LAS VEGAS — At the fine jewelry show known as Couture Las Vegas a few weeks ago, there was one big take-away: The sky's the limit. With the economy recovering and gold prices dropping, the fine jewelry business is booming. I talk with Los Angeles Times Assistant Managing Editor Alice Short about the trends in jewelry in the video here.
Notably, gold is back. Gold prices surged over most of the last decade, peaking at nearly $1,900 an ounce in August 2011 and forcing jewelry designers to adjust by augmenting their collections with lower-priced metals such as silver and copper. But gold prices have been on a steady decline since last fall, now hovering around $1,400 an ounce, which has opened the door for a new gold rush.
“Chunky jewelry, heavy gold, big stones.… It's like ‘Dynasty' all over again!” said New York-based jewelry designer Amedeo Scognamiglio, whose 12-year-old Faraone Mennella collection first gained fame after costume designer Patricia Field used it on “Sex and the City.”
Scognamiglio was one of hundreds of high-end designers who presented billions of dollars' worth of jewels to retailers and press at the five-day haute trade show that wrapped up June 3. Besides noticing that fine jewelry folks are one well-manicured group, I spotted several trends:
Gold is big and bold
Chunky gold chains, oversized links and thick cuffs in yellow, white and especially rose gold were everywhere. I was particularly drawn to Roberto Coin's new Pois Moi collection of bold, modern-looking geometric gold cuffs with polka dot details ($2,500 to $13,100, on sale beginning in late September at RobertoCoin.com) and to Faraone Mennella's classic “Mama” chain link necklaces, which come with or without diamonds ($11,860 to $55,200), and “Bullet” cuff bracelets with whiskey citrines, aquamarines and other stones in bold gold, bullet-shaped settings ($77,200 to $169,800 at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills and FaraoneMennella.com).
Opals aren't going anywhere
Naturalistic or sleek but always completely hypnotic, opals — especially orange-hued Mexican fire opals — remain hot. Santa Fe-based Katherine Jetter, who has helped popularize the stones over the past five years, showed amazing pieces, including an Aussie Red Back Spider Ring ($50,000) featuring a Mexican fire opal, opal flower rings, opal drop pendants and a rare, 306-karat Lightning Ridge loose opal stone called “The Royal One,” priced at $3 million. Jetter's collection ($1,500 to more than $80,000) is available at select Neiman Marcus stores and at Geary's. L.A.-based designer Irene Neuwirth considers opals “more precious than diamonds.” Her one-of-a-kind rose gold, mixed Mexican fire opal, Lightening Ridge opal, Colombian emerald and rose cut diamond necklace ($102,960) was unforgettable. Neuwirth's collection is at Barneys New York.
Jewelry designers have found new real estate on the hand to adorn with knuckle rings, cross-bar rings, hand chains and hand bars that sit across the knuckles. It's personal, sexy and looks fresh. And it can be admired by the wearer in a way earrings or a necklace can't be. L.A.-based Colette Steckel's diamond hand piece consists of snakes that slither around the fingers ($35,000 at Broken English in L.A.). Hong Kong-based Wendy Yue's full-finger “Diamond Tree” ring-and-bracelet piece ($38,000 at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills) is a gem garden of flowers, leaves and vines.
One of a kind
Increasingly, women are demanding jewelry they won't see on anyone else, and designers are answering by creating one-of-a-kind pieces with found treasures. Indian jewelry designer Coomi Bhasin incorporates artifacts such as Mesopotamian-era arrowheads into her work, to create pieces that are not only one-of-a-kind jewelry but also pieces of history. (The Coomi Arrowhead collection, $5,000 to $165,000, will be available at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills this fall.) Sylvie Corbelin, a Paris-based antiques dealer-turned-jewelry designer, draws inspiration from medals, ancient cameos and war trophies to create objets d'art that are rough but refined ($1,000 to $100,000 at Maxfield L.A.). Milan-based Lucifer Vir Honestus designer Luna Scamuzzi makes jewelry that's organic with an edge, including “Pennacchio” rings ($3,511) that are meant to be stacked on one finger, dangling baroque pearls as big as gumballs. (The collection, $1,500 to $82,000, is available at Persimmon in Los Angeles.) And New York-based Monique Pean uses materials such as fossilized dinosaur bone and wooly mammoth tusk to create sustainable jewelry that's modern-meets-the-Jurassic Age. (The collection, $1,000 to $100,000, is at Barneys New York.)
Butterflies are a timeless inspiration for jewelry, and a symbol of love in China, where new money is flowing. Italian jeweler Damiani's 4,610-carat butterfly collar is classically elegant [price upon request, call Damiani Beverly Hills at (310) 862-1320], while Pasquale Bruni's butterfly ring ($14,440 at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills) is pretty and playful. Sylvie Corbelin's sculpturally balanced earrings ($26,500) are a mobile interpretation of butterflies in flight, and Stephen Webster's Fly By Night “Within The Forest” bracelet with black diamonds and emeralds brings to mind enchanted woods [price upon request at Stephen Webster Beverly Hills, (310) 246-9500].
Jennifer Meyer is going places
A moment with jewelry designer Monique Pean
Jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth: Bling's not her thing