Ruby, sapphire, and emerald… perhaps a splash of tanzanite, amethyst or blue topaz — these are the gemstones that continue to excel with consumers. But in 2015, designer brands and customers appear to be embracing more unusual stones in higher volumes than ever before. Sarah Louise Jordan goes on a hunt for some of the more adventurous gemstone lines for SS15 and AW15.
Even the swiftest of glimpses at the new season collection by Monica Vinader shows that change is afoot. While the designs may be recognisable and confidently appeasing the loyal Monica Vinader customer, the use of more off-the-wall gemstones is more pronounced than in previous seasons.
Examples include the amazonite and white chalcedony versions of the popular Atlantis collection, and the green onyx and blue lace agate adaptations of the Vega range.
Of course, to a seasoned jewellery expert these gemstones are a fairly common occurrence, popping up at gem fairs and proving far more accessible in terms of price points than the ‘big three’. But for the average British consumer without gemstone adeptness, the introduction of such unusual gems in mainstream, core collections is an intriguing novelty that truly capitalises on the story-telling we’ve investigated on page 20.
From a fashion jewellery perspective, there are plenty of brands indulging in an array of gemstones. Dower & Hall, for example, has updated its bracelet offer recently with Orissa — a stacking bracelet collection fusing sterling silver and 18ct gold vermeil chains with strands of semi-precious beads, including cherry quartz, labradorite, citrine and peridot stones. Elsewhere, Claudia Bradby added colour for summer with amazonite beads surrounding Peruvian opals in bracelet and necklaces; Astley Clarke updated its offer with its amazonite Stilla earrings; and Dinny Hall unveiled its sterling silver Sheba collection with trillion-cut lemon quartz and labradorite.
Jo Henderson, founder of jewellery consultancy company JHJC, who’s worked with Clogau, Fei Liu and Esoteric Luxury, comments: “I think there does seem to be more interest in something away from the norm coming into mainline collections. I think there is also a trend towards brands and designers trying to find something unique to them. Stephen Webster was the forerunner a number of years ago with his Crystal Haze collection, that used chrysoprase among others.”
She continues: “Monica Vinader also picked up the mantle of different stones, as well as CW Sellors which uses Derbyshire Blue John. I think one of the reasons for the fashionable move towards quartz and agates is the continual rising price of more traditional gemstones such as aqua, topaz etc., plus the trend for all things 1970s which I think has a long way to go.”
Sushilla Done, founder and designer of jewellery brand SuShilla, comments: “Customers are opting for more unusual stones. While there is still a place for smoky quartz, rose quartz and amethyst in most collections, the customer today is definitely looking for something new and different.
“A particularly popular stone at the moment is apatite. This sea green gem seems to be in demand all year round and we have included this stone in both its rough form, for Tallulah, and faceted for our Chandelier earrings.”
Done argues that today’s consumer is more discerning when it comes to coloured gemstones, especially as the number of designers using unusual gems in their collections increases. When it came to introducing her Tallulah collection, Done admits that she “took a bit of a gamble”, noting: “Would people understand and want to buy jewellery that featured stones in the rough uncut and polished form? Six years later the answer in is a definite yes. We started out with just four stones in Tallulah, this has increased to more than 10, and we are constantly on the lookout for stones that can be used in this very organic way.”
In terms of what’s popular now, Done says the “wonderfully iridescent but neutral” nature of labradorite and moonstone makes them popular choices for customers who want pieces to wear every day.
She adds: “Chrysoprase is another increasingly popular stone. It has grown in popularity over the last five years throughout the world, to the point where it is now very difficult to source good quality stones at a price that makes it feasible to set in silver.
“Perhaps one of the more unusual semi precious stones is ruby zoisite; a stone that has both green and red through to purple running through it. In its rough form this sold out so quickly I had a waiting list.”
Arguably what’s fuelling this shift in the gemstone landscape isn’t the brands themselves, but the consumers. With the continued optimism in the retail market, the surge in online sales, the growing interest in designer jewellery in general, and the accessibility of reliable gemstone information thanks to the World Wide Web, consumers aren’t afraid to buy a little bit of the unknown.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by fine jewellery brands, where the use of less valuable gems work in contrast to their precious metal and diamond surrounds. Eugenie Niarchos, founder and designer of Venyx, has offered up enticing slices of labradorite and moonstone in futuristic designs for her white gold Theiya collection. Similarly, Noor Fares offers up a wide array of unusual gemstones in her carved Fly Me to the Moon winged earrings, including aventurine, grey agate, malachite, jasper and cornelian.
Elsewhere, retailer and brand Robinson Pelham has wowed its customers with a selection of colourful pieces, such as its 18ct gold Akida hoop earrings with magenta chalcedony or prehnite, and its cabochon cocktail rings with blue chalcedony.
Jewellery designer Alexis Dove, who specialises in more unusual diamonds including rose-cuts, argues that the plethora of solid metal charms on the market over the last decade has pushed designers, brands and consumers back into gemstones — bringing much needed differentiation back into the market. She also suggests that the growing significance of the annual Pantone colour palette could be the catalyst for the gemstone revival. She muses: “How else are you going to bring colour into your jewellery? Gemstones; they’re the first thing you think of.”
This feature originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Professional Jeweller, read the issue online here.