LONDON — Just like office dress codes are being revised, tracksuits are becoming acceptable day attire and private members’ clubs are allowing sneakers in their premises for the first time, the world of fine jewelry is modernizing, too.
Gone are the days when fine jewels were limited to classic chandelier earrings and tennis bracelets — kept in a safe only to be taken out for black tie affairs. The casualization trend is sweeping through jewelry salons just like it has through runways. A new generation of designers is mixing up diamonds with neons; styling their jewels with the latest viral Bottega Veneta accessories; and communicating with customers in a more relaxed manner — often via Instagram DM.
In turn, customers — whose appetite for fine jewelry has far from waned — are now wearing their diamonds with everything from tracksuits to party wear and having fun stacking pieces together and mixing up different colors.
“There has always been a formality to fine jewelry. This can be limiting for certain consumers, as it doesn’t work with their lifestyle and aesthetic,” said Melissa Kaye, one of the pioneers of the trend. Her swirl-shaped diamond and neon enamel pieces have been a major hit in the last year, given that they’re versatile, “laid-back yet luxurious” — and simply a lot of fun.
“This new outlook has opened the category to a wider range of consumers, especially younger generations who now have access to fine jewelry that doesn’t feel overly formal and can be enjoyed day to night,” added Kaye, who now offers every silhouette in her collection in neons, due to increased demand.
Chiara Capitani and Romy Blanga have also turned their jewelry label Eéra into an immediate hit at retail, turning humble objects like a key or a snap hook into fine jewelry designs, featuring diamonds and precious metals. These are often painted with bright colors to create a contrast and play with perceptions of what is and isn’t precious.
“We wanted to introduce the fine jewelry customer to a more utilitarian design approach. Our pieces have a geometric, linear feel, which often contradicts traditional fine jewelry designs,” said Capitani and Blanga, who produce two collections a year to be more aligned with the fashion calendar.
“People now approach buying fine jewelry in the same way that they would fashion items and this new approach has encouraged women to re-evaluate their relationship with fine jewelry. It reminds them that these pieces aren’t just for special occasions — they work for every day, too. But they’re carefully made to last through a lifetime of wear,” said the duo, highlighting that even if they do like to experiment with neon colors and a more modern, fashion-forward aesthetic, they still live up to the standards associated with precious jewels, by employing traditional handmade techniques and the highest quality materials.
“There’s been a shift in attitude toward the mixing of precious and inexpensive materials. With our pieces, we prefer to work with precious materials, favoring 18-karat gold, silver and diamonds. We do experiment a lot with color, but it’s always placed on a precious metal base.”
Retailers are fully standing behind the trend, too. Personal shopping platform Threads — which said it has been growing fine jewelry sales 80 percent year-over-year — found that styling jewelry in a signature laid-back, Instagram-friendly format has been a big part of the reason its online community has become so excited about the sector.
“Young female clients are really driving a shift toward more relaxed, everyday jewelry looks, as well as playing with bright colors and layering different pieces together. A sense of effortlessness is high on the agenda with jewelry that can be mixed and matched or dressed up and dressed down,” said Sophie Hill, chief executive officer and founder of Threads, adding that the popularity of this type of aesthetic is also encouraging heritage jewelers to loosen up and present their collections in new ways — ideally styled with lounge wear, trendy neon blazers, or the latest Chanel bag.
“We really see traditional fine jewelry Bond Street brands such as Tiffany, Garrard and Chaumet perform well when we show clients how to style and layer their pieces alongside other [fashion] accessories,” added Hill. “The strongest engagement comes from accessible and relatable content. Clients want to see luxury and fine jewelry styled and shot in a way that feels relatable to them styled with hot contemporary pieces-of-the-season along with everyday, athleisure and loungewear.”
The pandemic and lockdowns accelerated the trend, as brightly colored, feel-good jewels made for “perfect mood boosters,” while also being savvy investments, according to Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-porter.
“Fine jewelry designers have been jumping on this opportunity to shine, and we witnessed a huge trend for kaleidoscopic gemstones, vivid enamel and rainbow designs. For the last year or so, ‘more is more’ has really been the mantra. Enamel as a material is now more prevalent than ever, particularly neon colors in all shades,” added Page, pointing to brands like Melissa Kaye, Selim Mouzannar, Brent Neale and Marie Lichtenberg.
London-based label NeverNoT has also been enjoying a momentum around its chunky rings made using a mix of 18-karat gold, precious stones and neon enamels.
“When we launched in 2018, the market at that point was quite formal and conservative, so when we showed our neon enameled pieces, buyers were intrigued and excited but there was still doubt whether consumers would be willing to invest in fine jewelry which is ‘outside the box’ and not classic and formal,” said Nina Dzhokhadze, the brand’s cofounder.
“But there was a clear gap for something that combines high value and fun at the same time,” she added, highlighting that post-lockdown customers are even more open to investing in the brand’s rings online, with prices ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 pounds.
“The laid-back aesthetic is not exclusive to lower price points and is more about the intentional styling of the jewelry. Many clients are looking for a mix of investment pieces and having fun with their jewelry,” added Hill.