Over the past 12 months of yo-yoing in and out of lockdown, so many of the cheerful and indulgent elements of our wardrobes – high heels, handbags, sequins – have been lying dormant, languishing until there is somewhere to go. Fine jewelry has somewhat weathered this storm and remained on rotation; for many of us, it has been a way to maintain a sense of stylistic composure, even if it means pairing preciousness with athleisure rather than our normal working wardrobes.
As an obvious outlet for opulence and self-expression, fine jewelry designers are determined that, where jewels are concerned, we should go big or go home. As if possessed by carnival spirit, loud, proud, bright and bold designs are dominating the scene, with more and more jewelers experimenting with punchy patterns and brighter colorways. “Lockdown has brought fashion back to basics, but glamour hasn’t abandoned the jewelry world,” says Liza Urla, the jewelry aficionado behind Gemologue, who religiously wears a rainbow spectrum of vivid Brazilian gemstones. “Now more than ever, jewelers are enjoying the renaissance of vibrant, bold gems and colorful materials,” she adds, maintaining that this injection of color is a potent mood-lifter. “The energy of simple things, such as adding color to my outfits, puts me in the most enthusiastic state of mind – it helps me to feel positive and grounded throughout my day.”
The game-changer for acid-bright jewels has been the revival of one of jewelry’s oldest techniques – enameling, which dates back as far as the 13th century BC. By fusing molten powdered glass to precious metals, potent hues are set with a glossy, lacquer-like finish. “Enamel delivers a fun twist while maintaining fine jewelry codes, as it has always been used in the fine jewelry world,” explains Yvonne Léon, who is renowned for her playful designs – from ladybirds and kittens to cacti and crabs.
Jewelry is such a great pick-me-up, and it’s not something you have to wait to go to a party to wear – it’s something you can wear to make yourself feel great on any day”Alison Lou
Neon, glitter and glow-in-the-dark enamel are all possible in the modern age, with designers such as Alison Lou now able to create vibrant custom colors for clients. “On Zoom calls, you can see bright, bold jewels better than anything dainty,” she explains. “Jewelry is such a great pick-me-up, and it’s not something you have to wait to go to a party to wear – it’s something you can wear to make yourself feel great on any day.” With Zoom dressing now the norm, zingy jewels from the neck up have never been in such high demand.
The party up top, however, doesn’t stop with enamel. From Lorraine Schwartz’s iconic diamond-set ‘2B Happy’ bracelets that flaunt cartoon-like smiley faces, to Retrouvaí’s ‘Lollipop’ cocktail rings featuring vivid gems reminiscent of hard candy, fine jewelry is hell bent on being joyful. Melissa Kaye, now synonymous with electric splashes of color, agrees that this is a backlash against troubled times. “Given the current environment, clients want to wear jewelry that makes them happy,” she says. “I don’t know how you can wear neon and not immediately feel its brightness energize you.”
For some, the thought of Day-Glo hues and vivacious motifs may seem daunting, and if you aren’t a color native you may well stumble with complementary fashion styling at first. “I think for those of us who are confident in our choices of pattern and color, colorful jewelry just adds to our maximalist sensibility,” says Alice Cicolini, who can be credited as the luminary of the enamel revival. Cicolini founded her brand in 2009, and her striking patterns, vivid hues and carved gemstones are the pinnacle of ‘pep-talk’ jewelry – but she maintains that adopting vivacity doesn’t have to have to be intimidating. “You don’t have to color match your jewels to your clothes, and rings in particular are just completely separate from the color palette of your wardrobe,” she explains. “Once people start to understand that colorful jewelry can work in this way, it liberates them to think more creatively around incorporating color.”
“Layering is great but not for everyone, and a piece of jewelry can be really impactful worn alone,” suggests Kirsty Stone, founder of Retrouvaí, who is also admired for whimsical motifs such as her flying-baby-pig signet ring. You may prefer to start small, such as Alice Cicolini’s ‘Candy’ ring with a sweep of cherry-red enamel, or Eéra’s cult neon snap-hook earring slipped into a medley of neutral gold and diamonds. “I love monochromatic dressing and I think it is so chic to match your earrings to your sweater,” suggests Alison Lou. Some will bravely let their jewels direct their entire outfit – bedecked in multiple pops of color – but as we ready ourselves to face the wide world once more, however wild your choice, make it your battle cry.