A protective new trend keeps gemstones firmly under wraps, trapping them within cages of precious metal and glass, writes Rachael Taylor
When Beau Han Xu cocoons diamonds inside glass he wants us to think of rhythmic water droplets.
As his Splash collection of glass jewels slowly rotated within a well-lit showcase at IJL’s Bright Young Gems platform, sending diamonds softly falling through a liquid filling within, it was easy to get into the rhythm.
“What makes my jewellery unique is that I use no metal, enabling the true power of the precious natural gemstones to shine through,” says the Royal College of Art graduate. “These processes have taken me a number of years and more than a 100 attempts to perfect. As a result, it is a closely guarded secret.”
Without giving too much away, the objet d’art within his debut Splash collection have been created using glass casting technique pâte de verre. Once complete, the organic, sprawling glass shapes, designed to mimic that dramatic moment water hits a surface, are filled with a liquid that simulates the weight of diamonds, allowing the stones dropped within to swim freely whilst maximising their sparkle.
Brazilian jeweller Moritz Glik has also created a collection of jewels that traps loose diamonds, and sometimes semi-precious gems, within sapphire glass windows. While there is no liquid element to give the stones the magical buoyancy of Beau Han Xu’s work, the collection is far more commercial and lends itself well to a variety of pendants, earrings and bracelets.
Both Moritz Glik’s and Beau Han Xu’s diamonds are given a freedom of movement that is rare to see beyond the sorting table, but in reality they are trapped. Locked beneath the glass, the gems are mollycoddled, protected from the external elements endured by their clawset cousins.
This concept of protecting gemstones will be an important trend in jewellery design next year, according to the revered annual Swarovski Gemvisions trend forecast. “Gems and treasures representing the preciousness of life and memories are encapsulated, as if in amber, resin or crystal bubbles, for all time,” read the notes in the 2016 edition of the book. “Stones are protected, cocooned, wrapped in chains and held captive in unusual, unexpected ways.”
While completely trapping gemstones beneath glass or within resin offers fantastic visual stimulation, perhaps the most important interpretation of this trend for retail jewellers is prodigious settings. While craftsmen have toiled for generations to create the most minimal of metalwork that makes gems seem to float in the air, what will be interesting jewellery lovers next year are designers that smother coloured gemstones with looping wraps of additional metal, which is often gem set itself.
New York brand LeVian has worked this theme repeatedly into its collections, cinching stones such as chocolate quartz with an extra loop of diamond- studded gold over the top of the gem. New Bond Street brand VenLeles has also touched on this theme, albeit in a subtler manner, by supporting aquamarines with a lavish ribbon of diamonds – a flourish made more noticeable when placed below smaller aquamarines fixed with a traditional four-claw setting.
A slightly more heavy-handed level of protection has been employed by British jeweller Cassandra Goad within her latest collection Vibrant Brazil. A pair of earrings within the collection has been fitted with an extra bar of gold down the centre of pairs of bright green chryoprase cabochons, caging them in.
Melanie Georgoupolous, Utopia and iKuria have also been working with caging, each trapping loose pearls inside metalwork.
“I wanted to prove my acquaintance who said pearl jewellery was boring wrong, so I used pearls as charms, adding movement to my rings,” says iKuria designer Ikuko Kurahone, talking about her Laika collection. “But these were good quality Akoya pearls, so I caged the pearls for protection, which requires highly skilled goldsmiths.”
Kurahone never did get the chance to flash her acquaintance a triumphant smile as she had lost contact with her by the time the designs were complete, but what she did gain is a collection that will keep her brand on trend in the protective jewellery seasons ahead.