7 Things to Know About Pearls

  1. Why do girls love pearls? Did it start with that special strand we could play with when we were young? Or perhaps high school graduation might also have meant receiving our first necklace of lustrous little pearls in a velvet box?  Or was it that pretty girl wearing a cashmere sweater set with a strand of pearls that was the envy of the rest of us? Wearing pearls was a sign that we were grown up. 
Portrait of Maesie Plant 
  1. What was the Real Estate “Deal of the Century” that took place in 1917?

When I was 22 and fresh out of college, I joined the esteemed jewelry house of Cartier, Inc. I entered an alternate universe and was intoxicated with the world of fine French jewelry! On day one, I learned that the mansion owned by Morton F. Plant at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street was sold to the Messrs. Cartier for a string of natural pearls and $100.00. It was a deal for the firm because a few years later cultured pearls would take over the market and natural pearls would greatly diminish in value. 



  1. Why is a pearl like a diamond?

Who knew that a pearl is considered a gemstone just like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires? But there is only one gem material formed and found within a living organism and that is the iconic pearl.

  1. Who discovered pearls? 

Wild or natural pearls were first found by ancient peoples foraging and diving in distant shores around the 5th Century BC. In a parable, Jesus likened the journey to heaven as the search for fine pearls conducted by a merchant. When he had found one pearl of great price, he would sell all that he had in order to buy it. At the turn of the 20th Century Mikimoto became known for developing the cultured pearl. By placing irritants in the muscles of mollusks a protective nacre developed and thus formed “cultured” pearls. Many pearl makers and jewelry designers began selling synthetic pearls in the 1960's. Amongst the most famous was our late friend, Kenneth Jay Lane. 

  1. How do you determine the quality of a pearl?

As I acquired pearls of different shapes and colors myself and for my shop, I was reminded of what I learned at Cartier. Pearls are all about their luster, surface appearance, shape, color, and size.  Varieties abound: Tahitian pearls. South Sea pearls, akoya and freshwater.  There are also manufactured, simulated and shell based pearls. One example is the Mallorca pearl. Faux pearls are usually made from plastic, glass and fish scale. Remember pop pearls? Plastic!


  1. Who were some famous women known for their power pearls?

Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth 1, and Marie Antoinette. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Barbara Bush, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

  1. Is there a Pearl Collection at Mildred Hoit?

        There are many choices of classic and fashion pearl jewelry available in the shop at all times. Kenneth Jay Lane’s “Fabulous Fakes" are displayed at the jewelry counter to the right of the front door and the Clara Williams Collection is on the left. Clara will be in the shop this March. Be sure to stop in and see her new spring line.



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