Thursday, 31 March 2011

Animal Inspirations

I love it when designers feature sketches alongside the work on their websites, and I am totally charmed by Manya & Roumen's animal-filled 'Inspirations' page;

The pieces are pretty gorgeous too - I really like the pale, textured gold and the simple choice of stone. The way the tails sweep round to form the shank of the ring makes the design seamless and perfectly put together.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

In Bloom

A floral motif is just perfect for the spring/summer season, and large floral earrings are a summer staple in my jewellery wardrobe. Heat can make statement necklaces or cuffs feel cumbersome, so instead make the earlobes the focal area of adornment with these beautiful pieces...

For colour;
Alexis Bittar Primrose Earrings in Lilac Lucite

For everyday;
Shaun Leane Cherry Blossom Studs in Gold Vermeil and Enamel

For a little white dress;

Alex Monroe Pomegranate Flower Studs in 22ct Gold Plate

I also really love scouring out vintage pieces - search Ebay or Etsy for enamelled, lucite, plastic or painted if you want a little colour. Here's a couple of my own favourite finds (in situ on my equally floral storage) followed by some great choices currently for sale on Etsy;

My own - both from Ebay

Kenneth Jay Lane for Avon, Lucite and Diamante Pansy Clip-On Earrings

Faux Gold and Moonstone Screw on Earrings

And finally... how about these for the neon trend??

1970s Hot Pink Painted Metal Clip On Flower Earrings

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Material World Part II - The Alternatives...

Precious metals, of course, are not the only choice if you want to invest in exciting, lasting contemporary design.

To all appearances, Dominic Jones’ work is designer silver and vermeil, with polished finish and all metal designs. However, his pieces are actually created from a core of brass, with a gold plating five times the usual thickness to make them just a little more durable and precious than standard plated product.

Dominic Jones Ring

While Dominic Jones uses this technique to offset the cost of heavyweight, chunky designs, I have less understanding when I see expensive designer pieces that are plated despite being very small scale. Silver is not yet so expensive that little pendants need be plated when we’re talking designer prices.

Giles & Brother Sterling Silver Pendant

Giles & Brother have countered this by offering their more lightweight pieces, such as charm necklaces and stud earrings, in silver and vermeil, while heavier pieces like cuffs are offered in gold or silver plated brass.

Giles & Brother Railroad Brass Bracelet

Both Polli and Nervous System exploit the properties of a metal still relatively unusual in jewellery, stainless steel, to create large yet lightweight pieces;

Nervous System Stainless Steel Earrings

Polli Stainless Steel Necklaces

Then, of course, there’s costume jewellery – the term in itself covering extreme ends of the market. There’s a vast difference between mass produced, churned out or practically copied designs you can pick up on the high street and good designer or vintage costume jewellery. I’m not into jewellery that makes your hands smell like pennies, breaks as soon as you wear it or that I wonder how on earth it could have been produced in anything other than a sweatshop for the price.

Erickson Beamon 'Duchess of Fabulous' Necklace

Spending a few hundred pounds on a necklace made from base metals might seem like a crazy outlay, but you can add another nought or two to that figure if you want the same scale and level of design made from gold or even silver. I love working with and wearing precious materials, but I think this is where costume jewellery really comes into its own – pieces that pack an immediate statement in size, colour or design. Plus, it’s a way to get bona fide runway impact when you can buy (relatively) affordably into catwalk staples Mawi and Erickson Beamon.

Mawi Gold-plated Bead and Crystal Necklace

There’s no real ‘conclusion’ to this post, as what material you prefer your jewellery to be made from is personal choice and - ethical issues aside - there’s nothing to say what’s right or wrong. What I really love about the modern jewellery market is not only that ‘design value’ is becoming as important as metal value, but also the much freer way in which jewellery is worn. Throw on your finest gems with costume jewellery, precious metals with handmade friendship bracelets, diamante (or diamonds!) with a scruffy t-shirt...

Featuring: Dominic Jones, Erickson Beamon, Giles & Brother, Mawi, Nervous System, Polli

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Material World Part I - Precious Metals...

