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Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (983 Articles), GOLD JEWELLERY (686 Articles), DIAMONDS BY CUT - BRILLIANT (ROUND) (286 Articles)

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Diamonds most dainty

Uncomplicated luxury is a leading look in key diamond jewellery styles for the coming season, leaving high decoration to trail in its wake. GRETEL HUNNERUP reports.

When Jennifer Lopez stepped out sporting a 6-carat pink diamond engagement ring in 2002, women the world over took notice. Collectively they tuned into the news headlines to glimpse the whopping sparkler on her finger, then in their thousands they connected to the internet hoping to track down similar stones for themselves.

The directors of UK-based company Pink Diamonds couldn't believe their luck when, following the big announcement, they turned on their computers to discover they were receiving around 20 times their usual amount of website traffic. It was all thanks, single-handedly, to the showbiz diva's rock.

This recent trend in diamond jewellery called for a heady mix of drama, colour and plenty of movement. Showy diamond jewellery has maintained its allure, with bold and bulky styles noticeably high in demand both overseas and in Australia.

Bling, bling, bling was in, but as each fashionista knows, all trends have a shelf life, and industry players are tipping a return to understated diamond jewellery styles this spring summer season.

"I think we've taken the big and bright look as far as possible, you can really feel that we're getting to the end of it," says Ron Loccisano, director, R&L Exclusive Collections. "Big colourful diamonds will always sell, but they're going to have much less impact at Christmas this year and into the next. We are now starting to see more conservative styles and plainer lines.

"Diamonds are becoming smaller too because jewellery in general is getting smaller," Loccisano continues. "You might find that women will be going for simple, diamond-stud earrings instead of a big chandelier style, for example, and they won't be interested in fancy cuts either."

Anthea Strathdee, general manager, Sparkle Impex makes similar observations, stating, "We still get calls for pink diamonds, natural blues and fancy yellows, but the demand is nowhere near at strong as it was a couple of years ago. I don't think it's because people are necessarily sick of the look, it's more the fact that people are realising how rare and expensive those pieces are."

Many suppliers foresee a shift in interest towards designs that manage to be both unfussy and glamourous at the same time.

Streamlined charm is widely expected to become the guiding principle over the upcoming warmer months and there is plenty of trend-setting diamond jewellery on the market for retailers to choose from right now, starting with a return to pavé, but this time with a different take: micro forms.

Over the last handful of years, while standout solitaires have been the call of the day, pavé-setting technology has continued to advance dramatically.

Now it is commonplace for makers to craft spectacular pavé-style jewellery by setting hundreds of tiny diamonds together in an extremely tight grid using microscopes.

"Micro-set pieces appear to be much brighter and sleeker than normal pavé-set pieces because you can see more diamond on the band," explains Robin Sobel, director, Protea Diamonds.

It's likely that this new potential in setting technology is responsible for a minor recovery in classic pavé pieces, which many suppliers believe will show high marketability in the spring/summer season 2007-08.

"There does seem to be a resurgence happening in pavé designs, which had cooled-off for a number of years," says Sara Broadway, director, Australian Diamond Trading Corporation (ADTC).

"In response to the demand, we've got some new pavé-set pendant and earring lines coming through."

Both lines suggest a flush of sparkle and a sense of assured elegance, according to Broadway, that perhaps could not be achieved with a large, central stone.

Both Protea and the Karl Rossi Collection are also revisiting the look, launching within Australia a micro-set collection of rings, earrings and bangles in time for spring and summer.

The rise of the self-purchasing among women has also done wonders for pavé jewellery sales, according to Craig Symons, director, Osjag.

"These corporate women are happy to spend money on themselves, but they don't want something that looks like an engagement ring," he explains. "They want the thick, right-hand ring styles that are covered with many diamonds to get a striking show of stones. It's a going market these days."

Heading into the holiday season, Symons will be heavily promoting rings of this style by high-end Israeli diamond brand Oliva.

Perhaps helping the demand for simpler styles is the growing infiltration of diamond jewellery into everyday life. No longer viewed exclusively as special-occasion wear, diamonds are routinely paired with denim, suits and leisure wear and, come summertime, they'll even be matched to swimwear and sarongs.

This everyday approach to diamonds has seen manufacturers combine just a few small diamonds with affordable metals to capitalise upon a burgeoning market for affordable jewellery.

