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Trend watch

A tour of the world's fashion capitals will reveal this year's top jewellery trends. First stop: vicenza. CARLA CARUSO reports.

Think of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold. Now add major jewellery brands like Rosato (Demi Moore has just signed on as a face), and Damiani (Brad Pitt once designed a collection for the brand).

What you get is VicenzaOro, the first international jewellery trade show for the year, set in Italy's gold capital, Vicenza. This is where major trends are usually set and big business occurs. But, in light of the economic downturn, would the impact still be the same? Could design still flourish in hard-hit times?

According to The New York Times reporter Michael Cannell in his article, "Design loves a Depression", the answer is a resounding yes.

"Design tends to thrive in hard times," Cannell reports. "In the lean years ahead, there will be less design, but much better design." He adds: "That was the case during the Great Depression, when an early wave of modernism flourished in the US, partly because it efficiently addressed the middle class need for a pared-down life, without servants and other Victorian trappings."

In fact, he says, "We could be standing on the brink of one of the most productive periods of design ever".

Paola De Luca, the creative director and co-founder of Italy's Trends Jewellery Forecasting Group, agrees, referencing the article at a trend seminar at the Vicenza fair. "The best of design comes out certainly in times of austerity," De Luca says. "Jewellery needs to be functional and many brands and designers are also now launching non-precious lines and silver lines."

All in an attempt to beat the credit crunch, of course - Franco Pianegonda and Chimento were two Italian brands to showcase more affordable jewellery lines at the fair: Pianegonda's silver label, Franco P; and Chimento's, Choice.

Indeed, there has been a revolution in new technology and materials in the world of fine jewellery. Designers have had to come up with alternatives to team with their precious metals and stones, like titanium, ceramic and leather, as seen at the fair.

Still, amid the economic downturn, the high-end luxury market also continues to boom. Trends Jewellery Forecasting Magazine reports: "Even though the world appears to be slipping into recession, demand for the most exclusive luxury items is holding up as well, particularly for so-called 'bespoke' or custom-made goods, which range from tailored suits to fine jewels and mobile phones."

The Italians stand to benefit from those consumers in oil-rich countries, now enjoying unprecedented wealth. Dubai has been joined by jewellery-buyers in the cities of the former Soviet Union in their shopping sprees of gemstones and diamonds.

The desire for personalisation, though, has also been seen across the markets - perhaps, a sign of people seeking a strong sense of self amid troubled times.

De Luca says consumers now want to be "authors": "Fashion brands like H&M, Zara and the United Colours of Benetton all look the same, so the desire for individuality is strong and there's a desire to fight for oneself."

Major Italian brand Marco Bicego encouraged individualising jewellery by layering: "Through a lot of layers, in a very personal way, each of us makes their own collection," sales representative Francesca Sartori explains. "Our necklaces can be worn long, short or mixed with something else."

So, personalisation aside, what, in a nutshell, are the key accessory trends for the year ahead? What will consumers in Australia be looking to from abroad? Forecaster Paola De Luca puts the key looks into four categories:

Mythology in progress

De Luca explains it as "the reaction of a generation raised in the digital era, illustrated through a study of ancient myths and civilisations and tribal cultures, rich with symbolism" - think coins, charms, mosaic encrustations, and surfaces that have deliberately been aged, through techniques like hammering or oxidisation.

"Surfaces that have experienced life and have a sense of cultural heritage," enthuses De Luca. Prada's latest, ultra-modern, statement-making necklaces, featuring green and clear gems stuck to black leather bibs on a heavy chain-link, embody this trend.

Similarly in fashion, notes "Goddess worship" as a key look on the spring/summer 2009 runways, with designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Monique Lhuillier showcasing Grecian draping and airy goddess dresses, accented with such jewels.

Austerity d-luxe

The credit-crunch means a return to the pared-back look of the 1940s and 1950s, according to De Luca: "Throw-away fashion has lost its appeal, being substituted by an interest in responsible consumption. New luxury means simple and real objects."

Bows and butterflies are part of the new mantra - already seen at Van Cleef and Arpels - as well as refined micro watches, sophisticated sailor's knots, delicate, lace-style designs and interlocking chains - much also working to lighten the metal and keep costs down.

-Italian jewellery label Magie Preziose was aflutter with a yellow and pink gold butterfly pendant at the fair, comprising yellow zirconia, blue topaz, citrine and peridot.

De Luca also advises looking to US First Lady Michelle Obama for inspiration: "Her style is going to have an impact on what designers create. She's going to have a very sober style while the economy is going through a major crisis."

