Why does your grandmother have graduated pearls? Graduated pearls were very in style in the 1940s and 1950s in the U.S. Ever wonder why? I used to sell graduated pearls because they are not very easy to find any more. And, truthfully, they were not easy to sell but trends have shifted again and now The Pearl Girls Graduated Pearl Necklaces are popular again! Check our necklace out here: https://thepearlgirls.com/shop/graduated-pearl-necklace/
These days many women opt for the fuller look of a 7mm pearl strand versus one that, let’s say, starts with a central 7mm pearl and progressively gets smaller towards the clasp. All graduated necklaces can vary in size but a very common size starts with a central 7-8mm pearl and graduates to a smaller 3-4mm size so the necklace flows evenly from small to large and back to small again. Of course, you can also find graduated pearls in a variety of pearl sizes. Our current offering starts with a Large 10mm pearl… which might be why it is more popular. It offers a beautiful “pop.”
Creating this type of necklace is labor intensive. It is much easier to match a strand of 7mm pearls rather than match a pearls progressively smaller along a necklace.
Let’s take a look at history. Mikimoto created his first spherical cultured pearl in Japan in 1905. The cultured pearl industry really began to boom after that point, however, there was an economic fallout related to the Great Depression, increasing conflicts with Manchuria and China and, of course, Japan entered into war with the U.S. in 1941.
In 1938 there were 360 active cultured pearl farms in Japan producing almost 11 million akoya cultured pearls. As hard as it might be to imagine, there were still limited quantities of Japanese akoya cultured pearls so creating uniform strands of pearls was close to impossible. So, the graduated strand of pearls was born. This marked an easy way to create a stylish pearl necklace that was not dependent on a full strand of identically sized pearls. Almost all cultured pearl strands knotted before the 1950s was a graduated strand.
Talk about troubles, World War II devastated the cultured pearl market in Japan. Allied forces occupying Japan after the war were concerned about an illegal cultured pearl trafficking so they actually discouraged the sale of cultured pearls within Japan. To counterbalance this restriction, the Japanese instead sold pearls in military stores frequented by Allied troops.
And the Americans came home with pearls! American troops and servicemen bought thousands of graduated cultured pearl strands and brought them home to their loved ones. This kept the Japanese cultured pearl trade going and it really sparked the beginning of the popularity of cultured pearls in the U.S.
And that is why your grandmother has a graduated strand of cultured pearls!
What happened next? See my next post… Japanese pearls after WWII