Coco Chanel once declared, ‘A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.’ Here’s why you should take a cue from the mademoiselle of style and pile them on this season.


I WILL never forget the first time I noticed “it”, draped around Audrey Hepburn’s neck in Breakfast At Tiffany’s – massive, luminous and simply mind-blowing. I was instantly smitten, and have been ever since.


In a way, Hepburn’s stylish stroll on the streets of New York showed that pearls aren’t limited to snooty aristocratic types but a timeless accessory that could instantly lift one out of any fashion rut. Since then, it has appeared on a number of celebrity royals, from glamorous Grace Kelly to edgy actress Emily Blunt.


This season, pearls have become a sought-after alternative to the unremarkable statement necklace. The Chanel Spring 2013 runway, for instance, made jaws drop with its ultra-modern – and not to mention, seriously wacky – version of the classic. Since these beautiful baubles are on the brink of revival, it was only fitting that homegrown label Poh Kong held their first-ever workshop, to impart some pearls of wisdom (pun intended) to journalists.


Joseph Lim, Asia Pacific manager for House of Schoeffel (German-based jeweller that specialises in pearls), greeted us on a bright sunny day inside Poh Kong’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Scattered across the table in front of him were dozens of multi-coloured pearls – large and petite, smooth and jagged, common and not-so-common. With seven years of experience under his belt, the 32-year-old was no lightweight. He knows all about pearls, and can point out even the subtlest disparity.


Not all pearls are white. Dubbed 'black pearls' because of their darker tones, Tahitian pearls come in cool colour tones like metallic green and blue.

Not all pearls are white. Dubbed ‘black pearls’ because of their darker tones, Tahitian pearls come in cool colour tones like metallic green and blue.


But first things first: there are four varieties of pearls in the market, each harvested in their own unique habitat – freshwater pearls from the Zhejiang coastal provinces of Southern China, Akoya pearls from the Southern part of Japan, Tahitian pearls from the Society Islands of French Polynesia and South Sea Pearls from Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. The coveted gems are judged by five criteria that is lustre, surface, shape, colour and size. Only 10% of those harvested meet the high standards of the industry, eventually making their way to the consumer market.


The Japanese Akoya is what one envisions a classic pearl to look like – ivory-coloured, iridescent and spherical – favoured by most women precisely for this reason. Worn layered on the neckline or around the wrist, these pearls channel Holly Golightly and Coco Chanel at their finest (the tweed suit or LBD is, of course, optional).


China’s freshwater pearls, meanwhile, provide a refreshing departure from tradition with their interesting shapes and shades. Coated in a metallic sheen and awash in a variety of pretty pastels like lilac, peach and salmon pink, these pearls – bound to look fabulous with summer dresses and high-heeled wedges – are practically made for the girly girl.


But it’s not all dainty and chi-chi. Dubbed “black pearls” because of their darker tones, Tahitian pearls come in cool colour tones. They are versatile in nature; one can pair them with jeans or an evening dress. Aerosmith rock god Steven Tyler is a fan – he is regularly spotted wearing them in a loose leather string around his neck.


The butterfly earrings and necklace from Poh Kong's Classic Collection features wings of handcrafted mother-of-pearl set in rose gold and diamonds with pinkish white South Sea pearls.

The butterfly earrings and necklace from Poh Kong’s Classic Collection features wings of handcrafted mother-of-pearl set in rose gold and diamonds with pinkish white South Sea pearls.


The queen of all pearls, however, is of the South Sea variation because of its bubblegum size, excellent sheen and hefty price tag. (It can cost as much as half a million dollars.) The Australian ones are white, with silver, bluish and pinkish overtones, while its less superior counterparts found in the Philippines and Indonesia are available in champagne, vanilla and golden overtones. With these pearls, a gorgeous red-carpet look is de rigueur. Loud and ostentious they are not, compared to flash of rubies and fire of diamonds.


Schoeffel carries different designs for different personalities. There’s the Classic Collection – which features stunning compositions of pearls and diamonds that can be worn anytime and anywhere – for fashion-conscious purists, and the Creative Collection is for the young and young- at-heart.


The latter is as its name suggests: fun, innovative jewellery embedded in unconventional, informal designs ideal for younger women, as well as the young at heart. Think Tahitian pearls strung with chains of polished and matte silver.


Part of Schoeffel's Couture Collection, the Poeme d'Amour necklace features South Sea pearls cradled in ribbons of diamond and white gold.

Part of Schoeffel’s Couture Collection, the Poeme d’Amour necklace, features South Sea pearls cradled in ribbons of diamond and white gold.


Meanwhile, Schoeffel is the first jewellery house to create the multicoloured pearl necklace, which can be found under its Collier Collection. This rainbow-coloured blend of freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls and golden South Sea pearls take a certain amount of time and talent to produce because the contrasting shades have to complement each other.


The holy grail of pearl-based jewellery, however, is found exclusively in the Couture Collection.


Featuring carefully selected pearls in rare sizes and hues, these opulent pieces are perfect heirloom material, and should only be flaunted during special occasions.


Where this writer is concerned, I’m still saving up my salary, to someday purchase my precious pearls.


high low prom dresses