January 6 is the long-awaited North American return of "Downton Abbey", but thanks to a son's technical abilities, I raced through all of Season 3 over the holidays. Inspired and heart-wrenching season (that's all I'll say), with a bonus feature: fabulous pearlwatching in the Abbey and beyond!
The Countess of Grantham is costumed in pearls that would look perfect 90 years later, and it is she, as you would expect, who wears the largest, most luminous necklaces and earrings:
Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Aunt Rosamund typically wear ropes of smaller pearls, knotted or simply loose:
In the Roaring Twenties, these would have been natural pearls; culturing was in its infancy. A rope of small pearls such as Lady Mary wears above would still have been a serious piece of jewelry. Pearls from Scottish rivers–now nearly extinct–were prized. (Lady Sibyl, now married to Branson, is not costumed in pearls, to underscore her new status and far more modest married life.)
The pearls cast their timeless effect, lightning the women's faces and flattering evening and daywear. They retain their magic today, though we rarely dress for dinner in magnificent embroideries or attend a cricket match in ecru chiffon.
To join the Abbey's beauties, I'd look for a versatile yet 'strong' piece that has something of the unusual about it, but also retains the glow and elegance of the gem.
Present day pearls exhibit a wider range of colour and shape than ever before, and you don't need a fortune to afford a stunning choice. Silver-blue baroque akoyas, natural colour in a generous 9mm-9.5mm size, are $522 for an 18-inch necklace, from Pearl Paradise.
A white, pink and grey freshwater 8.5-9mm strand from Winterston is on sale till January 20 (or while supplies last) for £215. The whites and pinks are natural, the grey is dyed.
This vintage garnet, pearl and diamond necklace was made thirty years later (ca. 1950) but is decidedly Cora Crawley, charming yet idiosyncratic. Price, $595 at Beladora II.
Ninety years after they cozied up to coronets, pearls have stepped beyond the aristocratic realm, beautiful as ever but infinitely more affordable.
So, beginning Sunday evening, watch away and enjoy, including the parade of pearls!