Fine Jewelry

How To Find The Perfect Shade of Gold, Whatever Your Skin Tone

Coveted since time immemorial, gold has a unique ability to brighten and illuminate all skin tones. CHARLIE BOYD discovers why this precious metal is enjoying a universal revival, and speaks to the fine-jewelry designers crafting the golden heirlooms of tomorrow

Whatever the nuances of your skin tone and your broader personal style, there is a gold tone to suit you

As a naturally occurring element, gold has existed for as long as we have – in fact, 40% of the world’s gold is thought to be three billion years old. Its chemical symbol in the Periodic Table is ‘Au’, from the Latin word ‘aurum’, meaning ‘shining dawn’ or ‘glow of sunrise’, and it was first found as nuggets or sparkling flakes in the beds of streams and rivers. By 2,000BC, Egyptians had begun mining gold, and the death mask of Tutankhamun, who died in 1323BC, reportedly contained around 10kg of yellow gold. “As an admirer of ancient artefacts and history, I’ve always been attracted to gold,” says Benedetta Dubini, who transforms authentic ancient coins into striking gold jewels with a mirror-like finish. “Jewelry and other decorative objects were often crafted with this venerated material – its longevity, inability to tarnish, and warm hue have always attracted people to choose it over other metals,” she explains.

Over the past few years, yellow gold has unequivocally dominated as the most in-demand metal tone, with the price of gold going from strength to strength during the pandemic. “In recent years, we have seen tremendous growth in demand for our gold products, specifically yellow gold,” says David Yurman, CEO and founder of his eponymous fine-jewelry maison, renowned for its gold cable bangles and gleaming chains. “Our creations are designed to be timeless in style and not rooted in trends, so we’ve attracted customers who become collectors and who purchase our pieces as heirlooms to be passed down to their children. Yellow gold is an enduring metal that keeps its value for generations,” he explains.

While undoubtedly a solid investment, there are myriad zeitgeist influences on why yellow-gold jewelry has recently boomed. “I think it has to do with clients’ appetite for color,” muses jewelry designer Brent Neale, who incorporates kaleidoscopic gemstones into her whimsical designs. “In my opinion, yellow gold is much more complementary to more colors than white or rose gold,” she explains. The proliferation of colorful gemstones over the past few years has also been accompanied by an overwhelming trend for bold enameled jewels, such as Foundrae’s talismanic treasures. “It was my love of enamel that led me to commit to 18-karat yellow gold, as champlevé enamel won’t fuse with white or rose gold,” explains brand founder Beth Hutchens. “Some designers see the gold as just a vehicle for them to set stones in, but, to me, the gold itself is the star,” she says.

Yellow gold actually looks good on all skin tones… and nothing is sexier than yellow gold in the summer with a tan
Octavia Zamagias, founder of Octavia Elizabeth

The added bonus of this seismic move towards yellow gold, rather than silver or platinum, is that the metal is undergoing the conscious sea change that diamonds experienced in the early 2000s. Many designers are now ensuring that their gold is as traceable as possible, using recycled or SMO (Single Mine Origin) gold to assure its provenance. Chopard has equipped itself with two supply chains for its gold: resmelting scraps in its own foundry in order to recycle it, along with purchasing through the Responsible Jewelry Council’s Chain of Custody-certified refineries. “Gold can be recycled with no degradation in quality, and it’s not a terribly difficult process to do,” explains Octavia Zamagias, founder of Octavia Elizabeth, who uses 18-karat yellow gold for its purity and vivid vibrancy.

Despite these advancements, when it comes to choosing the perfect piece of gold jewelry, you may still be faced with an age-old question: are you a white-gold or a yellow-gold person? Thankfully, this outdated dichotomy has largely dissolved. After several years of yellow gold ruling the roost, the popularity for white and rose gold is gradually resurging, and designers are looking more holistically at the nuances of our skin tones and our broader personal style before prescribing a particular metal tone.

“We find that clients who have lighter skin with a pink undertone often request rose gold, as it actually reads yellow against their skin tone,” says Baylee Zwart, founder of LA-based brand Azlee, who mixes her own bespoke gold-alloy blend to achieve a warm 18-karat-gold hue. “When worn on darker skin tones, however, rose gold can read very pink, so we tend to recommend yellow gold unless the client really wants that pinkish look,” she adds.

“Yellow gold actually looks good on all skin tones,” agrees Zamagias. “If you’re pale, it can really help to brighten you up, and nothing is sexier than yellow gold in the summer with a tan,” she adds. It can also be helpful to consider the general color palette of your ready-to-wear wardrobe. “If clients gravitate towards lighter-colored clothing, white gold can get lost when worn, so I’d recommend yellow or rose gold. But, if they tend to wear darker clothes, I feel like any color of gold works well,” says Zwart.

For those reluctant to choose between shades, mixed metal tones remain an eclectic choice. “I mix my metal tones every day and I really enjoy how the different tones complement and contrast,” explains Carolina Bucci, whose contemporary ‘K.I.S.S.’ bangles are available in 18-karat yellow, white, rose and blackened gold. Maor’s ‘Unity Link’ chain bracelet combines sterling silver and 18-karat gold links, while Marina B’s ‘Trisolina’ cuff marries 18-karat yellow gold, sterling silver and titanium to striking effect. Spinelli Kilcollin is the master of mixing metals – its stackable ‘Galaxy’ rings are available in myriad assortments of silver, 18-karat yellow, rose and blackened gold, peppered with diamonds and colored gemstones, or left simply sleek and shining.

Above all else, designers are keen to stress the importance of gut feeling and experimental freedom over any pre-prescribed rules. “I don’t think there should be rules of thumb for what color of gold clients wear,” says Zwart. “It should come down to what they love the most.”

Low necklines and exposed shoulders are the perfect way to show off bold gold jewelry


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