Hot Diamonds is one brand that targets this demand by offering sterling silver jewellery accented with half to two-point diamonds to consumers via thousands of outlets across the world. The formula has been supremely successful and it's one that Australian director Rory Cowan isn't willing to tamper with.

"Why change it if it works?" he asks. "Diamonds have a perceived store value and Hot Diamonds has managed to find a niche in that market."

Cowan does, however, plan to release a limited-edition range of sterling silver with slightly larger diamonds fashioned into organic and highly polished forms by Christmas; it is called Pure.

Another notable new collection placed towards the lower-end is Facets by Sparkle Impex - a range of matching stud earrings and pendants fashioned from small diamonds to give the illusion of a solitaire.

"Basically we use pie-cut diamonds to create a round shape that gives the look of a big diamond for a quarter of the price," Strathdee explains. "It's for consumers who want a solitaire but can't afford one, or consumers who just want more show for their dough."

Originating in the US, the Facets concept was released in white gold at this year's JAA Australian Jewellery Fair in Sydney and Sparkle Impex holds the exclusive rights to the designs in Australia.

Next on the diamond jewellery hit-list for this spring and summer are striking geometric patterns, bringing more clean and simple lines to the wish lists of women around Australia.

Manufacturers and jewellers around the globe have been revisiting the square, rectangle and the circle for a little while now, delivering modern and minimal angles with wonderful success.

These architecture-inspired shapes have been spotted at all the major overseas shows - usually seen as earrings, pendants, rings and cuffs dotted with small diamonds and semi-precious gemstones - and they'll continue filtering down to the Australian market.

Also part of the Osjag stable, Symons tenders the geometric style for innovative German jewellery brands Breuning and Blumer in Australia.

"The focus is on modern angular design, circles within circles, or oval shapes inside of squares," he says. "It's a very open style of jewellery instead of using big chunks of metal. That's been the trend for the last two years and we expect it to continue."

This season, Breuning and Blumer will freshen up these looks by incorporating battered gold finishes to achieve an earthy, freeform finish.

R&L Exclusive will be offering balanced and refined pendants in circles, squares and crosses that are fitted with small diamonds, while ADTC plans to promote diamond jewellery that boasts multiple geometric shapes.

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In the heavy metal stakes, white gold continues as a favourite match for white diamonds, attracting the most sales in both the bridal and general jewellery categories.

But there's an undeniable surge in different tones, and even mixtures, of gold in the diamond jewellery category.

For women looking to buy trendier styles to reward or treat themselves, diamonds and non-traditional metals offer a real option.

"I see that rose gold has definitely come back in - not for bridal - but for other kinds of diamond jewellery," Strathdee says. "Our rose gold, dress ring and domed, huggie earrings have become two of our biggest sellers and we'll continue to offer them this season."

Breuning and Blumer have also started to offer rose gold to Australian customers, according to Symons. "Like most popular trends from Europe, the trend of using rose and white gold together has taken a while to catch on in Australia," he explains, "but now it's starting to become well-accepted."

Sobel is having similar victories with yellow gold: "You won't believe it, but yellow is coming back in a strong way, especially in rural areas. This is happening because everyone's wearing silver jewellery and people want to set themselves apart.

"Before it was 70/30 white against yellow, but now it's probably 50/50," he continues. Sobel predicts that Protea's biggest summer sellers in yellow gold will likely be a heart pendant with a dome pavé-setting, a princess-cut ring complete with yellow and white gold shoulders and setting, and an invisible-set, yellow gold ring with a milgrain finish.

Broadway has a different view on yellow gold: "I don't think it's ever gone away," she says. "Certainly white gold is very strong and platinum is becoming even stronger, but yellow gold is always marketable."

And if gold could ever be described as quirky, then perhaps that time has arrived with new styles from the Karl Rossi Collection, a supplier that takes its style cues straight from the streets of Italy.

"The latest thing is 18-carat gold with patterned enamel over the top," says the group's Australian supplier Steve Der Bedrossian. "It's really big over there and we're already doing it here. It may take a while for people catch onto the enamel idea, but our clients are forward-thinking and there will be a market."

An enamel and diamond, zebra-print, dress ring with diagonal, channel-set diamonds is the kind of fresh new style to expect.

Finishes aside, another facet of diamond trends is the different pieces set to sizzle.

Will more women want to adorn their arms, necks, ears or fingers with their favourite sparkling stones this season?

