Diamond jewellery, but not as you know it.
A new wave of designers are creating contemporary jewels that mimic the properties of diamonds in the form of metal, faux stones and enamel, shaking up the notion of what it means to be precious and covetable.
When is a diamond not a diamond? Arguably, when it is forged in silver, enamel or plastic.
A new trend making its way into mainstream design is concept of taking the shape of diamonds and precious stones and transforming them into solid silver or gold designs, embellished with enamels and in some cases, as an added twist, actual diamonds.
The trend makes the wearing of diamonds tongue in cheek; where a black diamond engagement ring might once have been regarded as rebellious, today’s jewellery retailers have the option of selling a diamond ring fit for a proposal but made purely from precious metal with no stones in sight.
Brooklyn-based Irish jeweller Bernice Kelly, who works under the brand name Macha, makes a collection of solid diamond-shaped rings called Rockwell. The range, inspired by both rough and polished stones, sells through a growing list of fashion-led retailers in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo. For her, the step into replacing a diamond with a hunk of metal was borne from two occurrences; firstly a wax carving that went awry leaving Kelly with a shattered but altogether more intriguing design, and secondly the recession. "I was carving a detailed ring from wax over a long period of time, and at the last moment it shattered," Kelly explains. "I realised through my frustration that some of the leftover pieces of wax were more interesting than the carved piece so I choose these to experiment with this."
For Kelly, the ideas of replacing the diamond with a rock of precious metal felt relevant in an era of recession. Since then the Rockwell collection has developed due to growing interest from consumers wishing to wear Kelly’s work as engagement rings. "I have developed more classic, wearable versions and more recently I’ve added micro-pavé diamonds onto the band, so the traditional engagement ring really is turned on its head," she explains.
The idea of turning a classic design upside down or interpreting one style of jewellery as another can also be seen in recent collections by Husam el Odeh. One such design features cast solitaire diamond-style rings in silver that have been transformed into ear studs with an ombre-effect rose gold plating. Other designs in his collection include bracelets made of the same solitaire rings but interlinked to create a chain, with some of the rings set with crystals.
DESIRABLE YET ACCESSIBLE
Jewellery designer Myia Bonner created a diamond-inspired collection for her university degree and her designs have since won her a mentoring scheme and a place among last year’s IJL KickStart line-up. Bonner has developed her collection from large 3D structures inspired by the crystalline properties of diamonds to 2D designs that translate the facets of stones as openwork pendants, hoops and rings.
"I wanted to play on the image diamonds have been given; they are not as rare as perceived," Bonner explains. "I wanted to create jewellery that is obtainable and plays with traditions. The facets of the stone, which traditionally create the prized sparkle, are transformed into negative space and the intricate lines expose the inherent beauty of the form itself. By being crafted in precious metal I have created diamonds that are attainable."
The desirability of diamonds is also explored in the work of Turkish jeweller Selda Okutan, who aims to capture the effect that the stone has on women in her Diamond Addiction ring design. Like Bonner playing with the notion of a diamond’s rarity, Okutan’s work represents women’s "irresistible desire and possessiveness of diamonds" and those who seek to sate this desire, depicted by tiny figures scrambling up the oxidised ring design.
Jeweller Lestie Lee takes the cut of diamonds and gemstones as her base, also reinterpreting with the idea of preciousness and accessibility of precious stones. Her work includes openwork diamond-shaped rings and long necklaces featuring both real gems and gemstone shapes forged in metal. "Owning a diamond is every girl’s dream and the concept behind the collection is that everyone can afford their own precious diamond," Lee explains. "I am fascinated by the complex architecture and symmetry of diamonds."
The trend for diamond-shaped jewellery has also filtered into mimicking coloured gemstones, exemplified by the Stoned necklace from luxury jeweller Solange Azagury-Patridge, which billows with intricately-placed gemstone shapes set alongside real stones and nuts and seeds cast in solid gold.
For AW13, Guess has created a range of costume jewellery featuring gemstone motifs in solid metal and autumnal-hued faux gems, including on-trend bib necklaces and chunky bracelets.
Colour has also become the base of work by Holts Academy graduate Elise Goldin, the recent winner of Nude Jewellery’s inaugural graduate competition. Her work has evolved from wood and metal designs made using paper decals to silver and cold enamel jewellery that translates with the shape and colour of gemstones into statement rings, studs and neckwear.
"My initial inspiration was loosely based around the idea of trompe l’oeil," explains Goldin. "I liked the idea of using the distinctive facets and cuts of gemstones and deconstructing them [using enamel], when the most obvious way to achieve this look is just to make jewellery with actual gemstones."
Goldin’s work is split into four sub-collections – Byzantine, Seaspan, Cosmos and Forest – each interpreting colour in different ways, some pieces appear opaline while others are inky shades of blue that mimic the night sky. "I treat the enamel as paint, mixing my own colours and playing around with colour combinations," she says. "It has added more depth to the pieces that I couldn’t achieve with the acrylic paint [used before]."
The classic brilliant-cut white diamond ring might be eulogized as the one piece of jewellery every woman wants, but the designers shaping the trend for alternative diamond jewellery show that this is not always the case. Experimenting with classic designs and turning them on their head to create jewellery that as a talking point is far more exciting.
This Trends feature was taken from the August issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.