Recently spotted on celebrities like Keira Knightley and Dakota Johnson, and in designer collections by Simone Rocha and Dior, baroque pearl jewellery is fast becoming a firm favourite amongst fashionistas. So much so, in fact, that The Times coined them the “gem of the moment”.
But what exactly are baroque pearls and how do they differ from their traditional ‘perfectly round’ counterparts? Read on as we cover everything you need to know about these quirky gems, including tips on how to wear baroque pearls to suit your style.
What are baroque pearls?
Originating from the Portuguese word ‘barocco’, meaning imperfect, the term baroque is used to describe irregular, asymmetrical shaped pearls. Unlike the smooth surface you’d expect on a traditional, spherical, ‘perfectly round’ pearl, baroque pearls are more textured – uneven.
Far from being a defect, this unique characteristic adds visual interest and heightens the lustre of baroque pearl jewellery. Why? Because the ridges and dents provide more angles from which light can refract, creating a luminous, multi-tonal effect – a bit like how light passes through the various hand cut facets in diamonds which create a heightened sparkle.
How are baroque pearls made?
While “baroque” is often used as an umbrella term to describe any kind of unusually shaped pearl, strictly speaking, it should only be used to describe very off round saltwater pearls. This is due to how the nacre naturally forms around the nucleus inside an oyster.
In short, baroque pearls are a result of organic matter attaching itself to the growing pearl inside the pearl sac. This then decomposes and the emerging gasses expand the layers between the nacre, creating an uneven finish and uniquely shaped pearls. This is an entirely natural process, often seen as a kind of ‘happy accident’.
However, baroque shaped pearls can now be purposely developed in freshwater mussels. With today’s technology, freshwater pearl farmers add selected organic material to the pearls nucleus to encourage the production of a baroque pearl. While not technically a baroque pearl, a freshwater pearl can mimic the variable shape and texture of its natural saltwater cousin.
Are baroque pearls valuable?
When pearl cultivation methods were first introduced in the late nineteenth century, baroque pearls were seen as inferior to perfectly spherical pearls. This belief held strong for decades, with well-balanced, round pearls boasting a certain level of symmetry, and therefore fetching a higher price in comparison to baroque pearls. However, due to their growing popularity, this is no longer true.
Baroque jewellery is becoming more sought after because of its one-of-a-kind nature. As such, its value is steadily rising. Moreover, as true baroque gems are variants of highly prized saltwater Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls, they will always be more expensive than freshwater baroque shaped pearls. This is due to several factors, like their size, lustre and rarity.
For example, it is estimated that up to 40% of Tahitian pearls are irregular in shape, like drop, ringed or off round, with many of them being quite small. Those that are more than 12mm in diameter, and richly coloured with iridescent overtones, are much rarer and more valuable. True baroque shapes in Tahitian pearls are almost unheard of.
Similarly, large South Sea pearls with a natural silver or gold shimmer are the most expensive type of pearls in the world, whether they are baroque or not! Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are the most affordable pearls on the market in all cases.
How to wear baroque pearls
Due to their unique characteristics, baroque pearls are ideal for people who love the luminosity of traditional pearls but are looking for something with a more modern feel. As each pearl is entirely unique, these gems are also perfect for those who prefer unconventional jewellery.
How you wear baroque pearl jewellery will largely come down to your personal style and colour preference. However, we do have a couple of pointers that may be useful.
Flat coin pearls threaded onto a long silver chain provide a wearable look for every day, while Biwa stick pearls give off a relaxed beach vibe, especially when combined with a mix of vibrant gemstones. Baroque leaf pearls are typically used in cluster jewellery, rather than as standalone pieces. However, bulkier baroque teardrop pearls may be used as the focal point of a pendant necklace.
Generally speaking, pearl pendants featuring a single baroque pearl at the centre, create a quirky yet minimal look – ideal for everyday wear. In contrast, full strand baroque pearl necklaces with multiple misshapen gems offer a more eye-catching finish - perfect for parties and special events.
Meanwhile, baroque pearl earrings come in a variety of shapes and sizes – some more distinct than others. Teardrop pearl drop earring styles are arguably the most popular due to their versatility and complementary light-catching abilities, with each pair designed to enhance your natural glow and draw the eye up to your face.
Explore our varied range of baroque pearl jewellery
Whatever style you prefer, at Coleman Douglas Pearls, we have an eclectic range of baroque pearl jewellery available to browse online. Alternatively, if you’d like a design that’s entirely tailored to your preferences, we also offer a bespoke jewellery service at our London atelier.
During your consultation, you will be able to choose the colour, material and design of your baroque pearl necklace, bracelet or earrings, with guidance from a pearl expert trained to craft complementary jewellery that suits your complexion and fits like a glove. We can also engrave your design to create a truly one-of-a-kind piece.