Hidden Gems: Secret jewellery designs

Hidden Gems: Secret jewellery designs

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but what about the beheld? Jewellery designers are creating pieces with hidden details only the wearer knows about, says Amelia Jean Jones

You’d be forgiven for not noticing James Ganh’s Old Bond Street showroom. Discreetly tucked between two elaborate designer store windows is a single door with a buzzer. Upon entering, you arrive in a tastefully ornate showroom you’d never have expected from the humble, if prestigiously located, exterior.

Such is the Cantonese-born fine-jewellery designer’s work. Ganh graduated from Central Saint Martins and was a part of the Fabergé design team before setting up on his own. 

In keeping with the style of Fabergé, his pieces are exquisite, elaborate and exuberantly colourful, with high-carat-weight sapphires, emeralds and rubies sitting alongside polished, semi-precious stones. Many of his clients believe that these will bring luck according to their country of origin’s customs in Tibet, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Middle East. 

Image right: De Beers Electric Cichlid necklace, POA,
Oct 8th 2019
Amelia Jean Jones
Watches & Jewellery
Image above: James Ganh Jardin Lhasa necklace with emerald, diamonds, turquoise and tsavorites, POA,

But it isn’t the perfectly shade-, size-matched and polished stones that set Ganh apart. It’s the fact that, just like his storefront, each of his pieces is more than it appears and can transform in seconds into something you would have never expected.

A necklace becomes a necklace and a brooch or a pair of earrings, an ornate statement ring strips back to reveal something more classic within, and a pair of earrings clip together to form a cuff – nothing is out of the question. 

“Inspiration can come from the stones themselves or the story behind why my client has commissioned the piece [his famous Ferris wheel design, which transforms into a pendant, lapel pin and wedding rings, was inspired by the couple’s engagement story],” Ganh explains.

“My mother used to have items she rarely wore because they only worked with one outfit. I want my pieces to be adaptable and empowering.”

Image above: Van Cleef & Arpels Perlée watch, £33,200,

This idea of a hidden secret isn’t unique to Ganh. French brands, Marie Mas and Van Cleef & Arpels, as well as De Beers, have dabbled in creating pieces with a little something held back. 

In fact, Annoushka Ducas, founder of her eponymous brand, also designs pieces with witty little secrets her wearers can enjoy. “The Touch Wood collection features a tiny amount of, often hidden, ebony in each piece that touches the skin as you wear it,” she explains. “A lot of my pieces are talismanic and I wanted this to represent luck for the wearer in a very subtle and tongue-in-cheek way – it’s like being in on an inside joke.” The Vampire’s Wife collection’s charms also hold secrets to thrill the wearer. The bewitching 18ct gold “God is in the House” charm opens to reveal a hidden message and the figures of musician Nick Cave and his wife Susie inside, standing at the altar. 

Image above: The Vampire’s Wife x Annoushka 18ct gold “God is in the House” charm, £1,500,

“While jewellery is designed to dazzle the beholder, I think the wearer needs to be able to admire herself too,” explains Ducas. “There might be diamonds on the front of a piece, but the back is also textured and aesthetically pleasing. It’s all part of the immersive experience of wearing it. You need to be able to finger and fiddle with a piece and have it still look great. That’s why so many of my pieces are articulated. It’s one of the benefits I have as a female designer: I know what it feels like to wear these pieces.”

Ganh’s attention to detail for the wearer is just as careful, with the stones of pendants extending over the top and around all sides so the wearer can look down and see it sparkle themselves. “I want wearing my pieces to be a luxurious experience, and what could be more luxurious than looking down and seeing rubies?” I couldn’t agree more. | |


All images courtesy of the brands

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Hidden Gems: Secret jewellery designs

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but what about the beheld? Jewellery designers are creating pieces with hidden details only the wearer knows about, says Amelia Jean Jones.