New York City. Dec. 31, 2020. Hello, jewelry friends! As we bid farewell to what has been a straight-up bizarre year, it’s also time to think ahead to what’s next. What jewelry trends will be bought and sold in 2021? What jewelry trends will shoppers want to see and wear and treasure? And will we ever see each other in person again or will Zoom have to suffice a while longer?
The answers stem from a combination of factors. Some jewelry trends are based on historical purchases—diamond studs are routinely a best-seller in the fourth quarter. Other trends are determined by the major fashion weeks for spring 2021, as silhouettes help guide style purchases (shift dresses and billowing silhouettes always need some necklaces for an anchor effect). Red carpet attire, too, has some influence in our jewelry buying decisions (though those hardly took place this year), as does Mother Nature’s everchanging bounty of gemstones, directional colors in couture (I’m talking about you, Pantone!), and whatever zeitgeist du jour—coronavirus!—is happening in the world. Then there’s the magic that happens when leading jewelry designers turn inspiration into finished works of art. For sure, all these factors matter in determining the contents of this list, which aims to be a mix of informed analysis, news events, and a touch of fortune telling based on my 24 years of jewelry industry journalism.
So, please read on—and plan on Zooming on, at least until the Covid-19 vaccine is more widely available. Once vaccinated, we can all see each other again. Perhaps in the second half of 2021? Stay tuned.
Yup, none of us are going anywhere anytime soon. No flights to Italy for VicenzaOro (not until March at least, the date for which the January edition has been rescheduled), no Tucson gem shows or Inhorgenta in Munich (it’s now in April, not February), and the rest of the spring fairs are iffy at best. This means remaining comfortable at home and wearing big collar necklaces and/or oversize earrings for your Zoom meetings. Hey, wearing jewelry at home is better than not wearing jewelry at all, so accessorize for your friends on screen.
There was a point early in my career when I would have said, “Color as a trend? That’s dumb.” Well, I stand corrected. The exuberant color that jewelry provides, especially now, is making a big statement and not just in the form of gemstones. The ongoing enamel trend, colorized treatments on metals like gold and titanium, the continuing wave of rainbows in jewelry, and funky minerals like gold in quartz and moss agate and jasper are giving us a much-needed boost of joy that will continue next year.
Still happening, gang. And, yes, I still work part time for the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA), but no one can deny the staying power of the lustrous gem on runways and in jewelry. Designers continue to discover both traditional pearls like akoyas and uncommon ones like abalone for use in designs both subtle and over the top (the latter is always Melanie Georgacopoulos). Plus, South Sea pearls have an important sustainability angle—remember Pam Danziger’s “Why Pearls Are the Perfect Luxury Gem for Millennials?” And with the ongoing promotional activities I help to carry out at CPAA, I don’t think the pearl is going anywhere. (We just debuted a pearl magazine, too! #thisispearl!) It’s going to grow more important.
Just as clothing designers like Giambattista Valli are conveying a sense of intimacy and privacy in creations, so, too, are jewelry designers giving collectors that option through personalization. This can reference sweet moments in relationships or lighter takes on pastimes. Individualized pieces can mean custom jobs from scratch (Stephanie Gottlieb’s Goldie necklace in honor of her daughter is amazeballs) or repurposed antiques, such as Heavenly Vices’ vintage engraved coins. And since there’s travel money on the table this year (travel is historically a big competitor to jewelry), and a number of designers have been benefiting from that fact, I think the trend will continue.
I’m talking protection (for obvious 2020 reasons), inspiration, and religion. Have you seen Colette’s religious jewels? Incredible. Ditto for Carla Amorim, the Brazilian jewelry designer who makes new spiritual jewels each year because of the large number of Christians in her home country. Retrouvai has loads of symbolic pieces, including Bravery lockets from her Alchemy collection, while Buddha Mama’s OTT gorgeous Hamsa charms are the stuff of dreams.
