I’m going to admit something controversial: I prefer the Keira Knightly version over the Colin Firth BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But without sparking a heated debate, one reason is because of the overall styling of the film. One of my favourite scenes is Mr Bingley’s white ball: the outfits are fabulous, from Miss Bingley’s cutting edge empire gown, to the Bennet sisters’ more modest and conservative ones. And something that always stood out to me was Elizabeth Bennet’s hair. Individual pearls woven through the hair is an elegant look but is also a change to the usual way of accessorising with a bejewelled hair clip or pin.
Which brings me onto pearls as accessories more generally.
Diamonds are meant to be a girl’s best friend, but I believe pearls are a woman’s. Coco Chanel agreed: ‘a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls’; they’re timeless and glamorous whilst boasting an understated poise.
But, sadly, today pearls are often considered old-fashioned. I don’t agree. Firstly, pearls have a luminescent nature that makes the skin glow and gives it a lustre, resulting in the opposite effect to aging (so always choose the pearls with the deepest lustre available). Additionally, whilst you may no longer want to wear a short pearl necklace if you've become better suited to a lower neckline, a longer strings of pearls will elongate the face and neck, and liven up the plainest of outfits.
So how do you spot the difference between fake pearls vs. real ones?
You’ll probably have heard of the rubbing a pearl on your teeth test. But the best way to check is if you rub two pearls together. If they’re real, they should feel grainy. If they’re fake, they’ll smoothly glide past each other.
Now that’s not to say I don't support wearing costume pearls: they can still be stunning. Plus, they won’t break the bank. Or at least they shouldn’t. It’s worth noting that some retailers charge the same for their fake pearls as real ones cost, if not more. Some high fashion labels' 'pearls' are just glass beads, so you can even be paying over £1000 for a name. So make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before parting with your cash.
If you do own real pearls, here are some helpful tips to keep them at their best and to retain their lustre:
1. Put them on after applying cosmetics, fake tanning products, perfume and hairspray as these products can all damage them.
2. Don't wear them whilst exercising or swimming in chlorinated water.
3. Store them in silk or chamois leather, not in plastic as it prevents the air from circulating causing the lustre to dull.
4. Re-string them as soon as the thread discolours, stretches or frays. As soon as the area between the clasp and the first pearl discolours, re-string. Alternatively, it’s best to do it every year if the pearls are worn regularly.