Pearls have been used to create ornaments and jewelry pieces since ancient times. Their unique sheen and soft beauty lends any piece of jewelry with an elegant charm that simply cannot be matched. In western culture, the most popular and commonly worn type of pearl jewelry is the pearl necklace. Pearls often have a very muted and subtle beauty which is wonderfully highlighted in the form of a necklace. Pearl necklaces are considered a classic accessory in the west and are a staple part of any elegant fashionista’s wardrobe.
However, the western origin of this gorgeous piece of jewelry does not mean it has no place in Indian fashion. On the contrary, pearl necklaces have frequently been worn by famous society ladies and fashion icons in India with their elegant sarees and salwar kameez. Moreover, the pearl necklace set is not an uncommon sight in a traditional Indian jewelry collection as pearls have been used to create ethnic accessories for many centuries. From Kundan and Meenakari to Thewa and Polki, there are many different types of pearl necklace designs available in an ethnic jewelry category. Pearls may be used to enhance the beauty of the main setting, jewel or craft or they may be used as the central embellishment in the intricate designs. This is in contrast with western pearl necklaces which are often simply a string of pearls, which may or may not be set into a subtle metallic (silver or gold) chain or setting. However, not all western pearl necklaces are simple in their look. For instance, a baroque pearl necklace will usually have very artistic, twisted settings and tinted, deformed pearl shapes which gives it a very unique look. They are inspired by jewelry sets from the Baroque period of French history.
Pearl necklaces can be of many types, based on the quality of pearls used to create them. The most affordable ones are the faux pearl necklaces which are actually not made of pearls, but rather cheap substitutes shaped and tinted to look like pearls. Cultured pearls are also used to make beautiful but cheap pearl necklaces. These are pearls which are cultivated in tanks rather than naturally obtained, which is what reduces their price. They have a much more authentic look than a faux pearl necklace and are also more durable and high quality. The most coveted and desirable of all is the natural pearl necklace made only with naturally occurring pearls obtained from oysters.
Whether natural or artificial, the shape, color and size of the pearl can vary vastly. The most recognizable would be the white pearl necklace composed of off-white pearls. The pink pearl necklace, which comes with a rosy hue, is also quite popular nowadays and is usually set in gold. The grey pearl necklace comes with pearls that have a darker hue that adds a dramatic edge to the jewelry. The shape of all these different colored pearls can vary from perfectly round beads (which are the most common) to irregular spheres, oblongs and even flattened shapes. An antique pearl necklace is most likely to have tints and hues in the pearls as well as more oxidized metals as settings. This antique look is considered the highlight of these types of pearl necklace sets.
Silver and gold are the two most popular metals used as a setting for pearl necklaces. The precious look of these metals really brings out the exquisiteness of the pearls.
Styling with the Pearl Necklace
The beauty of pearl necklaces is that they never really go out of style. Women can wear them with almost any type of outfit, Indian or western, formal or informal. They can choose to wear a gorgeous antique pearl necklace worn by their grandmother or a modern, stylish silver pearl necklace with a crystal pendant; they will look equally stylish in both cases!
The only caveat when it comes to accessorizing with pearl necklaces is that they should not be lost in the ensemble. Thus a simple string of pearls would be a perfect accessory for a plain chiffon sari. However with a more heavily embroidered georgette anarkali, an ornate pearl necklace and earring set would be a better choice. When accessorizing a more modern, daring ensemble, such as a net saree or a deep neck tunic dress, women can opt for chunky looking modern accessories such as a large pearl necklace. With an intricately embroidered wedding lehenga, a traditional gold and pearl necklace would be a good choice.
Pearl necklaces can be matched with most colors and hues. However, their beauty is best highlighted with soft pastel shades, monochrome hues and subtle metallic tones. The more heavy and intricate necklaces with gold settings are the only exception as they will look gorgeous even with heavy and vibrant wedding sarees.