This may seem a tad counterintuitive given how much demand there is for market newness, but given our scary and unprecedented year, people are looking for familiarity and tradition. For example, reports of live Christmas tree shortages were recent headline news, and think of how people buy more gold and Rolexes in down economies. Instinct says to turn to items of historic value in times of crisis. In jewelry, this means sentimental or familiar motifs (hearts aren’t going away and planets always sell) and classic styles. Heck, David Yurman even has a traditional emerald and diamond necklace on this Instagram feed now—that’s quite a departure from a feed typically overflowing with trendy charms.
Mindful Pieces & Charity-Related Sales
In this year of social and political unrest, many jewelry designers stepped up to do their part. It was wonderful. I’m talking about the $100,000-plus dollars raised by Harwell Godfrey for the NAACP, and the myriad designers who donated to No Kid Hungry earlier this year. So many artists and retailers literally dug into their pockets to give back and give forward as their positive response to negative actions. Expect this sort of charitable sales angle to continue, with a portion of sales for various pieces having philanthropic hooks.
Patterns in clothing are giving our work-from-home (WFH) selves a little joy, and that look has spilled over into jewelry. Think of Sorrelina’s masterfully made and literally executed gold and gemstone Tarot cards, Buddha Mama’s enamel bangles and charms peppered with symbols like a storyline in a rich tapestry, and Luisa Alexander’s easy-to-obsess-over Folkore collection of striped jewels. Some folks at the high end have gotten really fancy, and I’m loving it. Some of these incredible pieces will, fortunately, be difficult for “inspired” individuals to replicate, but I still think some mass manufacturers might try.
This trend was born out of the fearlessness of Marla Aaron, who put mechanical-inspired jewelry on the map in 2012 with the debut of her carabiner locks. Aaron is not the first to make a fine jewelry carabiner, but she is the first to make it her signature. Since 2012, she’s unveiled countless iterations of them, and so have copycats, who were no doubt inspired by her innovation, determination, and powerful personality to make them a hit. Inspired mechanical jewels now exist in growing abundance. Delphine Leymarie has a clicker charm that allows wearers to add multiple charms to necklaces, but it is not a copy of Aaron’s work. Leymarie unveiled it in 2017 as a version of a pearl shortener. A number of designers and manufacturers are now making versions of both Aaron’s and Leymarie’s works. It’s hard to own a simple or existing concept, but it’s appropriate to give credit where it is due; meanwhile, it’s unethical, possibly illegal, and monetarily injurious to an innovator to copy his or her work.
Just as couture designers like Roksanda Ilincic of the eponymous line are working a gown or two into a sea of WFH frocks for fun (“Maybe you don’t need 10 of them, just a couple to still be able to dream,” the couturier told the media), collectors may want an extra flirty number as a pick-me-up. Thankfully, we have Mike Joseph’s feather and pearl pieces, Mizuki’s Kazanshi stick earrings, tiaras from Anna Zuckerman and Assael, or even what few natural-color pink and brown diamonds remain (you’re in fantasyland if you think you’ll be able to easily find them now that the Rio Tinto mine in Australia is closing). When this Covid-19 crisis ends, they’ll be a celebration.
Travel always inspires clothes—think of Paul Smith’s travel-holiday-influenced frocks for spring—and jewelry, but even more so now because of lockdown restrictions. Emily Wheeler takes us to the Amazon in her La Selva collection, while Gina Ferranti whisks us away to the Italian coast in Portofino. People are dying to travel but still won’t be able to for a while, so enter the travel-inspired jewelry collections.
Neon has been having a moment in the Paris runway shows thanks to Balmain, Chanel, and Nina Ricci, and it’s also trending in fine jewelry. Neon colors have been a recent fixture at Melissa Kaye, Alison Lou, and in a variety of other makers’ collections, but I think there could be staying power that ratchets up the popularity of the 1980s color craze once manufacturers understand its appeal: it’s for giddy minds and those seeking some unadulterated joy that comes with the end of, say, a pandemic? Yup. That’s coming, and so is the celebration I mentioned two grafs ago. Remember the Roaring Twenties? They followed World War I. I think jewelry will see its own version once the vaccine is widely available.
Disagree with me? Please weigh in on comments! Definitely have a happy New Year!
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