Into the Grey: The Allure of Tahitian Grey Pearls

The Cowdray Grey Pearls

Tahitian pearls are anything but black; they often abound in rich, natural body colors. From pearls of deep aubergine to electric pistachio, the colors that emerge are as numerable as the islands of French Polynesia from which they come. But there is one class of color, with a sultry, smoky, and metallic palette, that stands apart from the rest: grey pearls.

Grey pearls are the perfect blend of trendiness and sophistication. Appearing at once both soft and metallic, grey pearls may fall anywhere from the lightness of the moon, through the brilliance of silver, or to the intensity of gunmetal. Flashes of overtone colors, like plum and rosé, give the pearls added dimension. Their uncommonness and indeed their rarity make grey pearls particularly sought among collectors. Case in point: the Cowdray pearls, one of the most exceptional single strands of natural grey pearls ever brought to auction.

The necklace, described by Sotheby’s as “one of the finest and rarest grey pearl necklaces known,” appears at auction this October. Composed of 42 natural grey saltwater pearls with varying rosé, purple, and green overtones, the strand is expected to fetch up to $7 million when it goes under the hammer in Hong Kong.

The grey pearls were once part of the wardrobe of renowned collector Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson. After passing in 1932, much of her famed collection of furniture and art, including her jewelry, went to auction. Passing through several hands since, the pearls will be exhibited in New York, London, Geneva, Singapore, and Taipei before finding their new home at Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels” auction.

Grey pearls certainly command attention: a single natural grey pearl garnered $1.9 million at auction in 2012. Enthusiasm surrounding this latest sale is testament to the surging appreciation for pearls of distinction and character. Perhaps it is their quiet luster, their intriguing nuance of color, or their soft glow against the skin, but grey pearls inspire. Ready to turn heads? Add a strand of grey pearls to your collection.

Image compliments of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite.