Middle East version of this well known celebrity magazine - October 2006
PEARLS OF WISDOM
Timeless, classic and sophisticated, don't wait to get wrinkly before you buy you first set of pearls!
Nobody casts pearls before swine these days, because from reigning queens to budding actresses, pearls are one of today's most stylish jewellery essentials.
Owned by the famous, the infamous and the hoi polloi, pearls adorn the necks, ears, hair and even other body parts of countless women of all ages and all walks of life. Made glamorous by Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who all knew a thing or two about how to wear these polished white beads, pearls have long been symbols of sophistication. Ingrid Bergman wore a stunning diamond and pearl necklace in Arch de Triumph (1948). The classic Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's had pearls elegantly wrapped around her swan-like neck. Queen Victoria needed them to lift her somewhat mournful wardrobe. Barbara Bush wears pearls almost all the time, "except," she says "when I golf, take a shower or go to sleep.' Grace Kelly and Princess Diana's refined regal taste put most other celebrities into the shadows. They simply knew how to wear pearls, never overstated, never understated.
Today's celebrities have different approaches to wearing pearls – timeless, classical, fun and funky, and some even grotesque (Sophia Lamar dripping garishly at the Tribeca Film Festival in April springs to mind). There's Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, a paragon of understatement, last spotted at a Hoban Government House press conference in March wearing tiny pearl earrings and a necklace so subtle it was hardly there. On the other hand, Winnie Mandela's skein of pearls was scarily over-the-top at a recent South Africa dinner and auction in George, South Africa. "The adage "you are what you wear" rings true. Other celebrities not doing too badly in emulating the icons of elegance are Jessica Simpson, Amber Valletta, Alicia Keys, Kate Bosworth, Cherie Blair and Katie Nauta.
Natalie Portman introduced an interesting modern twist by wearing bunches of pearls in her fabulous gauze-fabric, plunging neckline dress at the 77th Annual Academy Awards. Impressive too was actress Sophie Okonedo at the same function but wearing delicate pearls in her upswept curly hair. At the recent 47th Annual TV week Logie Awards in Melbourne, Australia, Kimberley Davies displayed an interesting combination of dangling dewdrop pearl earrings, two strings of pearls around the neck with a cross peeking out from underneath. Kyra Sedgwick's strapless dress complemented by a string of large black pearls at the JFP Gotham Awards in New York City was simply breathtaking. If they're genuine, they are most likely from the culture pearl farms of Tahiti or the Cook Islands.
Helen Bonham-Carter chose a bohemian look of long and short pearl strings at the launch of a book by British handbag and accessories designer Lulu Guinness. Although called Put on Your Pearls, Girls, the book isn't entirely about pearls - it speaks of how to dress and act as a woman, PEARLS being the acronym for poised, elegant, attractive, radiant, ladylike and sophisticated - the quintessence of pearls. Another book People and Pearls by Ki Hackney and Diana Edkins reveals all about the gems - and there's a photograph depicting Kiki de Montparnasse wearing nothing else but pearls.
Royalty have a chink in the pearl limelight too. The possible future queen of the United Kingdom, aka Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, opened a sports pavilion in Regent's Park in April this year wearing a pearl choker. Princess Benedikte of Denmark wore pearls at the funeral of HRH Princess Alice recently. Queen Anne-Marie of Greece was spotted at a Gala Preview of Mary Poppins in London last year, sporting a two-stringed choker.
The pearl "piece de resistance" must surely be the tiara that will be placed on the head of Miss Universe 2005, due to be elected and crowned in Bangkok on May 31 this year. It has 800 round brilliant cut diamonds and 120 pearls embedded in it. Reigning Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins of Australia could be justified in spitting when she places it on her successor's head. Another heady indulgence for pearl lovers to drool over was the world's first US$1million worth hat, festooned with diamonds, white and pink pearls, sapphires and topaz, made last year to promote millinery in Australia.
Here's a bit from the history books: cultures from all over the world have for more than 4,000 years prized pearls for their rarity and beauty. Gone are the days when pearl divers (here in the Arabian Gulf anyway) held their breath and submerged for three minutes armed with turtle-shell pegs clamped upon their noses to extricate molluscs (oysters) from sea-beds. It must have been a hit and miss affair, because totally natural pearls are so rare (about one in every 10,000). However, in the 19th and early 20th centuries pearls were an important export of the Arabian Gulf, an industry supporting many local people. The Japanese quickly cottoned on to producing pearls artificially, and since the 1990s the Chinese have been their biggest rivals. Cultured pearls are made by inserting a foreign irritant (often a parasite) into an oyster, which then secretes a substance which is similar to that used in making up an oyster's shell. This builds up in layers around the introduced object, and so a pearl is formed.