You may have noticed the Vivienne Westwood Mini Bas Relief Choker necklace with its distinctive orb logo rise in popularity over the past year, spotted on the necks of many famous social media stars and celebrities. Since the ‘70s, Westwood has been known for pushing boundaries and setting style trends, defining punk fashion from her London boutique and its various iterations. The orb pearl necklace was created in the late ‘80s, twisting the traditional upper-class fashion of pearls into something distinctly modern and youthful, with its space symbolism and its choker fit.
Now, Gen Z, known for repurposing and reviving vintage trends—from corsets to Y2K nostalgia—through a knack for thrifting and upcycling, has reclaimed the popular pearl necklace. And, just as Westwood intended, pearls became a more accessible and affordable accessory. Pearls are no longer reserved for royalty, and they're not simply for special occasions. Turns out, you can rock a pearl necklace with everything, from a Gucci suit to your favorite sweatpants.
But pearls are more than just a trend. In fact, it’s a piece of jewelry that’s embedded in American politics and fashion history, a staple for American female political leaders from Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton to our first female vice president, Kamala Harris. Over the past year, Harris pulled out her pearls for many momentous occasions, wearing a Wilfredo Rosado necklace to the inauguration and black Tahitian pearls to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Pearls were a symbolic sensation for many women at the inauguration, with Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman paying tribute to legendary author Maya Angelou with a pearl ring gifted to her by Oprah, and Rep. Barbara Lee wearing a pearl necklace that belonged to the late Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Lee tweeted a picture wearing the pearls. "On this historic day, I’m wearing Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s pearls," she wrote, "Because of Shirley Chisholm, I am. Because of Shirley Chisholm, Vice President Harris is."
From their popularity among celebrities to their place in politics, pearls are here to stay. Whether you're feeling bright and bold or simple and classic, click through for 10 stand-out, unique pearl necklaces for your jewelry inspo.