You want a piece of me
By Bianca Mangion
More jewellery companies are creating "emotional" jewellery, ensuring people can keep their friends close – really close. BIANCA MANGION gets emotional.
From traditional to fashionable, whimsical to sombre, jewellery can warm hearts, speak words, spark memories and bring tears to the eye. Sure, all jewellery is personalised over time. Hallmarked with memories, the piece of silver or gold is used to symbolise an event, milestone or person in the wearer’s life. But some pieces go one step further. They evoke emotions as soon as the box is opened; sometimes even embodying part of that cherished person within the piece, as part of its design.
For some jewellery designers, capturing emotion is the essence of their work.
Against the worrying backdrop of the global financial crisis, retailers may find consumers spending more prudently – tending only to buy jewellery for special occasions. And this, according to some suppliers, means emotional jewellery will win more hearts.
“With the decline in the market, jewellery is a luxury item and therefore bought mostly for occasions,” says John Michaelis, director of supplier AM imports. “Occasions are emotional, and emotions enhance the meaning of the piece.”
Chris Worth, sales and marketing, Worth and Douglas agrees: “The current financial situation makes customers think a little harder about the purchases they make, and an item that has a personal connection is viewed as a more meaningful, lasting purchase.”
When looking for an emotional, classic piece of jewellery that will last for generations, customers often think of lockets. Usually heart or oval-shaped, they keep photographs of those close to one’s heart, literally close to one’s heart – suspended from a chain that dangles over the wearer’s breastbone, making that person a part of the piece.
“A locket is quite a personal piece, because what is inside the locket is kept hidden from view,” Michaelis says. “Lockets are essentially keepers of memories.”
Appealing to all wearers of all ages, and for several different occasions, AM Imports’ locket collection is mainly in sterling silver, with some 9-carat yellow gold versions also available. Michaelis says the design has a hidden hinge so it is not visible from the front and doesn’t disturb the shape of the locket. A light, transparent, plastic film goes over the image to hold it in place, and the wearer is even able to put strands of hair in it – not dissimilar to a piece of mourning jewellery.
“They appeal to anyone who wants to gift to someone they love and feel a special bond to,” Michaelis says. “Commemorative jewellery is suitable for any occasion, deeply personal but also quite readily accepted as gifts.”
Another supplier doing lots of lockets is Joseph R Lycett, whose point of difference is to craft all lockets from British hallmarked sterling silver. Moreover, these lockets can hold not just one, but four photographs – opening up from the regular heart or oval shape to reveal multi-layered frames.
“A collection of photos that you can wear close to your heart, with you at all times,” describes business operator Fiona Margaret Lycett. “Customers can engrave initials on the front, making them feel unique, as it is the only one like it in the world with that engraving and those photos.”
Lycett will be releasing marcasite versions at the Sydney Jewellery Fair this year.
Another traditional, albeit less obvious way to represent loved ones in jewellery is a Dearest gem-set ring or pendant.
Dearest jewellery spells the word “dearest” in stones that represent each letter of the word: “d” for diamond, “e” for emerald, “a” for amethyst, “r” for ruby, “e” for emerald, “s” for sapphire and “t” for topaz.
Other takes on this include using gems to represent the birthstones or zodiac stones of loved ones.
One company has recently taken such traditional, emotional gemstone jewellery and modernised it for a new generation.
Gem Drops from Worth & Douglas allow wearers to represent their special milestones with coloured gems, designed to hang from a bangle. Available in 9 and 18-carat gold and sterling silver, Gem Drops are set with either semi-precious or synthetic stones.
“The Gem Drops range appeals to many people – from mothers wanting to mark the births of their children, to those commemorating birthdays and anniversaries, or for the individual who wishes to make their own Gem Drop bracelet for any event, occasion or emotion,” Worth says.
Gem Drops can be purchased individually, or complete with a new bangle. Customers can choose their desired Gem Drop, which the jeweller can attach to their existing bangle, or order the bangle and Gem Drop complete from Worth & Douglas.
Another modern, fashionable way to represent a special person or milestone is with a charm. Charms and new-age charm bracelets definitely need no introduction. They have taken the jewellery world by storm in recent years and seem here to stay.
