Customer Watch: Mixing Jewelry with Tattoos

How does one recommend or choose jewelry for an individual whose body is adorned with tattoos? This question was posed to me recently by a jeweler who fretted that her jewelry would clash with the colorful ink designs on the skin of her client.


In recent years, tattoos have become practically de rigueur for female celebrities of a certain (young) age, even though large numbers of these reported tattoos are not readily visible. Indeed, the location of some of these tattoos perhaps should be categorized as TMI – too much information!


Actress Angelina Jolie, who is a style icon around the world, has an evolving collection of tattoos, reportedly, as documented in photographs, including a large dragon tattoo on her lower back and a huge, solid black cross on her abdomen. Jolie’s more readily visible tattoos are generally text designs executed in black, making them much easier to design around than more exuberantly colorful designs. With textual designs, a jeweler might pay attention to the rhythm and spacing of the brush strokes, as well as the scale of the tattoo design relative to its wearer. This gives the jeweler an idea of designs that the customer will like and which have the potential for reflecting the style preferences of the customer.


[Two photos showing some of Angelina Jolie’s tattoos. Notice that the scale of her jewelry works with the scale of the detail of the tattoos.]


As a rule of thumb, a tattoo that is readily visible and meant to be noticed should be taken into account in choosing or guiding the choice of jewelry. The more prominent a tattoo, the more it needs to be taken into consideration in choosing jewelry that works with and supports the tattoo design, rather than competing with it. The area near a colorful tattoo might be adorned attractively with chains or other predominantly metal designs that allow the colors to be appreciated. Gemstone jewelry that repeats one of more colors of the tattoo may provide an extremely attractive adornment. Highly colorful jewelry might be a less desirable alternative, however, in that it may overshadow the tattoo, especially if the colors of the jewelry are clearer and brighter than the colors of the tattoo.


On the other hand (pun intended), a small, discreet tattoo, say, on the inside of a wrist, for all practical purposes can be disregarded and the wrist adorned with bracelets unless the customer desires not to conceal the tattoo.


Of course, a woman adorned with even a highly prominent tattoo may, on occasion, decide to dress strategically to hide the tattoo, as seen in the second photo of rapper Eve below. Hiding the tattoo immediately gives her more fashion options. I think it interesting to note that, given the symmetry of her tattoo, when she hid the tattoo, she chose an asymmetrical dress design. 


[Two photos showing some of Eve’s tattoos. Notice how the pendant necklace to the left repeats the size of the paw print tattoos and how the color block design of the dress also emphasizes the dual tattoos. To the right, hiding the tattoos on her chest provides other style options.]


Ultimately, your customer will let you know whether and to what extent a tattoo is meant to be highlighted. Think of the tattoo as a design feature of your customer and keep in mind that jewelry is all about adorning the wearer.

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