I’d originally planned a sort of ‘Costume versus Fine Jewellery’ post, after a discussion with a friend who was questioning the prices of designer costume jewellery. It’s spiralled into a more general musing on materials in jewellery, however, as that’s a pretty interesting topic at the moment, given metal prices and consumer attitudes to what our jewellery is made of.

Designer Silver - William Cheshire 'Libertine' Pendant

Prices of gold, this most desirable of metals, have rocketed in the last few years, resulting in frustration for designers no longer able to afford to work with it, dismay as people rush to turn heirlooms and antiques into scrap cash, and disappointment for consumers who find once attainable pieces out of their reach.

Zoe and Morgan Cluster Ring

The results of price increases on the industry have been varied. As well as designs tending towards lighter and open-work pieces, hallmarking of lower quality gold alloys has increased. If 9ct strikes you as a bit ‘Argos’, have a look at the above and following pieces from Zoe and Morgan - all beautifully designed and crafted, and all made from 9ct gold;

Zoe and Morgan 'Poison' and 'Antique Star' Rings

Although I love the above pieces, I’d actually personally prefer to have a piece made of silver, despite 9ct gold being a more expensive metal. At 9ct, you are getting an alloy that predominately consists of base metal (copper, nickel), with only 37.5% actual gold content. I’d much rather have a higher content of a precious metal that’s not ‘worth’ quite as much - and vermeil, where gold is plated over sterling silver, offers the look of yellow gold without the price.

Alex Monroe 'Peacock Feather' Bracelet in Gold Vermeil

There will, of course, be people that want to buy gold because of the intrinsic value of the metal in itself. But picking silver allows you to invest in a whole raft of incredible designers working in this metal, and design adds far more value to the fundamental worth of the metal alone. I don’t know many people who would buy a piece of contemporary design wondering what the scrap value will be in a few years.

William Cheshire 'Burlesque' Ring

Silver jewellery can and will last - even gold vermeil is easily re-polished and plated by a jeweller. The relatively cheaper medium of silver allows designers to experiment far more than in gold, but still use precious and semi precious stones and fine jewellery techniques such as enamel, pave and intricate detail.

Ana De Costa 'Sirus' Studs

Choosing silver doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice any luxury. Like the William Cheshire ring above, Ana De Costa’s new range sets diamonds in silver - only the price giving any indication that the stunning designs aren’t white gold.

Ana De Costa 'Sirus' Pendant

Links of London have had a diamond-set silver range for a number of years, including this moon charm, which makes such a lovely pendant. I actually bought it for my mum as a Christmas present one year – diamonds always make an impressive gift, whatever metal they’re set in...

Links of London 'Watch Over Me' Moon Charm

Featuring... Alex Monroe, Ana De Costa, Links of London, William Cheshire, Zoe and Morgan

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fashion Week Wrists

I've got a fairly long blog post coming next week in which I'm looking at how precious metal prices are affecting attitudes to materials used in jewellery. As a preface to that, and to give you something lighter to end the weekend on, however, I wanted to share some pictures of my favourite trend that popped up all over street style blogs from this season's Fashion Weeks.

Stacking bangles and bracelets is nothing new, but there's a real 'anything goes' feel to the way they're being worn here. Costume with fine, fabric with diamonds, handmade-by-your-daughter with a designer watch - sometimes artfully clashing, other times just plain mis-matching. Metal types and colours are combined without thought for a nonchalant, thrown on look.

I love the jumble of pieces because it just looks so personal. Emptying the contents of your jewellery box onto your wrists expresses personality and individual taste - in a far more interesting way than a prescriptive ready made stack of bangles bought as a set from Topshop.

All pictures are from, shot by Tommy Ton.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Commercial Inspiration - Jorg Heinz

Part of my job as a designer involves researching trends, and I look to all sides of the jewellery market for inspiration - from designer maker to high end fashion house.

As a student, however, I found many of my peers dismissive of the very commercial side of the market, focusing on the far 'cooler' arena of independent designers and fashion brands - and the world of jewellery blogging often tends towards the same. It's no wonder this side of the industry holds so much allure; groundbreaking - even shocking - design, thought provoking new materials, interesting textures and exciting themes can feel far more inspirational than acres of diamond set white metal.

