Pearls were once considered one of the world’s most precious materials. A perfectly unblemished, natural pearl was considered a gem of incomparable value. A necklace crafted from matching spheres of pearls was the most coveted jewellery in the ancient world and the wearing of such an exquisitely adorned strand implied superiority, a mark of wealth, rank and power.
Kristin Weixelbaumer, designer and owner of jewellery brand Black Betty says that the majority of jewellery is created from precious metals and jewels found buried in the earth, but the pearl is the only gemstone to come from a living creature. With the launch of the new Black Betty Pearl Collection, the brand has celebrated the nuances and beauty in imperfection.
Kristin shares below some of the reasons she finds pearls to be a special gemstone:
1. A meaningful gemstone
The pearl is the world’s oldest gemstone, believed to offer protection, attract good fortune and wealth, provide calming effects, strengthen valuable relationships, convey a sense of safety, and symbolise the wearer’s loyalty, integrity and generosity.
2. Chosen by powerful women
Recently, pearls have been used to convey messages of hope and solidarity. Queen Elizabeth II wore a triple strand of pearls gifted to her by her father, King George VI, to deliver a reassuring message during the UK’s first lockdown in 2020, and when Kamala Harris was sworn in as America’s first female Vice-President, she wore a custom pearl necklace representing the bonds of friendship and sisterhood conceived during her time at university.
3. Created to overcome adversity
A pearl is formed as a result of an oyster’s natural defence against intrusion. When an irritant such as a grain of sand contaminates the shell, the oyster will slowly secrete layer upon layer of a soothing substance known as nacre, or mother-of-pearl, encasing the irritant and protecting the mollusc’s fragile body. An iridescent gem is formed through the oyster’s natural resilience in overcoming adversity.
4. A celebration of imperfection
Among the best-known lovers of pearls are Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor – women celebrated for their grace and beauty, revered for their intelligence and power; yet none were perfect. It is their ‘imperfect’ traits that have made them accessible, admired and adored to this day.
In fact, this exact sentiment guided the Black Betty photographic shoot for the Pearl Range, “we invited five incredible women – all completely different, unique and powerful in their own right, and all symbolic of the Pearl itself,” says Kristin. She says that it is amazing to consider how Pearls appeal to so many and have done for so many generations, transcending age and culture.
“Not all pearls are formed perfectly symmetrical and unblemished, most pearls are found in different shapes and colours. We celebrate the originality of these beauties and our pearls require no cutting or polishing before use: they are simply exquisite the way they are naturally formed,” says Kristin.