Fashion Facets

Sterling Silver: Y Not?

Now that the angst-ridden Generation “X” is more or less grown up, marketers are eyeing the Generation “Y” crowd, especially those in the 12-to-19 age bracket. There are 31 million of these savvy, cyber-driven teenage trendsetters and spenders. Their economic clout and influence are unlike any prior generation’s—even their parents’, the notorious Baby Boom generation. Last year alone, teenagers spent a whopping $141 billion, reports Teenage Research Unlimited of Northbrook, Ill.

“Individuality is No. 1 for kids today,” says Hayley Hill, fashion director of Teen People magazine. “They express themselves through accessories and fashion.” Gina La Morte, marketing director of teen-oriented fashion retailer Screeem, says, “It’s all about mixing different trends together and putting your own spin on things.” Accessories, she says, help teens create that look without spending a lot of money. Collectively, however, the spending adds up: The 1998 Rand Youth Poll reported that female teenage spending on clothing and jewelry rose to more than $22 billion.

One thing Generation Y has in common with its parents is silver. Linda Meehan, president of the Silver Information Center, says, “Silver has been defining teens’ fashion images since the free-spirited ’60s.” She says the category remains popular because of its affordable prices and trendy styles, but the difference today is that “both girls and guys find it so appealing.”

The Silver Information Center reports these styles are hot and hip in sterling silver jewelry:

  • Native American pieces with beading and turquoise, feathers and fringe, as well as stamped leather belts (with silver buckles).

  • Bohemian “hippie” looks, with Indian and Asian motifs in seed-beads and handcrafted silver designs; anklets; hoop and chandelier earrings; bangles; and thumb, toe, and stackable rings.

  • Body art and body piercing, which have gone mainstream. Tiny, micro-size sterling silver body and fingernail jewelry is popular with fashion leaders.

  • Silver jewelry for young men, a result of pop stars like Ricky Martin and the Backstreet Boys showing guys that it’s cool to dress up. Favorite items include heavy oxidized silver chains, bungee-cord bracelets, sleek silver and leather looks, and “cigar band” rings.

  • Pieces incorporating Far Eastern mysticism and other spiritual influences, such as silver amulets and charms with Tibetan and Nepalese motifs and symbols, prayer beads, and personal message jewelry.

For special occasions, it’s go, girl! Favored jewelry styles include girlish illusion or wire necklaces, beaded chokers, and heart and floral motifs. Hair is clasped with jeweled or silver barrettes, pins, picks, thin headbands, and claw clips.

Setting a Really Rich Table

The news that platinum jewelry sales have grown by more than 700% in seven years is not surprising to anyone in the jewelry industry, but a new product category is opening another avenue of growth for the luxury metal: tableware. According to the Platinum Guild International, tabletop manufacturers are indicating that platinum-accented fine china, crystal, and flatware are far outselling gold-accented designs in many areas of the country.

At Lenox, for example, “Federal Platinum” is one of the company’s best-selling designs. “Academy Platinum” china from the Ralph Lauren Home collection is that designer’s best-selling bridal registry pattern. The French firm Lalique reports that two platinum-accented china patterns, “Khazard” and “Prelude” from designer Jean Louis Coquet, are among its best sellers in the United States.

Platinum-rimmed crystal and platinum-toned flatware are also racking up sales. Lenox offers at least one style of each. The renowned Czech crystal maker Moser recently launched a new matte platinum band finish that is achieved by hand burnishing after firing. The technique results in surfaces that are both matte and glossy. Even a traditional stalwart like Waterford introduced “Cross-haven Platinum” last year, a pattern featuring a wide platinum floral band.

2000 Reasons To Celebrate

Wellendorff, based in Pforzheim, Germany, is making a high-carat declaration that peace and tolerance, not technology and impending doom, should be people’s focus for the coming of the year 2000. The Visionary Millennium Peace Ring, in blue enamel, incorporates a dove of peace as the unifying link for symbols of the four most prominent religions of the world: a menorah for Judaism, a wheel for Buddhism, the Christian cross, and the Islamic crescent moon.

