Mikimoto Cover front newScreen Shot 2016-08-20 at 1.10.18 AMFrom Cleopatra and Catherine the Great to Coco Chanel and Carrie Bradshaw, pearls have taken their place in jewelry’s iconography, evoking ancient lore and legend, reflecting royalty, spanning time periods, conjuring up fashion and style in pop culture and representing many of the most influential moments in history.

Pearls have been sought after and worn by everyone from nobility, socialites and Hollywood celebrities to debutantes and brides. One of the first gems recorded by history, the pearl, unlike other rare gemstones, emerges fully formed from a living animal from the sea, rather than being mined from the earth. It is steeped in tradition and is the one piece of jewelry that has found its place in the jewel boxes and wardrobes of women throughout centuries, revealing their changing roles in various times and society.

The Pearl Necklace (Assouline, Oct 2016) explores the pearl and it legacy and legends through a brilliantly illustrated tome that speaks volumes through photographs, portraits and still lifes of some of the most famed pearls and renowned women who draped themselves in pearls. Queen Elizabeth, Marie-Antoinette, Empress Eugene, Princess Alexandra, Princess Diana, The Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Babe Paley and Helena Rubenstein are all included in this book.

Beyond adornment, pearls created alliances, opened trade routes, joined together aristocratic marriages, all of which is explored and brought to life in this jewel of a book.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 1.10.31 AM

“The temptation to twist the classic pearl necklace, to question and challenge its conventions and its aura of conformism, has kept it alive. Perhaps part of our fascination lies in the contrast between the pristine and the provocative, between the gem’s discreet beauty and the sensual, fluid, rippling movement of strands of pearls,” writes Viviane Becker, award winning journalist, jewelry historian and author in her introductory essay for The Pearl Necklace, which explores this concept and captures the essence of all aspects of pearls as she takes us from early civilization through modern day and keeps us wanting to read on.


The 200 plus  illustrated book traces the history of Mikimoto and how the cultured pearl was born.

“My dream is to adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls,” Kokichi Mikimoto is quoted as saying. It was a goal that he struggled to achieve. The son of a noodle-and-vegetable seller, he grew up in the small coastal fishing town of Toba, on Honshu Island, near one of Japan’s richest pearl-fishing sites, Ago Bay. After seeing the rapidly growing demand for pearls and the high prices paid, he grew concerned for the future of his pearl fishing village. That concern eventually turned into a dream to replicate the natural process through which a pearl is formed. After much trial and error and determination, he found a way to offer nature a helping hand and cultivate pearls. Becker relates his story and captures his journey from the start to the finished strands of the most luminous of cultured pearls.


This is a must read and one of our jewelry library selections for all women who wear pearls, love iconography and anecdotes and astoundingly beautiful photography of pearls and their history.

photos courtesy of Assouline