When Yasmin Tjoeng was growing up on the Gold Coast of Australia, she spent a good portion of her early childhood in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where her family has owned businesses since the 1960s. She describes that period—much of it spent in Wewak, the capital of PNG’s East Sepik province, located along the shores of the Bismarck Sea—as idyllic. So much so that she created a fine jewelry collection inspired by the time she spent combing the province’s remote beaches and atolls.
Rife with shell and nautilus designs in 18k gold, the Arcadia collection from Maison Tjoeng, the Singapore-based jewelry brand Tjoeng founded in 2017, is the latest example of a summertime jewelry trend that has recently gone year-round and high-end.
Although jewelry inspired by shells is nothing new, most of what’s in the market is more trinket than keepsake (think cheap throwaway pieces sold to tourists in seaside resorts). What distinguishes the 2022 crop of shell-inspired designs is the quality, craftsmanship, and branding behind them.
Tjoeng’s designs, for example, are at once modern and organic, and carry the heft of statement pieces. “They highlight the sculptural beauty of gold and are accented with natural step-cut diamonds,” Tjoeng tells JCK.
She is joined in her love of shells, and the childhood adventures they recall, by designers such as Renna Brown-Taher, whose Renna Jewels brand is known for its varied collection of 18k gold and gemstone shell jewels. In fact, the designer got her start after being inspired by the shell jewelry her mother created after they discovered two coffee bean shells at Salt Creek Beach in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Among the shell pieces high-end jewelers have recently introduced are literal designs that look as if they were plucked from a beach and set in gold (cue Berlin-based Alina Abegg’s pink enamel earrings), stylized designs that mimic the silhouette of a shell without any of the verisimilitude (see the gem-set Loquet London charm for a stellar example), as well as cowrie shell styles derived from sea snails.
What unites all designers drawn to the natural beauty of shells is the shared knowledge that they would be nowhere without their designer-in-chief, Mother Nature.
Top: Arcadia earrings in 18k gold with 0.535 ct. t.w. diamonds, $16,544; Maison TjoengFollow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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