We all know pearls have been a prized gemstone throughout history, with numerous famous examples of single pearls, pearl earrings, pendants and other jewelry styles decorating the ears, necks and fingers of women and men for centuries. Pearls are worn as symbols of power, prestige and opulence, and are known to project a subtle air of elegance and luxury no matter the outfit or occasion.
There are a handful of famous pearl necklaces that have outshone all others and have become truly iconic pieces of jewelry; enshrined in our minds and popular culture, sparking newer jewelry trends and calling us back to revisit the enduring aesthetics of the classic pearl necklace. Today let’s look at the Top 10 Most Famous Pearl Necklaces in History.
Audrey Hepburn starred as Holly Go Lightly in the famous movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and her 4-Strand Pearl Necklace is indelibly burned into our collective consciousness as the epitome of grace and style. Her swanky, “devil-may-care” attitude combined with the iconic little black dress paired with the large, faux pearl necklace, rhinestones and long cigarette holder, this pearl necklace will go down in history as one of the most famous pearl necklaces of the modern era.
“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.” – Coco Chanel Photo by Man Ray, 1935. Courtesy Chanel
One of the most famous fashion designers of all time, Coco Chanel was known for mixing both faux and cultured pearls together to create outfits that were both elegant yet edgy. Coco Chanel had a life-long romance with pearls; her fascination with the glowing gems is reportedly said to have begun at a museum when she viewed a Renaissance portrait of a courtier painted by Italian artist Veronese. She instantly fell in love with the softly ephemeral orbs and viewed pearls as the ultimate gemstone, perfect for any style. Her layered pearl necklaces became a signature style that will be remembered forever in the fashion world.
America’s most iconic sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe was adored by men and women all over the country during her hey day. A little known fact about her though is that despite her glamorous lifestyle and many admirers, she never owned fine jewelry of her own. The single genuine piece of jewelry that she finally received was a single strand Akoya Pearl Necklace from Mikimoto, Japan, which was purchased for her by her husband Joe DiMaggio.
Photo courtesy of Mikimoto Pearl Co., LTD.
The pearls today reside with their creator, back at the Mikimoto Pearl Company in their museum in Japan and is regularly included in exhibitions around the world in its original oval box. The Marilyn Monroe Pearl Necklace as it is called, is a single 16-Inch Choker Length Pearl Necklace consisting of 44 Akoya pearls in a white to cream color with excellent luster and perfectly round, perfectly matched pearls – as is the norm for Akoya pearls. The short, choker-length Akoya Pearl Necklace is an icon of style, and will always be remembered for its simple yet elegant charm.
La Peregrina, also known as “The Wanderer” is one of the most famous natural pearls in the world. The pearl has a long and storied history and has travelled across the world beginning in 1582 and back again, finally coming to its new home in America.
Richard Burton purchased the marvel for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor as a Valentine’s Day gift in 1969 for the jaw-droppingly low price of $37,000.00 (in 2011 after her death, the same pearl sold at auction for $11 million). The large, natural drop-shaped pearl measures 17.35 – 17.90 x 25.50mm and is very heavy; consequently, Taylor had the pearl’s setting redesigned by famous jewelry house Cartier.
The final necklace design to showcase La Peregrina is cast out of platinum, diamonds and rubies with two strands of pearls with one larger outer row consisting of button and near-round pearls, and the inner strand consisting of smaller, perfectly round pearls. The final design is said to have been inspired by the Diego Velázquez portraits of Spain’s Queen Margarita and Queen Isabel wearing the pearl as a necklace.
La Peregrina, also known as The Pilgrim or The Wanderer, today belongs to a private owner and I am sure will continue her impressive 500-year travels, replete with her new Cartier-designed iconic pearl necklace for years and years to come.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Triple-Strand pearl necklace might just be THE most famous Triple-Strand Pearl Necklace in the world. Composed of 3 strands of natural pearls, the graduated necklace was created at the behest of the Queen herself using family-owned pearls, which she finished with a diamond-accented clasp. This Triple-Strand Pearl Necklace quickly became a near-daily staple in her wardrobe and she was regularly photographed wearing it at royal events around the world for 70 years during her reign.
The treasured 3-Strand Pearl Necklace moved into the Royal Jewels Collection upon her death, and her granddaughter, Princess Kate Middleton has been seen wearing the pearls in the late Queen’s honor at more than a few royal occasions.
The enduring elegance and classic style of the Triple Strand Pearl Necklace guarantees that this pearl necklace will forever remain in style, and is a total Iconic Pearl Necklace for our Top 10 list.
This incredibly glamorous and stunning cultured Akoya Pearl Necklace consists of 4 strands of perfectly matched saltwater Akoya pearls finished with a sparkling diamond-accented centerpiece doubling as a clasp.
This Four-Strand Akoya Pearl and Diamond Necklace was created by Queen Elizabeth II using pearls given to her by the former Prime Minister of Japan. The necklace has been worn by the Queen, Princess Diana and Princess Kate Middleton at various royal functions and has over the decades become an iconic pearl necklace in its own right.
One of the most easily recognizable and famous pearl necklaces in history, the infamous initial “B” pendant hung with three drop-shaped natural pearls suspended from a natural pearl necklace belonged to the ill-fated Anne Boleyn who married King Henry VIII of England. This particular pearl necklace has been captured in various portraits over the years, and might be one of the most iconic pearl necklaces of all time.
“I favor pearls on screen and in my private life,” Grace Kelly
Legendary Hollywood actress Grace Kelly helped create her stunning Triple Strand Pearl and Diamond Necklace, matching Pearl and Diamond Earrings and Bracelet suite at famed jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels as part of a special wedding gift from her fiancé Prince Rainier of Monaco.
She wore the stunning suite of pearls repeatedly during her lifetime, and after Kelly’s death in 1982, the royal family of Monaco has loaned out the pearls during exhibitions and showings, and in 2019, Kelly’s daughter Princess Carolyn of Hanover wore the pearls out to the Rose Gala – their first official outing in nearly 20 years.
Jackie Kennedy was popularly known as American “royalty” and was known to favor a faux Triple Strand Pearl Necklace which she wore regularly. While her pearls were not real, this necklace still earns a place in history as an iconic pearl necklace due to its instantly recognizable nature.
One of the most famous photographs of the First Lady captured Jackie Kennedy with her young son, John Jr., playing with her pearl necklace - an iconic moment in modern American history. Kennedy’s Triple Strand Pearl Necklace will go down in history as one of the most important and iconic pearl necklaces America has ever seen. After her death, the faux pearls sold at auction for $211,500!
The pearls that spawned a decade-long trend, the 100-Inch Pearl Rope Necklace worn by Sarah Jessica Parker during her turn as Carrie Bradshaw, the famous writer in the hit TV show and movie Sex and the City definitely qualifies as an Iconic Pearl Necklace!
Her long, lustrous strands instantly launched a huge pearl rope trend, with jewelry companies immediately capitalizing on her incredible look by launching lines of Pearl Rope Necklaces so we could all enjoy the trend. Today the layered Pearl Rope Necklace look is still going strong, and years later we’re still paying homage to Carrie Bradshaw.
That does it for our list! Tell me in the comments - did I miss a pearl necklace you find particularly iconic?
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