Out of the Woods

Nature, a perennial theme among jewelry designers, provides a host of inspirational colors, textures, shapes, and even sounds. At various times, one or another element of the natural world has attained trend-of-the-moment status, only to be surpassed by a new theme when the moment passes. Elephants, panthers, butterflies, celestial beings—all have had their time in the spotlight during the last decade. Jeweled flowers and insects are always fashionable, at times even hot. Now it’s leaves and vines, as the varied examples on these pages attest.

How long will the leaf motif remain popular? No one can say for sure, but one way to gauge the popularity and longevity of current design themes and discern themes to come is to look at other categories, such as progressive fashion houses. For example, almost three years ago, Prada created a sandal with straps that resembled twigs.

You can also discover popular design themes by looking at home accessories. The sun, moon, and stars motifs that flooded the jewelry industry a few years ago were also common themes in products for the home. Candlesticks, linens, glassware, and even furniture were embellished with heavenly bodies, and the colors of the evening and night sky often were repeated in the home. Meanwhile, a resurgence of spirituality focused attention on different avenues to transcendence and fulfillment, including angels, crystals, meditation, and the healing power of gemstones.

Now furniture, dishes, linens, and decorative objects are being embellished with leaves, twigs, vines, and textures resembling tree bark, and there’s been a revival of “earth” colors. The new earth tones are a far cry from the orange-based rusts of the 1970s; these are cooler, more realistic tonal reminders of tree bark and fallen leaves, clean whites reminiscent of newly fallen snow, foggy grays, and leafy greens. The search for spirituality has expanded into products that help provide a tangible sense of balance in the here-and-now. Consumers are exploring earth-based ways to experience well-being, such as aromatherapy (based on essential oils of various plants), herb-infused teas, beeswax candles, and natural soaps.

One way to assess a trend’s current place in the “in”-vs.-“out” cycle is to determine where it’s most popular and where it fits into larger trends. Remember, what may seem like old news to you at trade shows may just be catching on with consumers. For example, the tidal wave of white-on-white jewelry came to the wholesale level at least two years before it fully penetrated all levels of the retail jewelry market. But if a trend is already popular in multiple product categories and at all levels of the market, then chances are it’s at its peak. That’s not to say you should drop it like a hot potato, or that your customers won’t still love and wear the jewelry they’ve bought, but it’s probably prudent to keep an even closer eye on how quickly it turns. Christine Yorke, a consultant for the World Gold Council, says that nature themes are classic, but you do begin to see shifts in how each is interpreted. A literal design this year, for example, may become more stylized next year.