Sleek Silver, Super Stones

The predominant design news at the fine jewelry shows has been the gradual encroachment of colored gemstones into the firmly ensconced trend of white-on-white-on-white. Colored gemstones mixed with white gold and platinum first made a splash at VicenzaOroI in early 1998. Earlier on, the style was to use mostly pastel gemstones, such as pink tourmaline and aquamarine, but it evolved to include dark and vibrant tones like rubies, chrome tourmalines, and sapphires. It has grown slowly but steadily in white gold and platinum jewelry, but colored gemstones paired with sterling silver have always been popular.

Jewelry design is generally more egalitarian in its origins than apparel design. Until recently, most apparel fashion trends evolved in one direction: down the economic scale. New looks were presented at the haute couture and designer ready-to-wear shows, then interpreted in much less costly versions for the general population. But in the early 1990s, fashion designers suddenly began finding inspiration in popular and street culture, resulting in design trends that percolated in a new direction: up.

Because of the cost of precious metals and gems, some of the most innovative jewelry design has come from artisans working in the fashion jewelry sector or in sterling silver. Silver has the advantage of being both affordable and precious, and many of the colored gemstones frequently paired with silver also are affordable. Thus, designers have been able to experiment with a variety of gemstone combinations set in silver, or in silver mixed with a touch of gold. The resulting jewelry ranges from casual and funky to timeless and elegant.

Diana Shiel, public relations manager for the Silver Information Center, predicts that flower motifs will be the coming rage, much as butterflies, dragonflies, and bumblebees have been popular motifs this year.

Some of the leading silver jewelry trends for 1999 follow the same themes as white gold and platinum jewelry. These include pretty, romantic chokers; layered, beaded necklaces; pendants; and drop earrings accented with gray or pastel-colored pearls and gemstones, according to SIC. Other gemstones popular for romantic silver jewelry include moonstone, reticulated quartz, and crystal.

Among the other top silver jewelry trends SIC says are gathering momentum for upcoming seasons are:

  • Sleek, textured, modern silver in architectural, geometric, or organic shapes.

  • Brushed and satin finishes, lightly hammered surfaces, oxidation, granulation, and lacy textures.

  • Chokers, stackable rings, and large rings with faceted stones. Longer necklaces, with movement, and larger pendants.

  • High-end silver with 18k or higher karatages of gold accents.

  • Precious hair ornaments, especially with gemstone, crystal, and pearl accents.