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So, put away the chandelier earrings, De Luca suggests, "Small earrings with hooks are coming back due to the low-profile mood."

And, jewellers are already honing in on the consumer desire to buy less. Want to buy only one statement piece this season? Chimento showcased how it could be done with its "Double" reversible bracelet in white and yellow gold. "Over 150 pieces must be manually assembled, finished and polished to create the 'Double' reversible bracelet," enthuses company president, Adriano Chimento.

Depression chic was also seen on the spring/summer 2009 runways internationally, with faded sack dresses by Burberry and Bottega Veneta and flapper frocks by Alberta Ferretti and Aquilano Rimondi.

Green vision

This trend is an ode to nature - think natural materials, like jade and bamboo, and pagan-style charms, as seen in Givenchy's latest campaign, adorning cascades of chains.

Italian brand Roberto Bravo went back to nature with its latest collection at the fair, including flower and leaf designs and animal and insect motifs such as snakes, frogs, fish, panthers, lizards, spiders and butterflies.

Marco Bicego paid tribute to the Earth by having its designs follow nature's imperfections and celebrate its irregular shapes, including through the use of different-shape gems and their outer, golden edges. Sales representative Francesca Sartori calls it "imperfect perfection".

"Our brand is very known for its irregular shapes - nothing is perfectly round - with charms spread around irregularly," she says. "Nature is not always perfect and this is the key to our collection."

Tiffany and Co. has also got onboard the nature theme, with De Luca referring to one of the brand's latest campaigns, featuring a model holding a flower and wearing a simple, peace-symbol neck pendant. "This is not a hippie in a commune; this is a sophisticated customer," De Luca assures.

And, the movement towards greening our planet will be an even bigger story in 2010, according to TJF Group's Trend Book 2010+. "Since the turn of the new millennium, customers have been more and more eager to find small ways to help the environment," the fashion bible reports. "Jewellers will get in on the act by using and promoting recycled materials much more often, whether gold, gemstones or found objects. Large brands will follow the lead of companies such as [America's] John Hardy, which offsets the carbon emissions of its print advertising by planting bamboo."


Inspired by cyberspace, technicolour is set to be a major trend this year, already seen in fashion brand Louis Vuitton's latest campaign, with its clashing of orange and pink garments and accessories. In jewellery, this is being seen in multicoloured stones.

TJF Group's Trend Book 2010+ reports, "Even jewellers who once banked on the sale of diamonds have turned over valuable counter space to gemstones of all colours, shapes and sizes to capitalise on fashion trends and a youthful consumer, who is not afraid to spend discretionary income on self-purchases."

De Luca echoes this sentiment: "We used to see jewellers put diamonds with gemstones, but now we see a strong comeback of multicoloured stones altogether. While there will be the total black approach of the 1980s in clothing; jewellery will be colourful."

Italian brand Marco Bicego showed a new collection at the fair, entitled Jaipur, featuring coloured gemstones such as amethyst, lemon citrine, peridot, yellow quartz, blue topaz, pink and green tourmaline, green amethyst and champagne quartz - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently wore Bicego's 18-carat-gold Paradise necklace, featuring a range of colourful, semi-precious stones, including citrine, amethyst and blue topaz, with a bright orange pantsuit.

Technology will also continue to merge with fashion, with even old-guard brands coming out with tech-savvy items, like flashy USB drives - Cartier has engraved versions in 18-carat gold and Swarovski has turned crystallised versions into fashion-forward necklaces and pendants.

DEOS Diamonds is one US brand, which is built solely on producing bejewelled ear buds, catering specifically to Apple iPod headphone users. A titanium-casting process creates the feather-light ear bud covers in a many colours.

Also in line with the cyber trend is the return of digital watches, as seen at Harry Winston.

Another hot look for the 'Blur-Reality' trend is use of a "key" motif to add a sense of mystery for a wearer. Brands such as Links of London and Ralph Lauren are already using the shape. "The cult object will be the key," says De Luca.

VicenzaOro showed that there is a bit of everything in the year to come for the fashion-forward consumer. Only time will tell how, or if, these trends will translate into the Australian marketplace. One thing is for sure though: pre-empting what consumers will covet in the months ahead can only help when wanting to stand out from competitors.

And, as TJF Group's Trend Book 2010+ reports: "Jewellery trends have never been more intertwined with fashion, especially as that industry produces more and more signature luxury jewellery collections."

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
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