019 / 5:42 pm

    Gorgeous and timeless pearls! Thanks Nena

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 7:01 pm

      Totally timeless….glad you enjoyed it!!!!

  3. Abra Wilkin January 16, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    One of your best blogs yet! Adored the pix, history and famous folk swathed in pearls.

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 7:01 pm

      Thank you Miss Abra…a fun one to do….

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 7:02 pm

      Indeed they are….thanks so much.

  4. Marcia Buchanan January 16, 2019 / 8:06 pm

    Adored this article. So glamorous and I do love pearls and lots of them as you say.I received a beautiful south sea pearl for my birthday and I treasure it along with the Mikimoto strands I received on my 21st birthday. Love your jacket too!

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 8:54 pm

      Thanks Marcia….it was fun to do….

  5. lawrieweed January 16, 2019 / 10:53 pm

    This is one of your best articles. I bringing all the strands out now for an airing!

    • nenasnotes January 16, 2019 / 11:05 pm

      Thanks Lawrrie, I have always loved pearls. Glad you enjoyed the post and are airing your strands…..

    • nenasnotes January 17, 2019 / 12:47 am

      Thanks Lawrie, I have always loved pearls. Glad you enjoyed the post and are airing your strands…..

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