Sometimes a classic can be too classic, which is OK if you’re a fashion rebel, or the Queen, or Sarah Jessica Parker circa 2002. The Queen can be as classic as she wants, because we too want her to be classic. In her continuity is our strength. But let’s face it, the Queen is quite niche.
If you’re a rebel, you wear pearls with something that deliberately jars – your gender, for instance. One of the foremost pearl wearers of the past decade has been Giambattista Valli, who is seldom seen without his succulent pearl necklace, sourced for him in India by a jeweller friend. But if you play a pretty straight bat when it comes to getting dressed, pearls are hard work. They may be lustrous and milkily opalescent, qualities that are supposed to flatter the skin, but their often dreary settings can age you by about four decades.
That’s not the pearls’ fault. They are intrinsically lovely, even very cheap ones. Perhaps that’s why designers never bothered to change their settings very much for two millennia.
Now – alleluia! – with the success last year of Dior ‘s asymmetric stud earrings, designers are finally getting creative with pearls. There are earrings designed to be worn singly, or mismatched, or dotted up the ear; pearls that jut out from the lobe at odd angles, or hover just below. They may be grey precious Akoyas, or pink from Asos. They can cost much more than they really should, or £5. Some will be heirlooms, others will flake in five minutes. Pay your money and take your choice.
Dust off your old pearl studs and (maybe) get another piercing or two so you can thread coloured pearls up your ears (a perfect example of style being not what you wear but how you wear it). Or trot over to a jeweller such as Chrissie Douglas atColeman Douglas Pearls (020 7373 3369), who can redesign the ones you already have.