I'm pretty wary of this sort of design snobbery, as there really are great ideas and innovative product to be found in every part of the jewellery industry - such as the brand I'm featuring tonight.

Jorg Heinz jewellery is made from the most traditional of materials - precious metals, diamonds, glass enamel, pearls. These smart, polished, diamond studded creations are not the sort of designs I would necessarily pick for my jewellery box but they, nevertheless, really excite me.

The company is based upon the design of clasps that are a feature of the piece as much as a function - clasps that you would want to wear at the front of your necklace rather than the back. This is itself is a great premise - I'm obsessed with fastenings that are as beautiful as the rest of a piece - but more exciting is how the clasps can be altered and interchanged in addition to their function. Pave clasps open to reveal a solitaire diamond, or split half way, exposing both contrasting white gold and pave.

In the 'Magic Pendants', an innovative rotating mechanism allows the wearer to seamlessly shift between a choice of three different looks - including pearls, coloured enamel, and precious stones - each appearing in the window of a sphere which too can be personalised with texture or gems.

I love this luxe, clean take on personalisation; without having to add or take off any components you can switch your pendant from daytime sleek to glittering evening, or choose a pop of colour.

Even if groomed and glossy gold and diamonds leave you cold, it's hard not to appreciate - even be inspired by - the triumph of technical and design innovation in product like this.

Nb. I've touched on the attitude to 'commercial' in some areas of the industry, but a further perspective on that can be found in an interesting Professional Jeweller article here.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Anthony Roussel/Platinum Collection

Pure Jewels are currently half way through announcing which designers will be creating pieces for their Platinum Heritage Collection, this week revealing the third participant as Anthony Roussel.

Why I'm so interested in this designer in particular is that he's known for working in wood, almost as different a material you can get from platinum in appearance, properties and percieved 'value'.

I'm so intrigued to see what he comes up with - which I think must be part of the draw in choosing him. Will he transfer his sculptural, layered style to a whole new medium, or will working in platinum give him the opportunity to explore a whole new aesthetic?

His pieces are really quite stunning in real life, a truly original blend of craft and technology - my favourites are these bangles, the scale showing off the sweeping forms and curves.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Glorious Colour - Jewellery for Spring/Summer

If you've so much as glanced at a fashion magazine you'll know the coming season is all about brights - neons, colour blocking, multi-tonal prints. Thanks to this injection of colour I'm feeling remarkably spring-like, despite the still-miserable temperatures outside. To save me from skipping right out and spending this month's rent on wisps of jewel bright satin and silk, I've channelled my energies instead on putting together some summery looks based on colour-filled jewellery;

I think Chloe's sweet, coral pink day dress needs a little bit of contrast - in both colour and texture - so I'd offset the proper pleats with a rough chunk of aquamarine crystal in Elena Votsi's one-of-a-kind ring.

MaxMara's sunny yellow silk dress would 'pop' even more with the addition of a complementary colour, such as in the incredible tourmaline shades of Marie Helene de Taillac's earrings.

The dip-dyed effect of Lauren Adriana's bi-colour tourmaline is exaggerated with the beautiful sapphire, tsavorite and ruby surround, while the nod to 20s style complements Azzaro's flapper inspired dress to perfection.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Inhorgeta III and final; The Stand Out Piece

Now, my personal jewellery taste generally involves as much superfluous detail, colour and pattern as possible, so I'm surprising myself somewhat with what really grabbed my attention as my stand out piece of the show...

Clean and minimalist, this Antonio Bernardo necklace consists of custom-cut chunks of white quartz set in lines of 18ct gold wire, punctuated with small gold beads;

The effect of the piece is stunning; I was stopped in my tracks by it as I passed the stand, and the effusing of the representative as she saw my reaction suggested I was not the first. The necklace is part architectural, part ice-sculpture - sharp, edgy chunks of ice that twist with a gentle sense of movement and strong sense of form.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Inhorgenta II - The Blog Cut

Inhorgenta is such an interesting fair as it really is all encompassing for all tastes and areas of the trade. I was there on a trip with my work, predominately focussed on looking out for trends relevant to the ranges I design, but I also spotted plenty of things which interested me personally and that I thought would be appealing to my blog readers...

