To me, there's nothing quite like a pearl. A string of pearls completes many of my outfits, whether they are faux, freshwater, or swaovski crystallized. It's a classic look that speaks of elegance and sophistication. I adore pearls... and therefor use LOTS of them in my work.
One of my favorite things to do is to take a string of vintage pearls and either re-string them or re-imagine them into a new piece. I have lots of vintage pieces waiting to be remade into something new. I am terribly behind in this area but I do have one slightly steamy completed piece of this variety (pictured here).
Faux pearls can offer a nice option if you want the look of uniform pearls without the aging that often comes with vintage beads. Swarovski also makes a crystallized faux pearl that has a LOT more of that natural pearl flash at an affordable price. These have become a big trend as of late, especially in bridal jewelry.
I also love working with freshwater pearls. They offer an organic look that I love and can come in all kinds of dyed colors. This widens my pearls pallet a bit. I also can't afford genuine saltwater sea pearls (like so many others I know). Freshwater pearls also combine with gemstone briolettes to create a lot of flash and sophisticated sparkle.
However you choose to use them, pearls really can give a piece or even an outfit a sense of understated class and elegance.