The Uncommon Touch: New Convention-Defying Jewels

My inbox is, as you can imagine, routinely flooded with emails touting new collections of jewelry. I maintain four email addresses and various publicists find me at each one, meaning that I am constantly combing through press info and images of new jewels in an effort to pinpoint trends and suss out the information that’s most relevant to our readers.

Sometimes, the product that winks at me from the screen is of a quality and styling that I know right off the bat isn’t going to appeal to our readers. It tends to be cheap in price and derivative in appearance, and seems more appropriate for a gift shop than a fine jewelry retail store.

Other times, however, I receive info about collections that are so fine they aren’t even available to our readers. Rather, the designers behind these collections tend to sell their work directly to collectors; wholesale inquiries are brushed aside. When publicists representing these kinds of jewels reach out to me, I have to determine if promoting a collection most readers of JCK will never see makes sense—which it does if the jewels have an uncommon aesthetic or represent an important trend in the marketplace.

Two collections that recently came to my attention fulfilled both of these criteria, and so here I am sharing them with you. The first one is designed by Lauren Adriana, a London-based and Central Saint Martins–trained designer whose work is new to me. An email talking up her new Alchimia collection “of magnificent jewels crafted in unconventional materials,” arrived unbidden in my Gmail inbox a couple weeks ago. I scrolled through it in a perfunctory manner—until the images of her pieces stopped me cold.

Original and bold, the collection combines traditional materials like gold and diamonds with patinated copper, bronze, and anodized aluminum. “Just as an artist appropriates materials for his purpose, so too can the jeweller,” Adriana said in a statement accompanying the email. “Jewellery houses are tied to value, destined to repeat the same combinations of materials; gold and platinum, diamonds and emeralds, rubies and sapphires. I want to create progressive jewels for my generation—to conceive an unlimited palette, and design a jewel that has no boundaries.”

The signature piece of the collection is the Osiris Ring, whose name evokes the Egyptian god of the afterlife. Its most dramatic feature is a cognac-hued rutilated quartz framed by stylized wings of green patinated copper. Gold, silver, diamonds and a line of green tourmaline in striking square cuts that undergird the center stone complete the design. The price is, as the Brits say, “on application.”

Osiris Ring in gold, silver, and patinated copper with rutilated quartz, green tourmaline, and diamonds; price on request; Lauren Adriana

Different in appearance but equally striking in style are Adriana’s Aperture Earrings, Blue. Rendered in bright blue anodized aluminum (aluminium in Brit-speak), the earrings feature square-cut aquamarines bezel set in yellow gold. They retail for £4,500 (about $6,843 at the current exchange rate).

Aperture Earrings, Blue in anodized aluminum and gold with aquamarines; £4,500; Lauren Adriana  

“Metals are chosen for their unique properties—be it the smooth matte black of the bronze, the textural verdigris of the copper, or the vivid luster of the aluminium—they each bring to the jewel a quality that no other could achieve,” Adriana said in the statement.

Fine jewelers’ embrace of unconventional, even everyday, metals such as titanium, copper, brass, and aluminum isn’t new. JCK covered the trend in our September 2012 “Future of Retail” issue. But the more executions we see, the clearer it becomes that the future of jewelry design rests on designers’ willingness to expand the tools available to them, reinterpreting the definition of fine to include everyday materials that take on a luxury luster when paired with top-notch stones and crafted according to the highest standards.

In fact, the second jeweler I’d like to tell you about, Hemmerle, a fascinating family-owned atelier in Munich, has built a reputation on using such materials to create collectible jewels with a famously austere aesthetic.

A couple weeks ago, the publicist that represents Hemmerle emailed me with a tantalizing three-sentence pitch: “I hope you are well,” she wrote. “I thought you might be interested in seeing Hemmerle’s latest pieces. Please find a PDF attached. They have some interesting pieces made from mammoth, dinosaur bone, and jade.”

I’ve written before about Hemmerle’s inventive approach to design, and I eagerly opened the PDF to see the results of their latest effort. I was not disappointed.

The Hemmerle ring shown here features brass, mammoth, white gold, and diamond in a setting that recalls a 21st-century version of Art Deco, its geometry tempered by the mammoth’s organic lines. 

Ring in brass and white gold with mammoth and diamond; price on request; Hemmerle 

Similarly, these earrings fashioned from copper, white gold, dinosaur bone, and spessartite garnets combine traditional jewelry materials with the beguiling work of Mother Nature—calling to mind the other defining characteristic of futuristic yet fine jewelry style. (Alas, both pieces are “price on application.”) 

Earrings in copper and white gold with dinosaur bone and spessartite garnets; price on request; Hemmerle