Jewelry Design at Basel: On the Move

A classic bracelet charm by German designer Tamara Comolli brings to mind a roulette wheel. The new Dizzler line by Bucherer offers rings with moving parts that spin so effortlessly an engineer would applaud. These are some examples of jewelry’s new movement.

Others realized the theme of restlessness through versatility. For example, Mikimoto—a paragon of classicism—offers a new line of pearls on silk cords or leather bands that can be reconfigured and worn several ways. Lariat styles, which also suggest movement, continue to be strong in everything from gold chain to gemstones. The popularity of its sensual drop form has generated a slew of other looks, like a choker from Spanish designer Carrera y Carrera that drops several long chains for a waterfall effect. Similarly, drop earrings are important, both in sinuous forms as well as in firmer or chunkier versions that offer a more substantial look.

The idea of movement carried through into other forms as well, often in designs that broke from traditional jewelry looks. The Italian firm Legnazzi, for example, uses swirling channels of onyx against pavé diamonds to create the illusion of a brilliant animal skin.

White puts up a fight. Yellow gold has usurped the power of white metals in fashion pages, on runways, and in the lines of fine jewelry’s leading designers. But white metals are not giving ground without a fight.

Though yellow has an edge over white in terms of fashion, platinum still has its fans, and white gold is still a favorite among Italian designers. But it was a new breed of white metals that stole the Basel show: Following in the footsteps of watchmakers, fine jewelers are harnessing the strength of stainless steel. While many, like Stahl Design, have offered stainless jewelry for several years, U.S. buyers have been hesitant to embrace this “unusual” metal. Watch companies that popularized such products as steel and diamond watches, however, have worn down resistance to the concept of stainless as a precious metal. Consumers today are accustomed to stainless accessories as a luxury product, and steel jewelry lines are the by product.

Lorraine Garvey of Stahl Design says that after several years, U.S. retailers are finally understanding the concept and buying stainless-steel jewelry. Even the most upscale designers are now embracing the crossover. Roberto Coin, for example, well known for his luxurious 18k gold and diamond jewelry, introduced in Basel a stainless-steel jewelry line that features 18k gold only as accents.

Alfex watches, meanwhile, reversed roles with the many jewelry companies that have crossed over into watches during the past few years. Alfex introduced a stainless jewelry line that not only extends the brand into jewelry but also pairs popular watch styles with complementary jewelry lines. According to Alfex U.S. president Daniel Bogue, steel offers strength, lightness, and price points that consumers appreciate. Steel, unlike silver or white gold, also offers a gray patina not unlike that of platinum.

The second front in the white campaign at Basel this year was the introduction of a new metal—an alloy of platinum and silver. Mikimoto was among those showing the platinum/silver combination.

Brown diamonds delight. The buzz about brown diamonds became a roar as the stones took the lead in the fashion category. Going by taste-tempting names such as chocolate, champagne, and cognac, these diamonds were prominently featured by leading designers, including Damiani, Mikimoto, SB Gold, and Pasquale Bruni. In a true reflection of the European Union, the stone was equally prevalent among Italian, French, and other European designers. According to several design companies, their new brown diamond lines came in direct response to requests by their Japanese customers. The stones were available in all forms but were especially popular set in pavé by companies such as New Italian Art and Bruni.

Citrus splash. Pastels and opaque stones are getting plenty of attention, but the color story of the year is citrus brights. Yellow and orange are popular, but green—especially in the form of bright tsavorite—is the new favorite, and manufacturers looked for new and unconventional ways to show the earthy color. Designer de Grisogono, for example, set deep green emeralds against a backdrop of black diamonds. Even classic institutions such as Picchiotti embraced the move toward fashion this year, showing such eye-popping creations as brooches that combined brown diamonds and tsavorite.