London - They don’t have the sparkling glamour of diamonds. But pearls are quietly gleaming their way back into fashion.

Thanks to stylish fans including the Duchess of Cambridge, Michelle Obama and even Rihanna, the classic string of pearls is no longer associated solely with elegant grannies and maiden aunts.

They are also proving to be a canny investment because like diamonds and gold, natural pearls appear to hold their value in uncertain economic times.

Just two weeks ago a rare natural pearl fetched almost £1-million at an auction in Salisbury.

Before that, auction house Bonhams sold a pair of pearl and diamond earrings for £290 500 – double their estimate.

The rekindled love affair with pearls does not just seem to be a British phenomenon.

Two natural drop-shaped pearls, rumoured to have been owned by Empress Eugenie of France, were recently sold at auction in New York for a world record price of £2-million.

Natural pearls – or very good fakes – are replacing diamonds as the favoured jewellery of the fashionable after the Duchess of Cambridge took a shine to them.

Kate wore simple pearl drop earrings on last month’s royal tour of Australia and New Zealand, with shops selling out of similar versions almost instantly. But the Duchess has been a fan for some time, wearing a delicate pair of imitation pearl and diamond earrings for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2012.

US First Lady Michelle Obama is often seen wearing her favourite double-stranded pearl necklace.

And recently, pop star Rihanna appeared at Dior’s Cruise Fashion Show lavishly decked out in pearl earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Other red carpet devotees of the elegant look include singer Katy Perry and actress Angelina Jolie.

Bonhams believes natural pearls are gaining record prices because of their rarity – over-fishing and pollution mean the supply of new natural pearls is waning.

Jean Ghika, the firm’s head of jewellery in Europe, said: “Pearls were once seen as a bit dated – perhaps the preserve of an older generation, but we’ve seen a complete change in how they are viewed.

“A younger fashion set is now completely at home wearing classic pearl earrings – and you’re as likely to see them in nightclubs and premieres as you are at Ascot or the Epsom Derby.”

Bonhams UK will be encouraging the public to bring in family treasures and heirlooms – and maybe the odd string of pearls – for valuation as part of its annual Jewellery in June campaign. - Daily Mail