Basel 2002: Imagination Unbound

Jewelry design this year is an exercise in imagination, as designers attempt to lure buyers by infusing new jewelry with innovative ideas rather than costly materials.

The resulting key fashion trends include versatile jewelry that offers the wearer several options in one piece; interesting finishes in place of diamond accents; and a surge in stones like quartz, moonstone, mother-of-pearl, onyx, and amber.

On the color front, turquoise is the hottest stone of the year so far, but designers also showed plenty of coral, signaling an emerging trend. For example, David Yurman’s extensive turquoise line for spring and summer foreshadows what will likely be a coral-intense fall and winter for the designer. Similarly hued stones—from orange into brown—also had a strong showing at Basel.

Designers also used color to create interesting effects. Mixing various colored gemstones, for example, was a popular ploy. The democratization of materials is another idea whose time has come. Diamond and silver combinations pioneered the trend a few years back, and now designers are combining diamond accents not with the usual precious gemstones but with lower-priced stones like turquoise.

Unusual takes on the usual suspects. It’s not news that traditional motifs are popular this year. Hearts, crosses, and nature themes remain strong, but designers are taking imaginative approaches to them. Gavello’s crosses are stretched to unlikely proportions, Carrera y Carrera uses the rose as background instead of focus in its new Garden of Roses line, and La Nouvelle Bague’s Quori line has hearts sliding off the edges of the jewelry.

Basel also boasted swarms of butterflies in everything from brooches to rings. The delicate form is strengthened this year by both its traditional style and its symbolism. Mikimoto, for example, dubbed its line of butterflies the Freedom Collection, creating a special piece with subtle burnished rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. The brooch is slated for auction, with proceeds earmarked for a Sept. 11th related charity.

Another strong motif this year is the eye or teardrop shape. A new take on the old marquise cut—the eye shape is present in the cut of both stones—is seen in Sequoia’s new Flame Collection’s teardrop-shaped semiprecious gems as well as in the actual shape of pieces like Jeannette Fossas’s new stack rings.

This way or that. It may not be new, but the popularity of versatility is news this year. The concept ranges from twists on traditional interpretations—like the new extra-long pearl and semiprecious stone multi-strand lariat-style necklaces at Gobet—to innovative ideas that represent feats of engineering. Dakessian, for example, put to shame the common brooch-to-pendant combination, showing a diamond brooch that breaks down into pendant and earrings.

Dropping the silhouette. It may show movement in its design, but the drop style is not moving off the trend radar screen. Still a favorite of designers, this popular look shows itself in drop earrings and draping necklaces that reinterpret the lariat.

Meanwhile, bangles and cuffs are strong trends in the bracelet category, and ring styles favor large, bold designs—especially in high-polished gold, with minimal sprinkles of diamonds, or with unusual gemstone pavé. CR Bruner, for example, fashioned gems into a Burburry-inspired plaid.

All ends of the spectrum. Though clothing fashion may be turning to more traditional lines, jewelers are far from conservative in their use of gemstones this season. A hot new trend that emerged at Basel is rough, natural, or uncut stones. Coleman Douglas wowed buyers with big, raw amber pieces dangling like pendants from chains of keshi pearls. FR Hueb showed rough aquamarine in a large cocktail ring, and rutilated quartz was a favorite throughout the show.

Color mixing is also gathering momentum, as illustrated by the increasing number of pieces displaying rainbows, such as Tamara Comolli’s Marrakesh and Candy bracelets.

Contrasting the bright gems are neutrals like brown tourmalines or gray sapphires or, more commonly, black rhodium. More companies—including Damiani—are using blackened white gold for contrast. Stenzhorn, for example, used black rhodium to offset brilliant fire opals in a pavé heart pendant.