Conch Pearl Jewelry

Although there is no archeological evidence of ancient conch pearl jewelry, there has been a long history of using the conch shell in cameo jewelry from the 16th century onward. Conch pearls reached a peak of popularity in the late 19th & early 20th century. Many wealthy and royal ladies of the time added this rare pearl to their jewelry collections. The Philadelphia exposition in 1876 showcased conch pearl jewelry designed by Tiffany and Queen Victoria. Even in those times, the conch pearl was rare and the price reflected it. Tiffany sold a conch pearl necklace in 1855 for $4000 USD which is equivalent to $83000 USD today. During this time, a reported annual yield of Bahamian conch pearls was the equivalent of a million dollars in today's value, testament to the rare pearls popularity. A notable example of the Bell Opoque period (1901-1915) conch jewelry is the Queen Mary conch pearl brooch. It features two rare conch pearls with a combined weight of 53 carats that is set in platinum with small rose-cut diamonds. Designed by the crown jewelers of the time, Gerrard & Co. named after its original owner Queen Mary, queen consort of King George V, this piece helped elevate its distinguished role amongst the wealthy and noble during this period. After the Bell Opoque period, there was a decline in demand and by 1923, the industry was all but forgotten. It wasn't until marine archaeologist, Sue Hendrickson, turned her hobby of collecting conch pearls and then eventually reintroducing them to the jewelry design world did we see a resurgence of interest in their use and collection.

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