Powerful and Pretty Pearl Jewellery Pieces for the Woman of Today

by Reema Farooqui

Bonhams’ Celebrates International Women’s Day with its Pearls Online Jewellery Auction

March 8th is International Women’s Day and what better way to recognise it than with an auction exclusively featuring pearl jewellery pieces. Bonhams Auction House’s Powerful & Pretty: Pearls Online sale from March 8th through the 12th, honours women and their countless achievements, in and out of the spotlight, with the timeless power and beauty of pearls.

International Women’s Day is a day to commemorate the struggles of women, especially working women, but it is also a day of celebration and solidarity. Similarly, pearls are imbued with a grace and strength that transcend time and history.

Quite apart from the symbolism associated with pearls from legends and folklore, pearls today have taken on a completely new meaning, which is both impactful and relatable. Fine pearls have become the jewellery of choice for women making their mark in the world, be it in politics, science, education, law or any other respected and competitive field. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, several Former U.S. First Ladies including Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, the late Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth B, Ginsberg to Actor and UN Ambassador Angelina Jolie, American talk show host and producer Oprah Winfrey and Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K., all seem to favour pearls as their go-to jewellery adornment. All this says a lot about the place pearls have come to occupy within the space of the fine and high jewellery world and even beyond. In fact, this new symbolism makes pearls something of a talisman or even the insignia of the independent and strong woman, who has achieved quite a lot and is on the path to doing even more.

Therefore, Bonhams Los Angeles’ choice to salute the modern woman through an auction of fine, cultured pearls in not only timely but also relevant. The online only auction features 60 pieces of 20th and 21st Century fine and high jewels, all showcasing very fine, cultured pearls. There is a broad and fabulous variety of pieces, something for everyone.The lots include earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and brooches and the jewellery styles range from classic styles to very contemporary designs.

I also had an opportunity to connect with Emily Waterfall, Head of Jewellery at Bonhams Los Angeles to ask her some questions about the sale and why Bonhams chose International Women’s Day to arrange such a rare treat for jewellery lovers-an all pearl auction!

Bonhams Auction House has described pearls as a gem that “is an absolute essential in a powerful woman’s wardrobe.” What does a powerful woman mean to Bonhams?

From Queen Elizabeth to Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, powerful women historically have demonstrated distinct leadership qualities throughout their lives that inspire communities globally, and whose impact continues to resonate with generations to come. 

Why did Bonhams Auction House choose International Women’s Day to have a pearls only online auction?

The month of March is Women’s History month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day, a holiday that celebrates the diverse background and heritage of women around the world. As the history of pearls is so uniquely linked to women throughout history, art, and mythology across the globe, this pearl-exclusive sale seemed a fitting way to mark the occasion. Pearls are timeless. They are known as symbols of Aphrodite and Cleopatra and have been coveted by royalty in both Europe and Asia for centuries. Most recently, they have come to be associated with Vice President Kamala Harris. The selection of lots in this curated sale is a range of beautiful necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches that aim to imbue the wearer with a distinct sense of power, at prices that are accessible to all.

Why has the choice of jewels focused on the 20th and 21st Century jewellery pieces?

Pearls have been valued for millennia for their beauty and lustre. Historically, they were dangerous to acquire, needing to be brought up by hand from the depth of the sea. At the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings. Both rare and costly, only the wealthiest royalty had access to pearls until the 20th century when cultured pearls entered the market. While any mollusk could produce a pearl, according to the American Museum of Natural History, naturally occurring pearls are found roughly in one out of every 10,000. The cultured pearl industry has improved these odds tremendously and made pearls available at all price points. The difference between cultured and natural pearls is human intervention. In 1893 Kokichi Mikimoto inserted an irritant into an oyster by hand, causing it to form a beautiful pearl. 

The history of the cultured pearl means that most of the pearls on the market were made after the advent of the cultured pearl industry, and to offer a wide variety of affordable pieces, we have drawn from these fantastic 20th and 21st century creations. 

The Powerful and Pretty: Pearls Online auction is now live on Bonhams’ website and registration for online bids is also open. So, head over to Bonhams’ and find the perfect pearl jewellery piece you had always been looking for.

Featured Image: Lot 11, Platinum, 14K Gold, Cultured Pearl and Diamond Bracelet

All images used in this post are the property of Bonhams 1793. Any person or organization not affiliated with Bonhams 1793 may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of Bonhams 1793.

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