Rachael Taylor on why pearls win every time at weddings – royal or not
While the world was focused on the hats, fascinators and dresses of the well-turned out guest list for the royal wedding on Friday, the fashion item that had the Professional Jeweller team hooked to the screen – apart from THE dress – was the jewellery.
While Wills’ choice to marry a commoner was far from traditional, it seems that the majority of his and Kate’s guests reset the conventional balance by choosing the most classic of wedding jewellery – pearls.
So the answer to the opening gambit of what exactly one should wear if one ever finds oneself invited to a royal wedding (and let’s not forget that Zara’s, albeit less hyped ,nuptials are just round the corner) is pearls, and lashings of them.
Pearls have long been popular within the bridal market, for both blushing brides and their guests, and have been enjoying a comeback in the fashion sphere over the past two years and the royal wedding proved that should an outfit call for a hint of sophistication, pearls can deliver. It also proved that there is no age barriers to pearls – Lady Frederick Windsor, aka Sophie Winkleman, made her pearl and diamond drop earrings look modern and contemporary while The Queen managed to look suitable matriarchal in her tri-string pearl necklace.
The versatility of pearls also knows no bounds. They can be worn simply as studs, as shown by Zara Phillips on the big day, or single strings as shown by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, or they can be used to create more adventurous designs such as the earrings worn by Charlene Whittstock that melded white metal and diamonds into a cosmic mix, or layered into a fashionably frenzy as Norma Major, wife of John Major, so effortlessly did.
And pearls don’t have to be demure. While many of the royal wedding guests – Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden among them – chose to work pearls into delicate pendants, they can also be used as statement pieces. Princess Michael of Kent achieved this with a big, bold and brash display of gobstoppper-sized pearls round her neck and on her lobes. However you probably want to be at least a little bit genuinely posh if you’re going to try and carry off this look as line between proud princess and looking like you’re dressing up in your grandmother’s jewels for a joke is skeletal.
The dominance of pearls at the royal wedding is somewhat ironic. Was upon a time – pre-1920s to be specific – pearls were so rare and therefore expensive that only royals, or dignitaries of that ilk, could afford to wear them. Then when a young Mr Mikimoto developed a process to create cultured pearls in the 1920s, pearls came to the people – a concept Jersey Pearl is celebrating at the moment with the launch of its 1920s-inspired pearl jewellery range. While there might well have been one or two genuine non-cultured pearls at the royal wedding, the majority of guests will have been decked out in cultured pearls – royals alongside commoners, as real pearls now escape the clutches of even the richest of well-to-do society.
Another jewellery style story to emerge from royal wedding was brooches. Again, this trend spanned from young to old. The Queen led the way with a stupefyingly dazzling diamond brooch in the shape of a bow that glittered and sparkled atop of her canary yellow outfit, but the younger generation also chose to wear smaller brooches. The preference was split between diamonds and pearls, with some guests mixing the two for true vintage glamour.
Finally, let’s turn from the trend followers to the trend bucker, or should it be setter? Ask us after wedding season. Samantha Cameron caused a fashion stir at the wedding as the fashion ambassador failed to impress with a seriously understated (for the royal wedding, that is) Burberry Prorsum dress that looked out of place next to the flights of fancy worn by other guests – or as a friend of mine surmised “she looks like she’s had a panic in Marks & Spencer the day before”. However, detracting from that, she did make the boldest and most non-conformist jewellery choice of the day with a statement necklace from Erickson Beamon, plus an Erickson Beamon for Erdem hair slide.
Statement costume jewellery is not exactly the done thing at a royal wedding, but when you put Cameron next to the hat horror show that was Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice (did anyone else make the Cinderella connection?) and the funeral procession that was Victoria Beckham, the PM’s missus did not bad. And besides, this wasn’t exactly the most traditional of royal weddings, was it?