You don't need me to tell you about the huge trend that is personalisation, but what I loved at this year's show was the amount of exhibitors who had approached customisation in new ways. Last year saw an abundance of the usual stacking rings, charms, screw on ring heads, interchangeable components and so forth, whereas I think this year designers had recognised the need for ingenuity in a ‘getting-rather-crowded’ marketplace.

Pieces included inventive takes on interlocking rings, a necklace made of forged open links that was fluid as a single strand but became sculptural when doubled as the links slotted together three-dimensionally, and clever rings that, while working perfectly plain, could also be wholly or partly set with little diamonds;
Charlotte, a family brand specialising in pieces in which layers of componentry are screwed together to create personal combinations, had caught my eye last year with a statement neckpiece made from hundreds of tiny gold charms soldered together. This year, the look was long and layered, with a simple but striking method of clipping lines of charms in gold, silver and coloured enamel into long chains, interspersed with coloured gemstones.

In my last post I touched on the general tendency towards fairly weighty designs, but delicacy was also a major theme of the show, with plenty of designers using small pattern details, tiny stones, accent diamonds and a generally shrunken feel. Personally I love that small, trinket-y feel in jewellery; beautiful detail has even more finesse in miniature.

The minute granulation and seed pearl detail decorating Wiebke Peper’s slightly ethnic-feel gold beads was a particular favourite of mine – I’d love to wear just one strung on a gold ball chain around my neck or wrist.

I was also taken by a tiny painted enamel pendant by Ute Dippel. Most of her work is a little quaint for my personal tastes, but a group of teeny gold ellipses caught my eye, star set on one side with a diamond and featuring a miniscule good luck motif on the other;

The mushroom or cherries would be my pick – a sweet way to add a little humour to the jewellery box.

It was the delicacy of Katinka Neuner’s work I first admired, too, in the form of some small, pretty pendants inspired by church architecture and windows. However I’m most interested to share these earrings from her collection, traditional drops which invite further inspection with the addition of characterful gargoyles;

In the same hall (Contemporary Design) existing UK favourites Sho Fine Jewellery, William Cheshire and Katie Rowland were also exhibiting, and in-between comparing Spring Fair experiences with Katie I spied some coloured enamel versions of her new 'Lilith' bangles. With her latest ranges having launched less than a month earlier at the Spring Fair, it was nice that she’d kept some newness back to display at Inhorgenta, especially when there were exhibitors who seemed to have barely changed their displays from last year’s show.

I was also excited to see a substantial display of Thomas Donocik’s work – with a far larger space than at last year’s IJL there was an eye-catching spread including his leather belt buckles and some women’s pieces I’d never seen before.

Inhorgenta is a great place for displays, actually – even exhibitors with the most modest of stalls really make an effort on how their work is presented and their stands decorated. The one that stood out most was that of a brand called Door, who had their pieces hung from a clothes rail on a rainbow of felt squares;

Initially I thought the lack of product on immediate view would detract casual visitors, but on heading over to the stand I realised it was effective in a number of ways. Door’s jewellery demands tactility, with brushed texture and folded or curvy forms key features – see the rose and yellow gold rings below - so forcing visitors to leaf through each piece in turn encouraged touching and exploration. Plus, the display made a great opening for the designers to engage a captive audience in conversation, demonstrating functions and combinations.

There was a lot of product and content at this year’s show that didn’t feel that far moved on from the last, and the usually excellent trend talk felt nothing more than a regurgitation of information from fashion magazines and the catwalk.

Despite this, the huge mix of styles and types of jewellery makes it an inspiring visit, and I once again returned laden with brochures, postcards and notes. In addition to a couple of gemstones, I also made a very modest purchase in the form of this shell ring – it had too much nostalgic appeal from a childhood of summers spent in Cornish costal towns to resist.

On the plane on the way home, my boss spotted this Guess advert in her magazine - I'd love to think that I'll be wearing my ring on a sunkissed beach, cocktail in hand...

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