Design codes in the new normal remain subdued, reflective but hopeful, following a year of virus-induced social distancing and lockdowns. Clear narratives, comforting classics, emotional appeal, bespoke services, refreshing touches and personal expression are set to define jewellery designs this year.
Left: Art Deco earrings by Roberto Coin
Right: Sautoir with malachite accents by Damiani
Malachite earrings with diamonds by Roberto Coin
CH2 jewellery by Stephen Webster
CH2 jewellery by Stephen Webster
CH2 turquoise ring by Stephen Webster
CH2 rings by Stephen Webster
Left: Bamboo Pink Cuff by Vendorafa Lombardi
Right: Drop earrings by Silvia Furmanovich
Left: Ring by Alice Cicolini handcrafted with enamel in Jaipur
Right: Turquoise shard hoop earrings by Stephen Webster
Left: Phoenix Yellow Slice diamond earrings by Nina Runsdorf
Right: Flower diamond ring by Nina Runsdorf
Bangle by Unoaerre
Left: Double Parked ring from the Secret Societe collection with diamond, gold and black onyx by Maison Coco
Right: Move bracelet with diamonds by Messika
Left: Eternity ring with asymmetrical diamonds by Suzanne Kalan
Right: Opalescent shard pendant by Stephen Webster
Left: Samuel B silver cuff
Right: Kelim silver link necklace
Left: Gold necklace from the Girl Up Collection by Hal Rubenstein & Uni Creation
Right: Rose gold earrings from the Girl Up Collection by Hal Rubenstein & Uni Creations
Left: Piazza Di Spagna silver layered necklace
Right: Fire opalescent cocktail ring by Stephen Webster
This article first appeared in the JNA January/ February 2021 issue.
Pantone’s picks for the Colour of the Year 2021 say it all. Ultimate Gray and Illuminating – a friendly, refreshing yellow – encapsulate the sentiments of a world that is slowly emerging from the ravages of a pandemic that forced structural shifts in lifestyles, businesses and attitudes.
According to the colour trend forecasting agency, the two independent colours highlight how different elements come together to support one another, best expressing the mood for the year – a message of happiness supported by fortitude. The grounding Ultimate Gray reflects the back-to-basics reflection spurred by Covid-19, while Illuminating’s subtle dynamism captures the hope and optimism for a brighter tomorrow.
As in most years, Pantone’s selections are poised to influence fashion, design and lifestyle colour schemes. The gem and jewellery world is no exception, with yellows and greys most likely to dominate colour palettes in 2021.
Yellow diamonds, golden beryls, citrines and lemon quartz stones oblige Illuminating creations as do amber, golden South Sea pearls and yellow varieties of popular coloured stones. Yellow gold likewise adds a touch of the uplifting Illuminating aura to any jewellery piece.
Labradorite, grey diamonds, mother of pearl, agate, druzy, grey moonstones and Tahitian pearls, among others, impart the strong, steady and measured resilience of Ultimate Gray. The steely shine of marcasite and hematite also capture the comforting allure of the Pantone pick.
Indeed, while the world inches its way towards a vaccine-driven future, the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on jewellery design codes and consumer priorities prevail.
With health and survival contingent on social distancing and virus-containment efforts, the realities of masked existence and digital communication turn attention to ear jewellery. The rude awakening to the dangers of social interaction and close proximity gives rise to greater introspection and stronger ties, prompting a return to the classics and a penchant for meaningful pieces.
Uniformity of appearance is as stifling as cabin fever, leading many to seek bespoke jewellery or non-traditional designs and materials to reaffirm their individuality and personality. More opaque stones such as malachite and turquoise are expanding their presence in fine jewellery collections, while sliced and included gemstones find favour for lending character to a piece.
The extraordinary circumstances of the past year spawn demand for jewellery of the times. For acclaimed British designer Stephen Webster, this translated into updating Crystal Haze, the collection that put his name on the map in 1995. While the development of CH2 had started well before the virus-induced lockdowns, its digital launch in May 2020 and the very nature of the collection spoke to market conditions and client aspirations in a pandemic-afflicted world.
CH2 jewellery pieces in 18-karat gold feature stones with a remarkable density of colour that is magnified under a voluminous dome of clear faceted quartz. Gems include turquoise, green agate, white and fire opalescent, and hematite.
“Crystal Haze removes the clutter so nothing takes away from the stone. It is a product with a clear message and is easy to wear. This is the right type of product for these times. People are finding a place for jewellery such as this – a symbol of commitment, celebration and even just for self-purchase. People are still celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. And CH2 fits into that world,” Webster explained in a JNA Conversations webinar last October.
In its fourth Diamond Insight Flash Report, De Beers Group identified three key jewellery design trends for Fall/Winter 2020 and into 2021: Craft’s new cool factor, natural beauties, and invest in the best. It noted that the Covid-19 experience is likely to influence consumer design preferences in three key areas – enhanced appreciation for craftsmanship and bespoke design, a greater desire for materials and designs that reference the natural world, and a preference for investing in timeless pieces. “The pandemic has accelerated some trends that were already underway, such as the desire for craftsmanship, authenticity and sustainability, while also generating increased consumer interest in the enduring beauty of the natural world and in classic designs that will stand the test of time,” said De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver.
Appreciation of craft
According to the De Beers report by consultancy firm Adorn Insight, the back-to-basics mentality fostered by the pandemic bolstered interest in all things artisanal.
