There’s a reason they’re called “pearls” of wisdom. Indeed, just as we would treasure a piece of advice that forever transformed our life, women have worn real pearls as a way of conveying something that is eternally sublime, uniquely timeless and also a challenge to the accepted norms of style.
Or as Vivienne Becker, who penned the forward to the stunning new book The Pearl Necklace, puts it, “Perhaps part of our fascination [with pearls] lies in the contrast between the pristine and the provocative.” The book traces the history of the pearls and, of course, the pearl necklace through the story of Mikimoto.
Certainly, pearls were worn by aristocrats and princesses – Marie Antoinette adored them, no surprise. But, as the book – a collaboration with Assouline – reveals, Kokichi Mikimoto brought them dazzlingly into the modern world, into a post WWI society that was at last beginning to reject the rigidity of the old order. And for a new generation of women who were out there working and changing society, who sought to define their own identity, wearing a pearl necklace meant conveying a confident glamour and a social status that wasn’t merely handed down to her.
Mikimoto won the loyalty, even adoration, of those same women, because they demanded the best. To repay that affinity, Kocichi himself famously and publicly set fire to literally tons of inferior pearls in 1932. No simple publicity stunt, it was meant to definitively define the company’s fierce commitment to the greatest quality.
Pearls, consequently, transcended fashion trends – they elevated every look that one might choose to wear them with. That Mikimito attracted such strong, incomparable – and internationally respected – women as Audrey Hepburn and Diana Vreeland seemed completely natural (“Nothing gives the luxury of pearls,” the latter was quoted as saying.) No two Mikimoto cultured pearls are alike – and the same could be said for the women who have made them a signature part of their aesthetic presentation. It exhibited that one was no longer concerned so much with “class” as they were with exhibiting a sense of class…and impeccable taste.
After the Second World War, Mikimoto pearls became virtually ambassadorial. It was the first Japanese company to attain such rapturous adulation and success in Europe and America – and so perhaps even represented a new hope, the mending of wounds by the sharing of something so ethereally beautiful.
Then as the optimism of the 1950s gave rise to a new era of white-gloved sophistication, the pearl necklace became so perfectly de rigeur. And when the 60s brought on so many youthful style rebellions, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor embodied an utterly of-the moment, pearl-bedecked elegance and glamour that seemed just as much with the times.
Perhaps most definingly, in the burgeoning age of advertising, Mikimito eclipsed mere consumerism. Diamonds were popular because they were marketed; pearls were special because they didn’t need to be sold – they just “were.” And “are.”
Now, in a world given over to ephemeral culture and throwaway fashion, Mikimoto pearls have again found a way to represent a most enduring sense of style, the anti-bling, if you will. It’s epitomized by Ginza Special Edition necklace. With its striking 18 karat white gold clasp, 9 carat diamond and matching studs, it is a paradigm of understated glamour and modern elegance – and will correspond with the 2017 opening of a spectacular new flagship store, in the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo – where the company was founded. (For now, it is available in the New York, Beverly Hills and South Coast Plaza, Las Vegas boutiques.)
So perhaps the timing of The Pearl Necklace could not be more sublime. And to celebrate the collaboration with Assouline, Mikimoto will be putting on glamorous, star-adorned events around the world, including New York and London, the latter of which will feature the book’s author Becker.
Most tellingly, such matchless luminaries of 21st Century culture as Sarah Jessica Parker, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez have all dazzled pages and stages adorned in Mikimoto pearls – resolute evidence of an eternal and irreplaceable beauty that knows no generational bias…but just as ever represents the soul of a woman of elegant and absolute self-possession. A woman who is empowered by her originality, and by adorning herself in that which is truly original – whether she’s in the boardroom or the VIP room.
The inimitable Coco Chanel said it best: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”