“The current personalised charm ranges will no doubt go down in worldwide history as 21st century jewellery phenomena,” says Peter Burgess, managing director of Silverado charm supplier B Luscious.
The Silverado range is manufactured from sterling silver and 14-carat gold, authentic Murano Glass, precious and semi-precious gemstones, CZ and
“The Silverado range was created to reflect real life and fantasy and made in different sizes to create rhythm up and down along the bracelet. Thus was born the ‘Rhythm of Life’ theme,” Burgess says. “The inspiration covers many factors including fantasy, love, life, family, desires and everyday living.”
The range is continually evolving, with over 100 new designs currently in production including more pieces for the popular Bling range and pieces using Murano Glass with detailed silver beads. There is also a dangle charm range due for release and a series of rings.
“It is now common to have more than one charm bracelet – each one individually created for personal reasons. A Silverado charm bead can be given on so many occasions aside from all the obvious ones,” Burgess says. “There are all those other times you just want to say, ‘thank you’, ‘I’m thinking of you’, ‘I love you’ or ‘congratulations’.”
A piece of jewellery can speak a thousand words, but for those who prefer things a little more obvious, there’s jewellery pre-engraved with poetry. Blue Turtles’ Poetic Pieces range of pendants, rings, charms and bracelets feature the famous quotes of prominent luminaries and visionaries inscribed in sterling silver.
“Positive affirmation is widely accepted as a powerful tool for creating positive results,” says creator Doron Berger. “It's only natural that people will find jewellery that reflects such values more and more appealing. With Poetic Pieces jewellery, one can constantly keep ideas and sentiments that strike a chord with them, nearby.”
A range of gemstone charms will soon be added to the collection, with new quotes of course.
Customers who like the idea of engraved jewellery may choose to put their own special message on a ring or bracelet. Gold jewellery supplier Peter W Beck provides a flawless font on jewellery like baby bangles and wedding rings as part of its Express Yourself Engraving Service – covering a range of pieces.
“Our range of engraved baby bangles will appeal to new parents or those family members looking for that unique gift,” says Rachel Heir, marketing manager, PWB. “They can be made in most metals – gold, platinum, silver, and a selected range in palladium.”
The engraving option is also available for rings and adult bangles: “When purchasing a ring or bangle from PWB, the customer needs to, via the retailer, include information and a personalised message they want engraved on the order. They can choose from a number of sizes and fonts. From here the ring or bangle can be made.”
New to the range is the laser-engraved Orion ring. This can be personalised for any occasion and is great for matched sets such as wedding bands, according to Heir. New laser engraved designs will also be released in time for the Sydney Jewellery Fair.
Having your loved-one’s name or message engraved in metal is one thing, having their face is another. That’s exactly what Image Gold sets out to do. The aptly-named service, provided by Imagine Jewellery Concepts, laser-engraves a photograph of a loved one onto gold.
“We have brought the machinery and technology to Australia from Italy, where photo-engraved pendants are hugely popular,” says Imagine Jewellery Concepts director Tim Gunton. “All of the pendants are manufactured here and engraved at our office.”
There are two Image Gold ranges – the classic range has been designed with classic, clean lines to best display the photo images, while the designer range incorporates diamond and coloured gemstone selections.
While Gunton says Image Gold is suitable to be gifted for all occasions, the pendants are often popular ways of commemorating a late loved one.
“Many pendants are purchased to ease the pain of a loved one passing away. Wearing the pendant with their loved one's image seems to bring comfort. There are even testimonies of jewellers having customers burst into tears when they come to pick their pendant up,” he says.
New to Image Gold will be a stainless steel and cubic zirconia pendant range, including new styles for gents, plus a new range of watches with photo-engraving on the dials – to be released at the Sydney Jewellery Fair.
Taking it one step further is Gemory, a US company using nanotechnology to inscribe photographs onto diamonds, which can then be viewed using a portable viewer.
The PureDiamond process uses nanotechnology to inscribe photos in high resolution on the surface of any diamond, pearl or other gem. It does not damage the diamond and the inscription can be removed by the company if the customer chooses, while still maintaining the gem's colour, carat, clarity and cut.
