Dear Darling, or the Spark of Pearl Fever in America

Spey Insights | Dear Darling, or the Spark of Pearl Fever in America

Victory in Europe and the subsequent cessation of hostilities in the Pacific gave the Allies reason to celebrate. After all, the world was finally at peace. A half decade of war following closely on the heals of the First World War wearied Europe and America. Now it was time to shake off the battle gear and show a little gaiety. Soldiers returned home from across the globe: Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Seas. With them came a newfound global outlook and experience and, particularly for the boys in blue stationed from Japan to Australia: pearl fever.

Successes in pearl culturing in the early twentieth century made pearls far more accessible to the masses, but pearl fever was still very localized to Japan and Southeast Asia. The West had yet to adopt the most lustrous of gems (excepting royalty and the nobility, who maintained near-exclusive access to the organic gems for centuries). Now, pearls could be attained and worn by the most stylish of ladies, no matter their peerage or pedigree. Soldiers, all-too-excited to give their darlings a little something exotic from their heroics abroad (and to thank them for those encouraging, heartfelt letters from home), stowed in their kit pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings that they had picked-up from excursions to islands across the South Seas.

The ladies, thrilled to have their brave man return from war, were more than happy to show-off their pearl jewelry to any friend or acquaintance they might encounter. The pearl became a status symbol and a badge of honor; pearl fever had finally reached America. As the 1950s began, the pearl was the de rigueur accessory for any look, casual or formal. From the bombshell wiggle dress to the calf-length full skirt from Dior, there was – and is! – nothing to which the pearl could not add an extra dash of chic. War was over, the collective moral was lifted (along with the hemlines), and pearl fever was here to stay.

At Spey, we think it is our patriotic duty to continue that legacy of pearls and their connection to the armed forces. We are proud to offer the Spey family discount to all active and retired US servicemen and women. Simply drop Spey a note and we’ll help you select the perfect piece. It’s a good day to wear pearls!

Photo: Evelyn Tripp for Vogue magazine by Erwin Blumenfeld, January 1950.