This focus on craftsmanship is yielding fine jewellery designs that replicate fabric applications such as quilting, weaving and tie dye. The trend likewise places the spotlight on collaborations with non-jewellery craft specialists as well as brands that pay tribute to the craftspeople they work with. Possibilities abound too when age-old techniques are combined with advanced technology, the report stated.
Craftsmanship and bespoke pieces appeal to consumers seeking authenticity and the personal touch. The De Beers report points to opportunities for relationship-building and storytelling when jewellers offer bespoke services.
Webster echoes the sentiment. “The virtual launch of CH2 allowed us to talk more about the processes of making the jewellery, which resonated with many customers,” he shared. “Bespoke is another huge trend in jewellery. People have a certain attachment for something that is created specifically for them.”
Aside from jewellery, his list of eccentric bespoke creations include a Viking helmet in gold, a bar tool kit with Crystal Haze tops, and a people-counting clicker studded with rubies and diamonds.
Flora and fauna are regular themes in jewellery, but nature references take on special meaning this year after a global lockdown and natural calamities brought environmental and sustainability issues to the fore. “Little wonder we are seeing a boom in jewellery designs that reference flora, fauna and natural phenomena – rainbows, water, the elements – and whose aesthetics are organic and freeform in style,” the De Beers report said.
With sustainability remaining a key consideration for consumers, luxury and fine jewellery increasingly incorporate materials of organic origin such as wood, seeds, fossilised ivory, leather and mother of pearl.
“The inclusion of less orthodox materials in jewellery of the highest quality encourages us to reframe ‘preciousness’ – typically defined by price and scarcity – in order to acknowledge the value of thoughtful design and appreciate the meaning inherent in the materials themselves,” the report continued.
Rough, included and sliced gemstones add character and uniqueness to jewellery pieces, champion the natural look and nature of the material, and highlight the perfection of nature’s so-called imperfections.
Consumers are also gravitating towards jewellery staples of better quality, greater relevance and modern appeal. They are mindful of their purchases though given the dampened economic climate.
“Epitomising the ‘Buy less, buy better’ mantra, they still wish to indulge, but with greater scrutiny, investing in items that stand the test of time and which represent value in multiple ways: Financial, emotional, practical," the De Beers report stated. Popular in this ‘Invest in the Best’ trend are designs with a unique point of view such as classic-with-a-twist pieces. These include asymmetrical eternity bands, unisex pieces, multiple studs and Y-shaped sautoirs.
The report encouraged jewellers to introduce bespoke services and cut down on inventory by introducing limited edition collections. The latter approach enables them to tap culture-savvy younger consumers for whom scarcity and exclusivity are major draws, it continued. Recycling and upcycling jewellery address sustainability issues and open the floodgates of creativity for fresh and modern takes on traditional pieces.
Classics are the foundation of jewellery wardrobes, reiterated Gloria Maccaroni, director for Brand Development at the Silver Promotion Service. Speaking at a JNA Design Talk webinar on silver jewellery trends last October, she remarked, “Now more than ever, the self-purchase female will be looking to build her own personal wardrobe of silver jewellery because it is classic, elegant, affordable and unique.”
According to Maccaroni, hoop earrings are an ideal buy as they frame one’s face, can be worn with masks and add glamour to casual outfits. Bangle bracelets and stacking rings never go out of style either. Available in many variations, they allow wearers to create their own look and express their personality. Diamond studs are another classic, with silver offering affordable options. Simple stud earrings define the shape of the wearer’s face and make personal statements when masked. The trend of multiple piercings supports single, paired and multiple purchases of stud earrings in various textures, shapes and forms.
Fashion trends for Fall-Winter 2020-21 suggest a propensity for textured, bold and intricate designs, noted Maccaroni. She proposes textured or highly shiny pieces to reflect the season’s Metal Magic fashion. Bold cuff bangles and strong pendants translate the trend to jewellery. Strong shapes, pendants with detailed designs, vivid colours and unique mixes of coloured stones complement the Punky Plaids fashion statement. Chokers accentuate plaid necklines, while cuffs pair well with the bold prints.
Fall’s fashion fringes are replicated in texture combinations on stacking bangles and necklaces, while the feminine-forward, embroidered and folkloric patchwork of the season is best embodied by woven textured designs and layers on cuffs.
Come Spring 2021, uber-long pendants and chains of 36 to 42 inches will be in fashion, Maccaroni revealed. Necklaces with stations and tassels can be layered and add an element of confidence and elegance to different outfits.
Collar necklaces also make a bold statement and represent excellent layering opportunities. Textures and diamond insets add variety to the looks. The popularity of pearl jewellery – long a staple in every jewellery wardrobe – will grow even more thanks to modern but timeless designs.
Maccaroni identifies personal statement and expression as one of the most important trends for 2021. The pandemic has reinvigorated this design direction, already popular for years. Personal expression gains new significance in the face of a global health threat.
“Symbols of love, luck and spirituality are very strong again. These are opportunities for people to express their individual style and personal statement. Jewellery offers options through words, charms, symbols,” she noted. Personalisation can take the form of birthstones, initials, messages of affirmation, and symbols in rings, pendants, bracelets, and necklaces. Charms are poised to experience a popularity boom as well. Also gaining traction is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) jewellery. With modern technology expanding the boundaries of design, jewellers increasingly allow consumers to personalise or even create their jewellery pieces through DIY kiosks, online software or mobile apps.
Webster sums up the design directions for 2021 as “clear, emotional and bespoke.” Jewellery’s role as a vehicle for personal expression and a means for celebration will ensure the industry’s survival through any crisis, he concluded.