David Leroy, Gemroy’s marketing and communications director, stresses that the process doesn’t devalue the diamond in any way: “The diamond submitted to gemmological laboratory EGL USA for identification and brilliance measurement before we start, then re-graded afterwards to show it still has the same properties.”
Gemory even allows for more than one photograph to be engraved, creating a perpetual family album: “Future generations can add their own photos and create a lasting record of family lineage,” Leroy says.
With such services, customers never need to feel detached from their diamond again, but for those who wish to have jewellery with even more personal significance, there is one company that makes the most of a bad situation by turning the ashes of a deceased loved one into a diamond.
“LifeGem founder Rusty VandenBiesen devised the idea from his own issues with mortality. He didn’t like the idea of burial or ashes in an urn after death and was looking for something that would make him feel better about death,” explains Dean Vanden Biesen, operations manager of US-based LifeGem, adding that diamonds can be made from the locks of hair of living people, also.
“We extract carbon from a lock of hair or cremated remains, and then we use high pressure and high temperature to create a diamond.”
Usually purchased after a death to remember someone who has passed, Biesen says LifeGem’s ability to create diamonds from hair is growing in popularity for the simple reason that no one has to die first.
“In the future there will be more of a focus on LifeGem diamonds made from locks of hair for weddings and anniversaries,” Biesen says.
Diamonds with DNA! But if you don’t want to die for personalised jewellery, there’s nothing more unique about a person than their fingerprint.
The Loving Touch brand from sterling silver supplier Kit Heath allows retailers to purchase casting kits, take fingerprints in their stores and send the impressions back to Kit Heath to be fashioned into jewellery.
“I see this as being a huge market for jewellers because there’s no outlay and the technology is extremely easy to use,” Kit Heath director Tommy Painter told Jeweller in February this year. “They’re good for marriages because couples can swap fingerprints, they’re good to give to grandparents at christenings and, if someone passes away, I can organise for morticians to take prints.”
Painter, who says he’s still developing the brand, has begun by offering flat, sterling silver ovals and hearts for use as fingerprinted pendants and charms, but he plans to work with all metals and jewellery forms in the future.
But it’s not just precious metals and gems that are getting “humanised”. A French design group has created an alternative jewellery material – made from plasticised human breast milk. The Duende collective was last year commissioned to create a range of objects that reflected on the theme of “eating together”. One of their creations was Perle de Lait – the milk pearl. Made from boiling the casein contained in mother’s milk with vinegar – creating a hard substance – the Perle de Lait was carved into a baby face pendant, suspended from a gold choker. Another product was a milk/metal bracelet.
“I discovered the process of making plastic out of cow’s milk by doing research for an exhibition in France,” says Anthony van den Bossche, founder of Duende Studio and Duende Collective. “Doing the same with human milk is not a problem at all. Then plastic becomes a luxury material, an unusual status for this material.”
While the Perle de Lait concept is still a prototype, plans are in place to release it commercially. According to Bossche, the process would involve the mother sending a sample of her milk to the maker and the maker sending her back the “pearl”. The mother would then decide how to set the gem – in a ring, pendant, etc.
Once they’ve decided how to set their milk pearl, consumers will need to consider how to package it. With such a wide range of very highly personalised pieces available today, a market seems to be opening for equally-personalised packaging, which is where the International Gemological Institute’s (IGI) Love View Box comes into play. This customised ring box can display pictures, play video and play audio/music, allowing the giver to communicate their love when the recipient opens their jewellery gift.
Retailers and consumers can download their own videos or photos directly to the box from their computer or other personal electronic devices.
“While technological advancements are key to our industry, so is emotionally connecting with our customers. As such, we introduced the IGI Love View Box, a successful combination of the two,” says Jerry Ehrenwald, president and CEO of IGI.
Commemorative jewellery has come a long way since the humble ID bracelet. Today, there's no event that can't be celebated, memory that can't be preserved or loved one who can't be immortalised in a piece of jewellery. Whether it’s symbolic or literal, the vast array of products on offer to consumers signifies not only the importance of this rapidly growing sector of adornment, but also the potential suppliers believe it carries. Retailers who choose to branch out into commemmorative product might just find a new and lucrative angle for consumers seeking a symbol to call their own.
And in a world where uncertainty and chaos abounds, that small level of comfort may be just what's needed.
Posted June 01, 2010