By Michelle Graff

Right after the JA New York Winter Show on March 10, I popped into the Terrace Club for a peek at the winning designs of the 5th Edition "The Song of the Stars" Tahitian Pearl Trophy—North America division.

A fashion industry friend and I marveled over the fanciful designs and the innovative ways in which pearl designers are juxtaposing the organic gems with unlikely partners—feathers, anyone?—and reworking traditional settings: pearls tumbling down a space-age necklace and lining a pair of suspenders.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of pearls. I've always kind of rooted for and looked at them as the underdog of the gemstones, relegated as the "prim-and-proper" choice among its obliquely dazzling cousins.

So given the Tahitian pearl awards and an article published on March 13 in The New York Times, "Pearls That Start, and End, With Grit"—which heralds a new crop of pearl necklaces that's "Punk meets Park Avenue"—I'm definitely excited that they're getting some much-deserved time in the sun.

For inspiration on this new breed, check out this first-prize-winning brooch by Nina Basharova (top left), sponsored by Albert Asher Pearls, and the first-prize winner in the category of male jewelry, suspenders by Larry C.Y. Ho, sponsored by Maemura Designs (right).

Plus, as name-checked by The Times, visit one of my all-time favorites, Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta, whose pearl and chain creations are reminiscent of buried treasure.

For more on the winners of the Tahitian Pearl Trophy—North America division, click here.

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