Welcome back to this the second part of The Power of the Pearl.
The real difference between preppies and Wasps is not couture but outlook. Preppies are infantile and optimistic, forever stuck at age seventeen; Wasps emerge from the womb wrinkly and cautious, already vice presidents, already fifty-two.
Tad Friend, Cheerful Money.
I add this quote at this time because I want to plant this idea into your mind as we move forward.
I hope that by keeping this in the forefront of your mind, it will help you settle your thoughts about your beliefs about the role that the pearl has and continues to play in your life. In my family, pearls have come to mean different things to each of us. The time, the place, the person all change, what remains is a sacred bond.
Now, where did we leave off, Oh, yes…
The years of 1620 through the year 1635. Outside of any personal journals, we have no idea of the exact items that accompanied the settlers on their journey. I stop briefly in the year of 1635 as that is the year of the first record by one of my family members of a set of six strands of almost matching pearls. Through out the successive years to the present we have only managed to lose one complete strand due to theft by the jeweler that was doing a stringing in 1918, of that strand sixty remained only to be lost when Granny G. dancing a raucous Black bottom in 1924 managed to whack her partner with the strand sending the remaining pearls into the crowed.
In the 1920s Kokichi Mikimoto, harvested the first commercially viable cultured pearls, forever changing the landscape of the world of pearls. Mikimoto perfected a method of creating and reproducing spherically round pearls. Mikimoto’s method is still in use today. In the 1920s natural pearls were very rare. J.D. commissioned a strand of 63 perfectly matched natural pearls to be strung, it took the jeweler 10 years to assemble them. With the natural supply being so low and Mikimoto’s process being viable the modern era of the round, cultured, pearl was born with all the gusto and excitement of the 20’s and 30’s.
Soon it was not just the superrich that could afford these little bobbers but the simple rich as well. Imitation pearls flourished and became a symbol of the age. The 20’s and 30’s were a fun time for the pearl. This was soon to change.
The time 1935 to 1947 was a time for seriousness, as the country sank into deep resolve, and for the first time since the beginning of the 20th century the pearl the took on new meaning…immense loss.
Jacqueline, like her counterpart Bunny Boleyn, ( we met her in the first part of this series ) brought the pearl back into vogue with the masses. The love affair, with this outstanding woman and her pearls truly began on the day of her wedding, when she wore a single strand of pearls.
Through out her life, she and the pearl would dominate the landscape of American culture.
Kenneth Jay Lane, would go on to design and create many pearl pieces for Jacqueline-Kennedy-Onassis
The most famous would be a three strand faux-pearl necklace, designed by Coco Chanel and created by Kenneth Jay Lane. This would be her signature piece.
Every woman needs to have one signature piece, one piece of jewelry that defines her to the world. For the Preppy and WASP this one piece is a pearl necklace.
It seems that there are three constants whether one is a Northern or Southern bred WASP or Preppy, Male or Female we are known by our mannerisms, dress and jewelry. Many are the times that a non-wasp will advance our culture. In mannerisms… ( for the men ) William F. Buckley, in dress and jewelry ( women ) Jackie O. she gave us the pearl as well as Lilly Pulitzer
I will end this portion of the narrative by reminding you of the fact the until recent times the pearl was the number one gem given as engagement rings, not the diamond. The Pearl is also the gem stone for the month of June, the most popular time for weddings.
In the next part of this series, I will explore the statement I made in the beginning, To understand the pearl is to understand the very soul of the WASP and Preppy.
Please also join me at my sister site. The Preppy Chronicles II
The Preppy Chronicles Edition II Volume II Part II