TRENDS: Underwater jewels


Adorn Insight advises jewellery buyers on the sea-theme for SS12.

By Juliet Hutton-Squire and Maia Adams of Adorn London

In a recent film created for luxury storytelling website Nowness, New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn asked Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton about the inspirations behind the brand’s SS12 collection.

Among the less obvious allusions, including Art Noveau and Gaudi’s architecture, Burton namechecks the oceans as a source of ideas. Meanwhile fellow fashion powerhouse Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Chanel led to models being bedecked with pearls, shell-shaped clutches, iridescent metallic jewellery and sheer garments.

But it’s not just the fashion world that seems captivated with the ocean depths right now: the charm of Neptune’s kingdom is inspiring designers across all disciplines. Jewellery too is having a marine moment, and jewellery designer Irene Neuwirth’s recently launched New York pop-up boutique was filled with gleaming coral-like sculptures showcasing her work. On a less epic scale, a host of jewellers in search of ideas for new collections are trawling the oceans for inspiration.

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The great thing about any trend is that with a little lateral thinking, its essence can be distilled into designs that give a collection, or an individual piece broad appeal and longevity. With its wealth of aesthetic possibilities – colour, form and texture to name a few – the underwater trend lends itself nicely to an abstract array of jewels.

The limpid blue-green tones of Irene Neuwirth’s mismatched boulder opal and diamond earrings bring to mind tropical beaches and mountain lakes seen from space whilst the rippling lines and roughly sketched silhouettes of Alexis Bittar’s crystal encrusted Gold Wave cuff, part of his ongoing Miss Havisham line, lend movement to this delicate piece. Jersey Pearl has played with quartz chips for a pearl bracelet that resembles sea spray and Topshop’s black rhinestone ring resembles a scoop of Beluga caviar.


Italian Emmanuele Bicocchi’s latest collection builds on an idea explored last season in his Brass Net range of necklaces. For 2012 Bicocchi has upgraded his material selection to sterling silver set with dainty black Swarovski crystals, and created delicate nets by hand in order to maintain a lightness of touch. Meanwhile, Lara Bohinc’s rose gold Rosetta necklace – which forms part of her Marina collection – follows the simple line, with a design like a knotted rope and swallow tattooed designer Philip Crangi has played with anchor motifs in his collections for Giles & Brother.


The use of shells in personal adornment has a long history and many of us will recall as children stringing pretty shells onto string to make a holiday-inspired necklace. Daisy Knights captures the nostalgic charm of seashells in her Antonia collection which offers up a trove of stacking ring possibilities with blackened silver, vermeil and recycled sterling silver shells of varying proportions.

Links of London’s Lucky Catch clam charm puts a fairytale spin on the theme, incorporating a snap mechanism that allows the shell to open up to reveal a beautiful pearl. Clams and cockles aside, that the humble seashell played a starring role in the SS12 collections of Versace, Holly Fulton, Chanel and Givenchy is a testament to its timeless appeal. No surprise then, just like their fashion counterparts, the opalescent quality of abalone and the gnarled fingers of a coral bed have seduced a raft of jewellery designers. Bijoux Heart’s Swarovski crystal-encrusted chandeliers are a glamorous example – perfect for any sea-faring mermaid.


Chronicling life beneath the waves, Jules Verne’s Science Fiction classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea inspired Stephen Webster’s Jewels Verne collection. Re-interpreting Verne’s fantastical descriptions of sea monsters and alien-like creatures, Webster fashioned a suitably fanciful array of bejewelled crustaceans, while De Grisogono has played with the textures of creatures from the deep with its slick black stingray cuff, set with diamonds for a wildly luxurious look.

Overlapping fish scales were the inspiration behind Prada’s AW11 shift dresses and, when translated into jewellery, this idea has great potential where textured metal, articulated platelets and layered castings will achieve the articulated armour effect. Lastly the starfish – once seen as a symbol of healing and regeneration – remains a popular motif in jewellery. Whether its a pretty silhouetted Elsa Peretti for Tiffany pendant or incorporated into a statement cocktail ring, the star of the sea is a must-have item right now.

This article was taken from the December issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the magazine in full online and to find Adorn Insight’s trend features from previous issues, click here.

Tags : adorn insightChanelpearlsstar diamondsstarfishtrendunder the seaunderwater
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