A colleague of mine recently posed this question to a large and varied industry group: what’s missing from today’s jewelry market?
Deceptively simple, his query struck me rather forcibly because I had just begun to write a blog post (the one you’re reading now) as a brief study in what I felt has been underrepresented or even entirely absent from mainstream jewelry.
My response was internet-appropriately brief, but in this space I thought a little more elaboration was due. We tend to think of jewelry in terms of categories, so what follows is a sort of commentary breakdown, combining some unofficial bird’s-eye-view concepts that borrow heavily from my daily work with a dash or three of personal, yes-I’m-a-Millennial-get-over-it opinions. Ahem.
Engagement/wedding: I know you love it, but the halo in all its possible iterations has been done — and done very well — to death. The style I never see is a band, thin or wide, with beautiful engraving that goes far, far beyond the vintage flowers-ropes-vines trifecta. Little or no gemstones are needed, but instead, well-executed metalwork with designs that speak to clean, bold, or even whimsical patterns are nowhere to be found.
Fashion: give me sleek, modern designs that emphasize amazing color and perhaps clean geometric patterns. Give me dark and light, negative space, comfortable, and hefty. Show off the amazingly diverse rainbow of colored gems we have available, with non-standard cuts set deep into pieces that highlight texture and celebrate something, anything, that reflects personality.
Symbolic: more like a subcategory, but the idea of talismanic jewelry has always been both appealing and relatively scarce. Sure, the average consumer often takes any special gift and turns it into a symbol (that being the point, more often than not, of giving jewelry in the first place), but I don’t often see designers inventing completely new symbols for people to use in honor or celebration of something specific. And so help me if I see one more poorly-rendered Ribbon of Whatever dangling off a charm bracelet…
Looks Custom But Isn’t: okay, I made up this category, but go with it. If more designers did what only a select few have ever done — which is to say, blasted into the stratosphere high above the comfort zone — we’d have so much more clever things to wear. You all know I’m the biggest advocate for full custom jewelry, but often it’s best to let the creative geniuses around us take the lead and make a concept come to life. Sometimes a designer has created something that is so utterly perfect, so fitting for a person, that it looks and feels like it was custom made even when it wasn’t. That’s quite an achievement.
Now, naming names isn’t normally my thing, as I don’t accept payment in any form for this blog and I strongly prefer to stay as neutral as possible. But I’ll make an exception here by listing a few designers whose work I truly admire as being some combination of unique, progressive, and striving to rise above the commonplace. In no particular order, I’ve been very interested in the following**:
— Collette, for beautiful and edgy
— Retrouvai, for bold and graphic
— Temple St. Clair, for whimsical and extravagant
— Marla Aaron, for cool and inventive
— Wendy Brandes, for modern and irreverent
These folks are doing things outside the proverbial box more often than not, and you don’t have to fall in love with every single piece to appreciate the brilliance behind much of their respective works. These designers also have individual pieces or entire lines that are wholly, uniquely their own, which means a knock-off is very easy to spot. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but it’s also horrible and illegal and I’m really sick of the design theft that often occurs when big box stores want a designer’s look without actually paying them for it. (End rant).
For the record, that’s an incredibly incomplete list. Don’t message me with any form of “but HOW could you not mention my favorite designer, XYZ?!” or even “ABC doesn’t deserve to be named!!” All designers are striving and struggling and working and shedding blood/sweat/tears/diamonds in what they do. I have many, many designer friends whose work I find incredibly appealing, but I’m not in this game for the promotional benefits. This is just an informed opinion, folks.
For consumers and industry vets alike, I would really love to know: what do you think is missing from the market? What do you want to see, or wear, or buy, or design? Please chime in here, in this openly democratic forum.
**I won’t even put a link. Check them out, or don’t.