Based on the proposition that there is no such thing as a “little bit of peace,” the ring makes a bold statement with a 1-ct. center diamond set in 18k white gold. The company’s signature diamond W is hidden in each ring. Only 200 of the special-edition rings have been made, and each sells for $35,800. They are distributed through eight U.S. retailers: Shreve & Co. in San Francisco; Cellini in New York; Hardy & Hayes in Pittsburgh; O.C. Tanner in Salt Lake City; Molina in Phoenix; Shreve, Crump, & Low in Boston; Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Calif.; and Yamron Jewelers in Naples, Fla.

For those whose budgets don’t measure up to their sentiments, Wellendorff has created a 200-piece edition of a $5,400 ring, available worldwide. The Ring of the Year 2000 is 18k yellow gold with four diamonds symbolizing the four religions.

DESIGN DISCOVERIES

Open Your Mouth And Say ‘Oooh!’

Historically, jewelry making and dentistry have had a symbiotic relationship. Many of the metalworking techniques used to make jewelry have their origins in dentistry, and it’s not unusual to see a dentist express his more creative side in jewelry design.

Indonesian-born Lolly Ong is one such designer. Long before she ever made a piece of jewelry, she studied dentistry, earning a master’s degree from the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. Twenty years later and half a world away, she earned a bachelor of science degree in studio arts from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and a master of fine arts degree in metal and jewelry from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of American Craft.

Though she gave up the tropical climate of Indonesia to move to snowy Rochester, she brings a bit of the island to each piece of her jewelry. Her artistic inspiration originates in the natural organic forms found in the flower shop her mother owned in Indonesia. “My style is expressive of the feelings of beauty invoked by the Indonesian culture. Sometimes my pieces reflect the importance of recognizing the balance in nature. By sharing my interpretations, others can also discover the satisfaction I found.”

Ong uses hammer forming, chasing, engraving, casting, and fabricating techniques to explore fully the metal’s three-dimensional potential. Most of her work is done in a mixture of 18k gold and sterling silver, and much of it is set with diamonds, unusual colored gemstones, and pearls.

Her work encompasses a wide range of retail price points, from $95 for a small pair of sterling silver and moonstone earrings to $9,800 for a necklace of 22k yellow gold and 18k pink and green gold, with diamonds. Her jewelry creations have been shown to the public at various craft shows and exhibitions and to the trade at the Buyers’ Market of American Craft in Philadelphia and the American Crafts Council Craftfair in Baltimore.

Keng Nio Lolly Ong, P.O. Box 85, Rochester, NY 14534; (716) 385-3851.

Clean and Fresh

Colorado-based Melissa Shipley likes to design jewelry that’s as fresh, clean, and unspoiled as the mountains surrounding her. Shipley, who has run her own design studio and retail shop for more than five years, graduated from the Principa College in Elsah, Ill., with a double major in the fine arts (both the studio and history aspects). She went on to study jewelry-making with a variety of designers and metalsmiths in the United States and Asia, ultimately earning a Graduate Jeweler degree from the Gemological Institute of America.

Her first collection of jewelry was presented to the public in 1993, under the banner of SAN Designs in Denver. She says she quickly carved out a niche in the competitive Denver market by offering custom-made jewelry at affordable prices. Her retail business continues to grow, and in 1997 she established Melissa Shipley Designs, a wholesale line of her clean and classic signature designs. It’s carried by Leavitt Beaty Gallery in Fort Collins, Colo., Aegis Goldsmiths in Denver, and SAN Designs Studio in Englewood, Colo. She made her trade debut in the ByDesign Pavilion at the Tucson gem shows in 1999.

Melissa Shipley Designs, 7865 S. Niagara Way, Englewood, CO 80112; (303) 741-5771.