Strands of Time
A prized memento and a piece of myth, the pearl is every bit as iconic as the women who have worn them
Pearls, the oldest jewelry in the iconography of glamor, were worn even before craftsmen discovered how to cut stone. Ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, emerging triumphantly unclothed from the crest of a foamy sea, issued tears of mirth in the form of pearls. The little white orbs similarly figured in the world’s most infamous romances: an engraving of Cupid and Psyche’s marriage shows a string of pearls binding the lovers. Then, there was Cleopatra confronting Marc Antony, parading pomp and power by dissolving her pearl earring in a vessel of wine vinegar. Eras later, pearls evoked Coco Chanel orchestrating the rise of a fashion empire. Both virginal and provocative, pearls rose in the pantheon of precious stones with their string of myths.
In local territory, these luminescent orbs are made more alluring with their golden gleam. Baby Araneta Forés, darling of Manila’s and New York’s social circles, was once painted by Chilean hyperrealist artist Claudio Bravo wearing a golden pearl on her left ear.
The South Sea pearl, largely coveted for its rarity, gained prominence here with French-Filipino company Jewelmer Joaillerie cultivating them in Palawan’s waters, once part of the ancient trade route called the Pearl Road. Since 1979, the brand has pioneered the painstaking cultivation of the South Sea pearl, now regarded as the country’s national gem—or the “Queen of Gems,” as it’s known the world over. From the gold-lipped Pinctada maxima pearl oysters, the regal orbs found their way to the hands of Manila’s most prominent social figures, either strung together in a single strand or taking on Jewelmer Joaillerie’s many other whimsical arrangements.
It takes up to 10 years to create a perfectly matched pearl strand. Once finished, it becomes a woman’s most versatile piece of jewelry, outliving every passing fad and fancy and evoking over a hundred years of fashion icons and femme fatales that employed lustrous beads to convey authority and elegance.