#LeanIn. #MeToo. #EqualPay. #TimesUp. You’ve seen the hashtags, and most of you probably know by now that we’re in the middle of a power struggle in what is still largely a male-dominated world. Ladies everywhere are pushing back, whether defending themselves from #mansplaining or tackling serious issues such as sexual assault or harassment in the workplace. From the red carpet to the average American woman, the movement – and the struggle – is real.
While the battle rages on (and shows no signs of slowing down), one item in particular seems to have become a symbol of choice of the movement: the pearl.
Pearls, for hundreds of years, were the classic symbol of elegance and sophistication for women everywhere (here’s a brief history courtesy of PBS if you’re interested). So prevalent was the gemstone that it was less an option than it was unwritten law for women to adorn themselves in necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Some would argue breaking free of the pearl would actually be a better symbol of the current movement.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Why pearls, and why now? When you drill down, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.
It’s likely you’ve been seeing a lot more pearl jewelry lately, and it’s no coincidence. The Women’s Suffrage Movement is the inspiration behind the vintage pearl pins worn by celebs on the red carpet. Those who wear the inspirational pearl jewelry pieces are pledging to actively look for projects directed, written, and produced by and starring women, as well as other marginalized voices.
According to Pinned by Pearls’ website, pearls represent how something beautiful can form from a single grain of sand. In other words, the movement currently in our midst starts with just one woman speaking up and very quickly can become something much more powerful, influential, beautiful. Out of one, many. And the more voices, the bigger the push.
Historically, the pearl hat pin has a deep connection to the suffering (and eventual empowerment) of women. Hat pins were an integral part of the suffragette movement, where women fought to win the right to vote in public elections. These pins, with their “deadly” points, came under fire as U.S. cities across the country attempted to outlaw them in the early 1900s, some would argue not because they posed any real danger physically but because of what they stood for.
Pinned by Pearls says by connecting to history, they aim to honor the long-fought battle for equality. Is the symbol working? The answer is almost a resounding yes.
Celebs from Tom Hanks and Sterling K. Brown to Ellen DeGeneres, Taylor Swift…even the Kardashians are frequently spotted in pearl jewelry (not just hat pins). Pearl retailers are also reporting rather large spikes in interest and sales. Execs at The Pearl Source and Laguna Pearl, two of the largest online pearl retailers in the U.S., said they’ve seen big bumps in traffic, browsing, and sales before, during, and after major Hollywood events where high-profile celebrities continue to make pearls their symbol of choice.
But as with any movement, it’s much less about the symbol than it is what it stands for. In this case, women everywhere are not just fight for equal, but fighting for more. And that’s a cause we can get behind.