Pearls were Marilyn Monroe’s best friend, and they’re here in Australia

With vastly different taste in clothing, men and entertainment, it’s surprising to find a common thread, lined with pearls, between Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe.

Both women were devotees of demure pearl necklaces, which could have provided much-needed common ground at their only meeting. Instead, the Queen was covered in the emeralds and diamonds of the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and Delhi Durbar Parure. Marilyn chose cleavage over jewellery in a low-cut gold lame gown at the London movie screening in 1956.

A single-strand Mikimoto pearl necklace is in Australia to promote the Japanese jeweller’s entry into the Australian market.Credit:Steven Siewert

If both women, who were born only weeks apart, had worn their favourite pieces of jewellery they might have had more to discuss. Jewellery didn’t rate a mention as the conversation stuck to comments about bicycling and life at Windsor.

“I thought Miss Monroe was a very sweet person,” the Queen reportedly told a friend of the encounter. “But I felt sorry for her because she was so nervous that she had licked all her lipstick off.”

The triple strand of pearls the Queen wore nearly every day, a gift from her father King George VI, has recently been revived by Princess Catherine and Princess Anne, while Monroe’s treasured single-strand Mikimoto pearl necklace is currently on a whirlwind trip to Australia. The necklace is here to promote the opening of Mikimoto boutiques in the Sydney and Melbourne stores of Australian jeweller retailer Kennedy. It is on display this weekend at Kennedy’s Star Casino store.

“The Marilyn Monroe necklace is an important historical piece that ties our founder’s dream of bringing the beauty and quality of Mikimoto necklaces to the world,” says Kentaro Nishimura, chief operating officer, Mikimoto in the US.

in her triple-strand signature pearls and Marilyn Monroe wearing her Mikimoto single-strand necklace following her divorce from Joe DiMaggio in 1954.Credit:Getty

“What better way to embody that dream than showing the very necklace Marilyn Monroe received from baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on their honeymoon to Japan. The couple chose a special Akoya pearl strand necklace, one of the pieces of real jewellery Ms Monroe owned, as much of her collection was costume jewellery.”

Monroe continued to wear the 44 pearls following her divorce from DiMaggio, just not to meet the Queen.

The deal with Kennedy will be Mikimoto’s first deep dive into the Australian market, but the Japanese pioneer of commercial pearl cultivation has been operating since 1893.

“Mikimoto is always seeking opportunities to bring our finest jewellery to the world; however, any expansion plans are very carefully considered,” Nishimura says. “Having a partner who understands a high jewellery brand and will represent Mikimoto accordingly is a major key to our success.”

While Monroe and the Queen’s love of pearls, along with style support from Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Princess Diana, imbued the gem with a ladylike air, their appeal has recently been democratised. Singers Harry Styles, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and designer Simone Rocha have all traded chunky chains for delicate drops.

To chase this emerging younger market Mikimoto has collaborated with Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, and launched the contemporary M Collection.

“Statement pieces from the M Collection, which feature the iconic M logo and the extravagant Jeux De Rubans pieces with diamond ribbons are selling well,” says Teneille Oakley, Kennedy, general manager, merchandise. “So far half of our sales are driven by earrings, predominantly the Akoya studs from the Everyday collection ranging from $700 for A quality to $1900 for AAA quality.”

The Marilyn Monroe necklace, like the Queen’s, is not for sale. It also has not been loaned to a celebrity and there are no plans to follow the path of the Smithsonian Institute, which let Kim Kardashian wear Monroe’s famous nude dress to The Met Gala.

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