VicenzaOro I Raises the Curtain onThis Year’s Trends

Color Dominates New York, Orlando

The return to color continues to be the leading jewelry design trend in the United States. Exhibitors at both JCK?s Orlando show and the February Jewelers of America show in New York offered a veritable palette of beautifully colored gemstones, many of which were combined with yellow or, increasingly, pink gold. For example, at the JA show, Rhode Island-based designer Paul Lantuch showed a selection of yellow gold rings with excellent-quality specimens of Mali garnet, Mandarin garnet, and yellow-green tourmaline, which looked almost like peridot. In Orlando, Maine designer Patricia Daunis featured a selection of rings with pink gold and various shades of tourmaline.

Colored gold and colored gemstones were the primary newsmakers and, according to exhibitors, what retailers were most interested in seeing first. The white look, however, is far from over. Rather than becoming passé, it seems to be evolving into the ?little black dress? of jewelry; i.e., no longer news, just an essential part of every woman?s wardrobe. White and color is also popular, such as an emerald-cut tanzanite flanked by two trillion diamonds in an 18k white gold ring shown by designer Diana Heimann of New York. ?Lots of people set tanzanite in yellow, but I think white just makes it pop,? she said.

Pearls also continue to be popular, especially Tahitian and South Seas varieties, and especially when combined with other gemstones and metals. In metals, the prevailing trends remain delicate, lacy, woven, and winding-ribbon looks. Jewelry proportions continue to gradually grow, but some avant-garde companies, such as the Italian firm Balocchi Preziosi, went for broke with huge chunky gemstone bead necklaces, carved rings, and blocky cuff bracelets.

Attending Italy?s VicenzaOro I, the first show of the worldwide spring jewelry season, is like being present at the birth of the year?s design trends. At this year?s January show, trends were more evolutionary than revolutionary, but they clearly indicated that retailers should start stocking up on oval, rectangular, and pear-shaped gems.

These traditional, classic cuts, which had fallen from popularity in recent years, enjoyed a tremendous comeback in both diamond and colored gemstone jewelry at the fair. They looked especially new when mounted horizontally rather than vertically and in either a bezel setting or?the newest?a large, single gemstone flush-set with the Elongated shapes also were featured in freeform pendant designs, in long cushion-cut gemstones, and in drops and dangles, which are still quite popular. The newest drops and dangles most often incorporate either a pear shape (faceted, for the most part) or a sphere (diamond pavé or pearl) at the end. Briolette-cut gems are still being shown as drop elements, but a bezel-set faceted pear was the newer fashion.

The Italians are masters at taking standard elements and using them in new ways, as jewelry in Vicenza so well illustrated. For example, some manufacturers, like Technigold, have taken basic chain (such as cobra or herringbone), woven it into a semi-rigid construction, and used it to make cuff bracelets and rings. The woven chain is usually given structure and support with thin bands of solid gold on the edges. The use of chain as a design element isn?t confined to manufacturers of basic chain, however. For example, Fope, a high-end gold firm, uses elements of its signature chain as a design on pendants, earrings, and other pieces of jewelry.

In pearl jewelry, designers are mixing whites and blacks with white or yellow metals, sometimes in combination with colored diamond pavé. The newest designs combine pink pearls with white metals. Potato-shaped baroque pearls were featured frequently, another example of the renewed interest in elongated shapes.

Gold-as-fabric was a highlight at many exhibitors? booths. There were pieces incorporating gold mesh and gold basketweave finishes and scarves literally made of gold (comprising hundreds of ultrafine chains woven or bunched together). This look was represented most often in yellow gold but also in some white pieces. It looked quite new in white.

Sizewise, the trends were diverse. There was big, there was little, there was everything in between. ?Medium? seems to be the way the proportion question was most often resolved. Most of the biggest looks were confined to rings and cuff bracelets, and, of course, a few significant necklaces for evening. Not much was tiny, save for some earrings. Designs incorporating very small elements, such as delicate chain, used them in multiple layers to provide substance.

Cutouts, a trendy motif in the upcoming spring/summer ready-to-wear collections, continued to be popular in gold jewelry, but the interpretation has shifted. In previous years, the cutouts themselves had a recognizable shape (stars and moons, for example) in a flat sheet of metal. Now, the entire piece defines the form, and the cutouts provide visual interest. A star-shaped brooch, for example, might have long slashes cut out of the entire piece, like some kind of strange, modern lace?or the way a sheer curtain looks after your cat has climbed it.

Trends from previous seasons that carried into this year include colored gemstones, white metals, diamond pavé (which the Italians seem to do better than anybody else), and multiple-strand chains.