Diana: The People’s Princess and Her Passion for Pearls

It seems impossible that Princess Diana has been gone for two decades. It simply cannot be true, you say. Yet recent documentaries and articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of her tragic passing have reminded us all of Diana’s charismatic charm, her kind nature, and her inimitable style.

Princess Diana wearing the Cambridge Tiara
Diana, Princess of Wales, in The Cambridge Tiara. Photos: @thewordsofdiana

Unquestionably the most popular princess in modern history, Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, had a megawatt effect on the fashions of her day. Today, new generations, including top designers, are inspired by her unique combination of regal and casual elegance — including her lifelong love of cultured pearls.

From childhood, Diana was often photographed wearing pearl stud earrings and a simple string of pearls with her schoolgirl sweaters and skirts. Her signature pearl earrings would increase in size and value through the years, often mixed with gold or diamonds, in button, drop or cluster styles.

Princess Diana in multi-row pearl choker and drop-style pearl earrings
Princess Diana was seldom photographed without her pearls. Photos: @people

Pearl earrings had a way of lighting up Diana’s complexion (as they do for most women), and punctuating her short blonde hairdo. Judging from the frequency with which she wore pearls, she was well aware of their dazzling effect.

After her 1985 marriage to Prince Charles, Diana’s jewelry wardrobe expanded exponentially, to include magnificent wedding and birthday gifts from the Queen’s private collection, and access to the state jewels of the Royal Family. A favorite was said to have been The Cambridge Tiara, designed in 1914, featuring 19 teardrop pearls with diamonds.

Pearls were an important part of Diana’s most glamorous evening looks, in the palace years, and after her 1996 divorce from Prince Charles. One iconic image, taken during the height of Camilla-gate, features Diana in a multi-row pearl choker to which she had fastened a sapphire brooch. She donned it with a figure-hugging black cocktail dress, later dubbed The Revenge Dress by the international press.

Princess Diana in pearls
Diana in drop-style pearl earrings and choker. Photos: @vanityfair

It is no coincidence that the fashion world is experiencing a return to the 1980s and ‘90s on the Ready-to-Wear runways this season. As designers look to the Princess Diana era for inspiration, we’re seeing more and more mid-heal pumps, ladylike top-handle bags, and fitted skirt suits, like those she wore on official occasions.

Head designer Virgil Abloh of Off-White paid homage to Princess Diana in his Spring 2018 RTW collection, giving her classic style a number of contemporary twists. As more designers follow suit, expect the Princess Diana effect to launch an unprecedented demand for her favorite looks, including cultured pearls: always in fashion…transcending time.