Jewelry Gets Ready to Party
The trend blends well with the growth in the numbers of female customers, said François Delage, chief executive of De Beers. In the last five years, “we have seen more and more women buying pieces for themselves — women willing to celebrate milestones or achievements,” he said. “Our collections respond to these aspirations.”
Helen David, chief merchant at Harrods, agreed that the last five years “has been a distinct shift away from fine jewelry being seen as a gift.”
She added that, even as there has been significant growth in fine jewelry sales at Harrods during the period, there also has been a turn “away from traditional white diamonds, with our customers embracing colored diamonds, rare colored stones and tutti-frutti designs.”
The De Beers Soothing Lotus necklace, unveiled by the jeweler during couture week in July, reflects this anything-goes attitude. The necklace comprises 150 diamonds, with a mix of rough and polished diamonds, six hues of colored diamonds and six diamond shapes.
Fine jewelry brands know that their futures depend on convincing millennials that there is joy in gems and this, in part, requires learning how the fashion industry continually stokes demand for new styles.
“The most exciting jewelry brands understand that just like fashion needs novelty, jewelry needs novelty, too,” said Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, former editor of Vogue Gioiello, the Italian jewelry magazine. “It is a slower process for jewelry and needs to tie to the fashion in a way that has more longevity.”
She said designers like Gaia Repossi, Ana Khouri, Sabine Getty, Noor Fares and Eugenie Niarchos have been changing attitudes toward fine jewelry. And, she added, so has Chopard’s collaboration with Rihanna.
The haute joaillerie collection, first shown in May, included diamond ear-clips, mismatched chandelier earrings and even an ankle bracelet with tourmalines and rare blue-gray sapphires. Celebrity collaborations are commonplace in fashion but rare in the world of high jewelry.
But “if you want to create desire in a new generation of fine jewelry clients,” Ms. Battaglia Engelbert said, “who better to do that than the woman known for her millions of Instagram followers?”
Ms. Quy agreed that social media has played a large part in changing fine jewelry. “Social influencers like bloggers, celebrities and stylists play a huge role in showing how to style and how fine jewelry pieces work in real life,” she said. “They aren’t for locking away; you can have fun wearing them.”
Ms. Battaglia Engelbert said her favorite piece of party jewelry is a single earring designed by her friend Delfina Delettrez — the sculptural piece resembled tree branches and covered half of her hair. The editor wore it to dance at her wedding, along with a short crystal-embellished Prada dress. Demure bridal diamonds and pearls it was not.
Yet designers and jewelry houses have to strike a balance between trend and tradition.
Not adapting to changing tastes could have consequences. As Ella Hudson, senior accessories editor at the trends forecaster WGSN, said: “The growth of demi-fine jewelry — bridging the gap between fashion and fine jewelry through the use of semiprecious material — has definitely posed a threat to traditional fine jewelers.
“The lines are suddenly blurring, and it’s encouraging them to take a bolder, more contemporary approach to design.” However, she added, the trend for multiple body piercings has created new product opportunities, and wearers are encouraged to develop layered stylings.
Yet fine jewelry needs to have an appeal beyond trends.
Sameer Lilani, Europe and the Middle East director at the Indian jewelry house Amrapali, compares the relationship to that of couture and ready-to-wear: Established clients, he stressed, can’t be alienated in the quest for new buyers.
“People are more daring with their tastes, but as with couture, fine jewelry is still luxury and it needs to last,” he said. “If you’re spending 50,000 pounds on a pair of earrings, they can’t look passé in five years’ time.”
One of the new generation, Ara Vartanian, based in São Paulo, Brazil, creates signature pieces that include three-finger rings, inverted diamond cuts and dramatic hook earrings that spread up across the ear. His latest collection, designed with his friend and patron Kate Moss, was introduced in May.
“The fashion world has changed radically in the past 50 years,” Mr. Vartanian said. “I think that’s what’s happening in fine jewelry now — younger clients don’t want to look like they raided their mother’s jewelry box, and their mothers want to buy pieces that their daughters want to party in.
“The big shift is from status to self-expression — and that’s created space for untraditional high-end jewelry brands like never before.”
But Mr. Vartanian said the most important thing is that his party-bound clients can dance in his designs.
“It’s like a woman walking into a party wearing a beautiful high heel, she might look incredible but that’s worthless if she’s uncomfortable,” he said. “I like to think that with my pieces you can dance yourself crazy, you can go upside and fall on your feet.
“Your hair might be all over the place, but your jewelry is right where it should be.”
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