“Futuristic” is the last word you’d associate with pearls, but that was the effect of Nicholas Kirkwood’s nacreous gray orbs encrusted on platform heels for fall. Marc Jacobs used white pearls in his spring 2010show, sewing them onto dress ruffles, which jiggled as models paraded down the catwalk. “There’s a huge pearl movement now,” says Kathy Azarmi Rose, whose West Hollywood store Roseark (323-822-3600 or roseark.com) stocks K Brunini’s twiglike bracelets with dark pearls and Hana Pearls’ unevenly shaped gems crafted into turtles. Worn by first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, pearls can radiate demureness. Swinging long and loose, they also embody the opposite: the party-girl insouciance of flappers. But cutting edge? Yes, thanks to Rihanna, who recently wore a Fallon choker of pearls twisted up with chunky chains and spiky crosses. “I used to think of pearls as classic rather than fabulous,” says Jesse Garza, who styles actresses and executives. “This season is the first time in a long time where they look edgy, almost gritty.” The new frugality has aided the come- back. “Pearls are luxe but don’t have the big price tag that gemstones do,” says Meike Williams, whose Los Feliz shop Cake Jewelry (323-644-5699 or cakejewelry.com) has seen an uptick in sales of the champagne, gray, and bronze varieties. Across town at the Beverly Center jewelry store Jennifer Kaufman (310-854-1058 or jenniferkaufman.com), strands can cost $10,000 apiece, although a freshwater version from China can go for as low as $300. “They have value and a vocabulary that is familiar,” says Kaufman. Now that bling is gauche, pearls are a safe bet. Says Dawn Moore of Mikimoto, in Beverly Hills (310-205-8787 or mikimoto.com), “Ostentatious is exactly what no one wants to be.” Still, she admits, her latest best-seller is a five-foot-long strand.