The brand’s campaign pictures of Rihanna show off its high-end jewellery with a pricetag to match, but the mood is different. These aren’t pieces designed to be kept in a safe and only brought out for an ambassadorial reception; as the campaign images suggest, these are to be worn with denim jackets and plenty of attitude.
Chopard isn’t the only established name looking to shake things up when it comes to the public’s perception of fine jewellery. Last year, Tiffany & Co. got one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga as she is more commonly known, to front the campaign for its new HardWear range, a selection of directional pieces aimed at a younger audience. This year the singer has been replaced by a roster of other strong female role models such as actresses Elle Fanning and Zoë Kravitz and singer St. Vincent. The new campaign, called ‘There’s Only One’, was created by newly installed chief artistic officer Chopard isn’t the only established name looking to shake things up when it comes to the public’s perception of fine jewellery.
REBELS WITH A CAUSE
As excited with their own innovativeness as these brands are, it isn’t a new idea at all. In fact, creating exquisitely made pieces with a rock ‘n’ roll edge has been Stephen Webster’s stock-in-trade for nearly 30 years.“My original intention was just to be the best jeweller possible; I never really thought about the design process, I just wanted to be the best at everything,” he explains. “But then I moved to Canada and was given free rein to do anything I wanted with these incredible coloured gemstones – I definitely found satisfaction in creating something different. I guess my rebellious personality has translated into my jewellery. And once we started making jewellery that was quite different from everything else in the market at the time, and people started paying attention, there was no going back.”
People didn’t just pay attention; they also started buying his pieces, which combined an exemplary knowledge of traditional skills with a punk aesthetic. Everyone from Cameron Diaz to Johnny Depp and Elton John was a fan – Webster was even accepted by the establishment when he took on the role of creative director at British institution and former Crown Jeweller, Garrard. Without Webster, it is arguable that you wouldn’t be seeing the shift in the perception of fine jewellery that seems to be taking hold now. “Fine jewellery has been increasingly ‘normalised’ as an everyday accessory on e-commerce websites, in the press and on social media channels over the past few years. It is also undeniably easier to find accessible, entry level-priced fine jewellery now than it was a decade ago, thanks to a tidal wave of dynamic designers who looked to diversify the market,” says Tessa Packard, who, with her collections inspired by opium dens, Mexican architecture and penny sweets, is definitely one of those enterprising designers who owes a huge debt to Webster.
Packard established her brand in 2013 with the intention of, in her words, “subverting and collapsing some of the normal rules of fine jewellery by infusing it with great doses of playfulness and fun.” You can’t help but smile at some of Packard’s creations. Diamonds and yellow agates are used to make earrings that look like fried eggs; 79 carats of Mozambique aquamarines are turned into a bracelet inspired by the architectural stonework on ancient Mexican temples and an 18-carat gold vermeil necklace has a half-eaten chocolate bar hanging from it. “I’ve always been attracted to irony, to juxtaposition, to Pop Art and to the eccentric,” she says by way of explanation.
DESIGNING FOR THE MODERN WOMAN
This new and less reverential approach is also being noticed by more traditional names on the London jewellery scene. “The typical William & Son customer is a modern woman who doesn’t want her jewellery to stay in the safe. She wants flexible and wearable pieces. She wants to be able to dress up or dress down with one easy piece of jewellery,” says the retailer’s in-house gemmologist Clémence Devaux. “There definitely has been a move towards more edgy styles. And it’s not just us. Other Bond Street jewellers are now designing very contemporary pieces including climbing earrings, earrings that are worn at the front and the back of the ear lobe, rings that cover a few fingers, hand bracelets that sit in the middle of the hand, and open necklaces.”
Devaux has also noticed that this changing attitude is affecting stone choices as well. Although the big four – diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies – are still popular, at William & Son it has been the aquamarine that, for the past decade, has been the number one choice. It has taken a while but it seems that fine jewellery is finally shirking off its old mink stole and throwing on a leather jacket instead. As Webster says: “Today’s designers no longer bring versions of the same set pieces of jewellery to the party. What was once a backwards-looking industry, moving at a sloth-like pace, is now making leaps and bounds into the future.”