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Best of the Best 2007: Pearls: Les Perles de Chanel

Les Perles de Chanel

While she was dancing the Charleston one night in 1925, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel broke her opera-length strand of pearls, scattering the gems across the dance floor. According to the often-recounted tale, she looked on unconcerned, even amused, as formally clad men dropped to their knees and crawled around to retrieve her gems.

Mademoiselle, as she was called, had an irreverence for pearls; she viewed them more as versatile and fashionable accessories than as precious gems. Indeed, she shocked Parisian society by wearing sleek, masculine pantsuits or little black dresses accented with ropes of soft, satiny pearls. By layering multiple strands and wearing them with everything from casual sportswear to evening wear, Chanel lent a fresh, even chic, cachet to the age-old jewels. Last year, the house of Chanel paid tribute to the gems with Les Perles de Chanel, a collection of 16 high-jewelry pieces that evokes the company founder’s sense of glamour and modernity.

Chanel was not alone in spotlighting pearls, which again have become fashionable after years of paling next to diamonds and colored gems. In 2006, almost every major jewelry house—including Cartier and Bulgari—introduced pearl collections, but Chanel surpassed them all with Les Perles de Chanel.

The French fashion and accessory house combined large round South Sea and Tahitian pearls with sharp, geometric gold work and sparkling diamonds. One fanciful comet brooch appears to be bursting with sprays of South Sea pearls, and on one of the collection’s rings, the pearls appear to float above a pavé diamond and gold grid. Designers and jewelry makers conceived and produced every piece in Chanel’s Paris workshops.


With its combination of rare South Sea pearls and more-common Tahitian and freshwater varieties, Les Perles de Chanel exemplifies Coco’s view that style, more than the price of a gem, is what matters most.

Chanel Fine Jewelry



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