“Pearls are always appropriate,” Jackie Kennedy Onassis proclaimed and that statement certainly seems fitting today, as pearls are finding their way back into the contemporary spotlight, being showcased by women and men on the red carpet, adorning royalty and gracing the necks of history-making politicians. The icons of today are introducing pearls to a new generation of consumers and reminding others to dust off pieces that may have been languishing in a jewelry box.
Pearls also are perfect for the more eco-minded consumer. They are organic, renewable and environmentally sustaining, and global pearl jewelry sales are projected to reach $20 billion by 2025. Famed jewelry house Mikimoto, inventor of the cultured pearl in 1893, is embracing the strong demand for contemporary pearl jewelry with the opening of a new flagship boutique in New York City. Other luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., David Webb and Chanel also are helping to reinvent the traditional view of pearls. No longer relegated to the classic strand, pearls adorn chandelier earrings, glamorous cocktail rings, and bespoke brooches, and are suspended from the ends of golden chains to create statement pieces.
With a rise in popularity, an array of designs that complement formal to everyday wear, and the summer season ahead, it is important to consider a few key items on the care and protection of these illustrious gems.
Pearls are celebrated as one of the birthstones in June and are soft, living fossils that can be easily damaged from contact with chemicals, lotions, or other stones or metals.
Instead of tossing your pearl earrings or ring into a dish with other jewelry or watches at the end of the day, protect them by storing them separately in pouches made of natural breathing fibers, such as silk or cotton. Never store pearls in plastic containers, as plastic can emit chemicals that can damage the iridescent nacre on the pearl’s surface.
Pearls are vulnerable to damage from chlorine bleach and other everyday chemicals found in lotions, perfumes, hand sanitizers and hairspray. Therefore, always apply hairspray and perfume before putting on pearls and jewelry.
To prevent pearl necklace strings from becoming stretched, weakened, soiled or broken, replace them every two to three years or more often if wearing daily. The string should be knotted between each pearl, helping prevent potentially lost or damaged pearls.
If you take your jewelry on trips, keep your items with you at all times, or use a hotel safe (not the safe in your room). Don’t pack jewelry in your luggage or wear valuables to the pool or beach. To protect pearls from scratches, store them in a soft cloth pouch separate from all other jewelry.
Back at home, don’t keep your most valuable pieces on display in your bedroom. Install a secure bolted home safe with jewelry drawers and the appropriate fire and theft rating for jewelry or keep valuable items in a bank vault.
The risks to collecting pearls are much the same as the risks of collecting any fine jewelry. Collectors should make sure their pearls and jewelry are regularly checked, appraised and insured on a valuable articles policy that provides coverage for fire, flood, theft, breakage, mysterious disappearance and more.
Talk to your insurance agent or broker about the right policy.
Maggie Reynolds is Senior Fine Art, Jewelry and Collections Specialist for Chubb Personal Risk Services.
The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.