Diamonds are forever, but colourful gemstones are now
Whether from global brands like Cartier and Bulgari or independent Hong Kong jewellers like L’Dezen and Plukka, jewels in wide range of colours and sizes are becoming must-haves for some women
Colourful gemstones are de rigueur at the moment, with jewellery houses like Pomellato, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari crafting statement jewellery with brightly hued, luminescent gemstones. As much as white diamonds still dominate the market in Hong Kong, we’ve seen demand rise for louder, more colourful stones, following a bigger global trend in jewellery.
Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier are go-tos for decadence. New life is being breathed into their aesthetic with collections inspired by the Indian subcontinent, North Africa and the parts of Asia. Van Cleef & Arpels’ Egyptian collection features stunning band bracelets and brooches decorated with onyx, rubies and diamonds set to depict anecdotal scenes from the mythical Ancient World.
Cartier’s Panthere collection has gone even bolder, celebrating the brand’s predatory icon with animalistic ring, and wraparound bracelets featuring emeralds for eyes, an onyx and tsavorite muzzle and a diamond-set coat.
Bulgari, meanwhile, seems to be championing trends circulated by local designers with a range of simpler designs. The label’s MVSA range of bracelets and necklaces focuses on the beauty of the stone, setting standout combinations of amethyst, chalcedony, blue topaz, pink tourmaline and pavé diamonds in 18-carat pink and white gold drop earrings, bracelets and rings.
Designers in Hong Kong and China have clocked onto the trend for coloured gemstones. Environmentally conscious jewellery label Niin offers an eclectic range of “healing stones” set in bracelets, rings and brooches among other designs, and prides itself on using only natural materials in its accessories. Ame Gallery specialises in artisanal jewellery, working with local artists to create pieces of eccentric, colourful “wearable art” and, celebrating 25 years in the city, Tayma is Hong Kong’s namesake for majestic cocktail rings and exuberantly hued earrings.
Joanne Ooi, creative director of online jewellery retailer Plukka, says that it’s not always the most popular precious stone that makes the biggest impact. “Diamonds are gorgeous, but they’re essentially colourless. The use of coloured gemstones allows us to create a rainbow of colours within our design and creative palette,” she says. “Ear pieces, both drop earrings – especially those featuring intensely hued gemstones like emeralds, tanzanites and tsavorites – and ear cuffs, are always a top seller at Plukka.”
With a diamond merchant father, Hong Kong-based designer Payal Shah was drawn to precious stones from a young age. Today, she is the sole diamond supplier for her jewellery brand, L’Dezen.
“I work with only a few types of stones and the brand is known for using them, such as diamond slices, baguettes and coloured diamonds,” she says. “The stones I use can only be manufactured by hand and I use minimal amounts of gold so the pieces are light and comfortable to wear.”
Asked which designers she admires within the industry, Shah sticks close to home. “I absolutely love Wallace Chan, who also grew up in Hong Kong,” she says. “I met him at an airport lounge recently, and he said that he sometimes cuts his fingers when shaping his stones in designs, each of which he crafts and executes himself. He is a true artist.”
“Gemstones create movement, contrast and texture,” says Shanghai-based Jordanian jewellery designer Lama Hourani. “Nature has an incredible way of creating art, and I try to work around the natural geography of each stone.” Following her Arab heritage’s vibrant aesthetic, her designs are bedecked with colourful, precious and semi-prescious stones; an element in her designs that she says helps to build a story around every piece.
A former style editor at Vogue China, Shanghai-based Yi Guo was spurred to start her own range, Yi Collection, after travelling to Sri Lanka and Myanmar. “These coloured gem capitals gave me my initial inspiration, with the prominence of different coloured sapphires and the most precious of all coloured gems, the ruby. I wanted to create something fun for young women and the colour combinations are something that I feel are of the moment within the gem selection.”
The stones are the entire focus of Yi’s pieces, which use simple geometric shapes to create the desired impact. “Nearly all of my stones are either rectangular or square. The art deco aesthetic has always been one of my favourites and I have a few gemstone vendors whom I go to and trust,” she says. “Once the stones have all been selected, my goldsmith handcrafts every single piece. The most popular are the single-stone chain rings; and many women seem to love the emeralds and sapphires.”