One type of diamond jewellery tipped to take centre stage this summer is the bracelet. "The bracelet classification - every style of bracelet - will become the sleeper hit for fall and holiday," reported the US magazine Modern Jeweller in May, and similar results are expected in Australia.

The diamond bracelet commonly suffers a lower profile than the diamond ring or earrings; however, suppliers are taking a real interest in the category and circulating some new styles.

Sparkle Impex is re-jigging its traditional diamond-line bracelet, swapping brilliant-cut stones for princess-cuts in both channel-set bangles and bezel-set tennis bracelets.

Protea, too, has been concentrating on the bracelet, developing a yellow gold, claw-set, diamond piece to decorate wrists this season.

And one of ADTC's more interesting pieces for the warmer months is an open bangle with filigree work in yellow and white gold.

Whatever the piece, however, Australian suppliers have provided solid evidence that glitzy jewellery, with its ostentatious size and design elements, is on its way out.

The overwhelming response is that excessive bling is boring and that dainty diamonds are set to dazzle as the temperature rises.

The bigger is better principle has had a long innings and now is a fitting time for retailers to consider sleek and simplified pieces for the new season.

The hottest-selling diamond styles will be those that take classic designs and make them new, perhaps by introducing new technology such as micro-pavé or an unconventional material - like stainless steel or patterned enamel.

Of course, women will still want their diamond jewellery to make a statement, only this time they'll be looking for strong and innovative design - rather than a giant rock - to do the talking. One thing is certain: Jennifer Lopez is not going to be happy.

Natural beauty: uncut diamonds on the rise overseas

To the untrained eye, they may look more like rocks than precious gems, but uncut diamonds are currently tumbling their way into more high-end jewellery pieces in the US.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Tiffany and De Beers are both displaying diamonds in their natural state - uncut and unpolished - in pieces featured prominently in their store windows. 

De Beers' three US stores began incorporating rough diamond jewellery two years ago and now, one in every five pieces sold features rough diamonds.

Colours range from milky white to yellow, green and brown.

One advantage of uncut diamonds is a wholesale price that's much lower than cut and polished stones. Yet, according to the report, customers in the US are still prepared to pay premiums for these pieces. Let's hope the trend rolls over to Australia. 

Around the world: a snapshot of standout diamond jewellery from the globe's major trade fairs.

India International Jewellery Show, Mumbai: September

Sikh emblems, Hindu gods and other religious icons were some of the more interesting diamond and 18-carat gold pieces in Mumbai last month. They sat alongside pieces featuring square, emerald and Asher-cut diamonds in rings and plenty of bangles, as well as lines highlighting diamonds with pearls. Style-wise, the show displayed a mix of East and West, from traditional Jaipur pieces to the simple circles dotted with diamonds that have been popular for several seasons.

Feninjer, Sao Paulo: August

White diamonds played second fiddle in many designs at South America's largest jewellery show, serving as pavé accents to a host of earthy gemstones, including green, smoky and milky quartz. Diamonds were also seen set into an extraordinary range of nature-inspired motifs from the Amazon, such as indigenous trees, ocelots, waterfalls and the lotus flower.

JA International Jewelry Show, New York: July

Journey-themed diamond jewellery - any style that features four or more diamonds in graduated sizes used to represent a couple's growing love - was the top pick in New York this July, with US retailers keen to jump on the bandwagon created by the Diamond Trading Company's savvy advertising campaign. Journey diamonds featured on curved and circular pendants, solid bracelets and basic drop earrings.

The JCK Show, Las Vegas: June

Clear, resin jewellery set with diamonds? It happened in Las Vegas. So did many other unconventional combinations, such as diamonds with wool, silk, leather, acrylic and rough stones. On the high side, diamonds were pared with hammered pink gold, mixed with black onyx and set into enamel. The rose-cut diamond was present in both Indian-style creations and more contemporary styles.

Gretel Hunnerup
Contributor •

Gretel Hunnerup is a criminology graduate turned freelance journalist writing about lifestyle, crime and justice. She also enjoys covering the arts, fashion and fascinating folk from her base in Melbourne. Her work has appeared in The Age Melbourne Magazine, Herald Sun – Sunday Magazine, Harpers Bazaar and The Vine. She also teaches features writing to Monash University journalism students. In her spare time, Gretel loves bushwalking and trawling op-shops for vintage treasures.

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