The Bling From Basel

The only thing more intoxicating than the smell of narcissus outside Hall 2.0 at Baselworld was the new crop of jewels inside. Designs at the March 2010 World Watch and Jewellery Fair highlighted wearability (e.g., long necklaces that offer multiple layering options for the neck or wrist) and affordability—even high-end firms showed lower-priced lines.

The big story at Mikimoto? Length. A double strand of blackened 18k gold chains studded with Tahitian pearls measures 30 inches and 36 inches (priced at $5,500). Whopping 100-inch akoya strands, which Mikimoto debuted two years ago, made a dramatic comeback—perfect for achieving that Audrey Hepburn-in-Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s look (starting at $20,000). And more South Seas varieties—like a 50-inch strand of whites for $135,000 (prices for 100-inchers-available upon request)—were on view. Meanwhile, Australian brand Autore unveiled an endless strand of nickel-size white South Seas pearls long enough to swing in a game of Double Dutch.

Also of note from the pearl world: varying shapes and sizes paired with other beaded gems in random, contemporary arrangements. Utopia Pearl used Tahitian and South Seas gems with decorative 18k gold and diamond beads; Gellner mixed its pearls with rough-cut diamonds. David Yurman teamed Tahitians with onyx and diamond-studded, blackened silver beads for edgy, minimalist bracelets and single- and multi-strand necklaces.

Bronze with 18k gold and diamond accent; Isabelle Fa, Eisingen, Germany; 49-723-238-1660; 

Down another corridor, Stephen Webster also went long. The English designer displayed Stiletto drop earrings and long pendants, the latter ideal for filling the void on dresses with plunging necklines or glamorizing simple shifts. His latest collection, Astro Balls, features whimsical zodiac-motif pendants in sterling silver and 18k gold plate with oversized Swarovski crystals. These are priced to move at $500 retail.

More designers seem to be following in Webster’s footsteps—he moved into silver two years ago—on a mission to democratize lines. Roberto Coin added thinner bracelets and stacking rings to his Capri Plus collection of silver and gold plate -jewelry, launched last year in Las Vegas; prices start at less than $1,000 retail. (“I want to make my jewelry more accessible to everyone,” Coin explained to JCK.) Other high-end brands have now launched silver lines: Italian goldsmiths Nanis, Russian diamond design house Jewellery Theatre, and German gold-chain manufacturer Isabelle Fa. And perhaps inspired by Italian manufacturer Rebecca—which has essentially made bronze a staple in many U.S. fine jewelry stores—Isabelle Fa upped its production of bronze, tossing in an occasional sterling or 18k gold link to boost a piece’s perceived value. Isabelle Fa brought out bronze only one year ago; suggested retail prices start at $2,665.