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The story behind Kamala Harris' inauguration necklace

Kim Parker
·2-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Harper's BAZAAR

When Kamala Harris took to the stage yesterday to be sworn in as America's first Black, South Asian and female Vice President, she did so in a purple coat and dress by Christopher John Rogers, accessorised with an elegant pearl necklace by the ground-breaking Puerto Rican jewellery designer, Wilfredo Rosado.

The gemstone, which is the only one in world produced by a living creature, seems a natural choice as an accessory for a stateswoman. After all, pearls have come to symbolise power, purity of heart and fidelity for centuries and been adopted by Queens, Kings and First Ladies throughout history, including Michelle Obama and Jacqueline Kennedy, who once famously dubbed them "always appropriate".

But, beyond this, Harris' ever-present power pearls are imbued with a much deeper meaning. As an undergraduate at Howard University, she was a member of a sorority whose founders were known as the ‘Twenty Pearls’; and she wore an elegant, single-strand pearl necklace with matching earrings for her graduation photo in 1986. Since then, in a show of honour and sisterhood, Harris has worn pearls to almost every single significant event in her career, including while giving her debut news conference as the first woman elected as California’s attorney general in 2005, and last August, when she accepted the historic vice-presidential nomination in a double-stranded pearl necklace.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

Harris' deliberate choice of a strand of pearls by Wilfredo Rosado for her inauguration is again filled with symbolic meaning. The New York-based designer is the son of immigrant parents, much like Harris herself, and sought to embody the qualities he saw in the new Vice President by suspending luminous Australian South Sea pearls within large oval 18k gold links, accented with sparkling diamonds at regular intervals. This, he says, signifies the "theme of strength, combined with softness and a bit of glamour" that she represents. One of three different necklace options presented to Harris to select from, the final piece is modern and supremely stylish without being too fashion-forward - perfectly encapsulating her refined sense of taste and style.

Photo credit: MELINA MARA - Getty Images
Photo credit: MELINA MARA - Getty Images

Rosado is widely known for his creative, playful and innovative approach to design. A former protégé of Andy Warhol and fashion director for Giorgio Armani, he launched his own pioneering collection during New York fashion week in 2011 and quickly garnered rave reviews as well as a legion of celebrity fans including Mariah Carey, Julia Roberts, Rihanna and Gwyneth Paltrow. But, he says, it is seeing the new Vice President, now America's most powerful woman, wearing a necklace of his own design that is "an honour" and a real "dream come true".

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