What is the origin of Royalle Cultured Pearls? Melanie reached out to us with the following message:
“I have a set of graduated, 16" pearls that were my grandmother's. They are Royalle cultured pearls. I've tried many times to get information on them, to no avail. I don't want to sell them, just gather information on them. Do you know where I could find anything about these pearls?”
Oh, I do love a challenge! Thanks so much for reaching out! Here is what I found...
I am unfamiliar with the Royalle Cultured Pearls brand and we have never done any repair work on these pearls. However, since a large part of The Pearl Girls business is not only creating new jewelry but also repairing vintage pearl pieces, I have come across a many companies over the years which are unfamiliar in more modern times.
In other words, there might be pearl companies that were really popular in the 1950s and 1960s but may no longer be present in the marketplace. Utilizing an initial Google search, my suspicions were confirmed. The last mention that I could find about Royalle Cultured Pearls was by a woman who said,
“My grandmother worked at a department store when my parents married in 1971. She purchased them there for my mother as a gift for their wedding. It was Pizitz store.”
The History of Royalle
I came all across a few threads where people are asking the same thing, what is the history of Royalle cultured pearls? Most people pointed out that their mothers or grandmothers had these pearls. I found a listing in the Biloxi Daily Herald from Biloxi, Mississippi, dated December 2, 1966 where a strand of Royalle Cultured Pearls was advertised for $19.50. They were sold through a store called Wilson’s in Gulfport, Mississippi.
I started researching department stores since clearly these were sold through a store called Wilson’s in Gulfport, MS and Pizitz, a chain of regional department stores in Alabama.
I found a wholesale supplier, A.H. Ficken Company, which sold Royalle Cultured Pearls to these regional department stores. A wholesale catalog, dating from 1955 to 1956, was full of items including silverware, clocks, jewelry, leather goods, watches and more. It also sold Deltah Pearls and Royalle Cultured Pearls.
Types of Pearls
Obviously, Melanie is reaching out about a graduated pearl strand. Another woman posted on a vintage site her desire to sell her grandmother’s 1950’s Royalle pearls which featured 11 graduated pearls on a chain. So, essentially, it appears most strands or Royalle pearls were classic strands.
When I looked for actual specimens of this jewelry, I did find some designs that went beyond the standard Graduated Cultured Pearl strand. All seemed to be various designs of pearls on chains. These more “modern” takes of pearls were bearing the Royalle Cultured Pearls name.
One thing that was resoundingly similar, especially on any resale sites, was that Royalle cultured pearls appear to have come in a blue or a red box. And most images are some of these boxes were again indicative of their vintage age.
What Are They Worth?
How much pearls are worth is always an interesting topic, and a tricky one, too! One woman appraised her pearls for insurance and got a $1000 appraisal.
In 2013, Live Auctioneers sold the above 16” graduated pearl necklace strand for $120.
I have seen listings as low as $15 for these strands on eBay.
Again, we are reminded how subjective pricing can be.
The True Value
However, my impression is that these were very special cultured pearls for women who wanted to upgrade from their imitation pearls. If you can imagine, and I say this many times, most women in the 1950s and 60s only had imitation pearls. Jacqueline Kennedy was one of those women.
It was not uncommon to have imitation pearls and a lot of the repair work that we do on heirloom pearls are actually imitation pearls. So, for the woman who wanted to upgrade to cultured pearls, companies like Royalle cultured pearls was a good choice.
The name alone expresses to women that these are in fact cultured pearls. Although I do not know these pearls and have not seen them in person, given the date of them it makes sense that these would be cultured akoya pearls from Japan.
The wholesaler A.H. Ficken Company and the Royalle name seems to have died out at some point. I cannot find any records of them currently being in business and I can barely find many records of when they were in business.
However, I can’t help but put my own spin on things! What a lovely choice for women in the 1950s through 1970s to have their first strand of genuine cultured pearls. These appear, even now, to be very beautiful cultured pearls. Given that many remain with their original box, the women who owned these pearls took great care of them. They valued them immensely, which seems to be what matters!
Sorry I don’t have any more information for you Melanie! I hope this helps!