Diamonds (and Pearls) Are Forever!
November 29, 2011
One of the classic gemstone combinations for jewellery designers is the contrast between the striking sparkle of diamonds and the soft, silky lustre of a pearl. How and when did our love of this beautiful pairing come about?
La Belle Époque from the late 19th century to the start of World War I was an era of opulence. It was a prosperous period that created wealth and the newly rich were keen to display their social status, enjoying a wave of sumptuous fashion and luxury jewellery.
The Edwardian trend was for slimming and elegant silhouettes with high collars that extended the neckline, corsets that showed off S-curved bodylines and tall hats with extravagant feathers. In response jewellers created delicate garland-style jewellery that appeared as if it were embroidery, with characteristic motifs of swags, ribbons, bows and flowers.
Before the late 19th century, European jewellers had looked to India and Brazil for their source of diamonds. Following the discovery of large diamond deposits in South Africa, however, and the set up and purchase of small mining operations by the company De Beers, the availability of diamonds changed forever. Platinum and diamonds began to be used widely by La Belle Époque jewellery designers to create intricate and gorgeous diamond necklaces with sparkling collars.
The grandeur of La Belle Époque ended abruptly with the dark reality of World War I.
Diamonds resisted the sombre times by reinventing themselves with new designs and sharing the fashion spotlight with other gems such as cultured pearls, which were new and taking the European jewellery markets by storm. Royal and society ladies matched diamond bandeaux and tiaras with long pearl necklaces. Coco Chanel created the Little Black Dress in the 1920s that she accessorised with a string of pearls. The simplicity of that dress with the elegance and beauty of pearls appealed to middle class and high society women alike throughout the 1930s and still resonates today.
With our lasting love of diamonds, De Beers famously grew to become the world’s largest producer of diamonds and coined the memorable slogan “diamonds are forever”. A diamond today is the traditional choice of engagement gift, a celebration present for a 10th or 60th wedding anniversary and is the birthstone for April.
View our jewellery collection of Diamonds and Pearls here.