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Stuff of the Future

Sometimes, jewelry goes beyond contemporary; in collections like NN by Nghi Nguyen, the style appears downright futuristic. Vietnamese designer Nguyen lives according to the mission statement of creating highly conceptual jewelry, an idea that manifests itself in a distinctly sci­fi imprint on all his jewelry. His design goal is to produce pieces that resemble museum artifacts one might find on an alien planet, a blend of ancient historical traits with postmodern foreign ones.

This vision is perfectly exemplified in his Hephaestus Ring, created as homage to the Greek god of metal ­smiths. Set perpendicular to the silver band is a crescent shape that is studded with reverse-set diamonds. Hovering inside the crescent is a thin disc of 150­karat rock crystal.

One of Nguyen’s many talents lies in his ability to mold familiar materials into unique textures and styles, which he demonstrates often by using heavy metals to create intricate fine lace designs. He establishes this in pieces like the Lace Armor Ring, a bronze ring, thin but wide, that wraps across the entire bottom half of the finger in elaborate four­petaled flowers. Others like this are the Armor Cuff, which envelops half of the forearm, and the Torn Armor Gorget, which is made with a combination of bronze, silver, and gunmetal.

These pieces debuted in a collection inspired by a combination of Joan of Arc’s medieval attire and traces of advanced robotics. This blend embodies the common thread found in all of Nguyen’s jewelry – consistently pushing the limits and finding new ways to captivate his fans.  You can see more on his website:

Men at the Oscars

It’s no surprise that the women at the Oscars wore elegant and distinguishing ensembles, but many of the men that evening stepped up their game as well, with some sleek decorative pieces to spice up their attire.

Jared Leto wore a Cle de Cartier wristwatch, which won’t be available to the public for another two months. The white gold watch has a leather strap, along with a round face set in an elongated outer shell (a shape called “tonneau”).  Steve Carell also walked the red carpet in a sleek timepiece.  This white gold watch, called Midnight Date, was designed by Harry Winston and features an analogue clock that takes up only two thirds of the face; the lower third, surrounded by a smaller outlined circle, is a digital counter for the seconds.

Carell also had a pair of gold cuff links, designed as irregular polygons with a thin outer rim and a convergence of the two gender symbols for male and female. The overlapping symbols represent the logo for Emma Watson’s gender equality campaign called HeForShe.  Another who promoted the cause on the night of the Oscars was Jake McDorman, whose own cuff links bore the same logo.  Both pairs were designed by Monique Pean. The men certainly chose to make their statements in style!

Equal Opportunity

Nowadays, men’s jewelry is a trend that has become more and more popular since the early twentieth century. Before that, glittering decoration was considered an effeminate attraction… or so you might think.

In truth, outside of Western culture, male jewelry has been a fairly common practice all throughout history. Often it was considered a mark of wealth and authority, giving its wearer a certain aristocratic status in society. In Ancient Egypt, the first culture to use jewelry made of gold, men adorned themselves with just as many trinkets as did women, if not more!  In fact, statues of kings and gods were lavishly bejeweled, as were the living Pharaohs themselves. For the male population, no ornament was off limits: they wore earrings, bracelets, rings, even anklets, not to mention several that have fallen out of use today, like armbands and collar pieces.

Egyptians weren’t the only ones with equal male/female treatment when it came to jewelry. In Mesopotamia, men wore earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, pectoral ornaments, and headbands. (At times women did have a few more gender-­specific options, including headdresses, belts, and some floral dress pins.) Other cultures that made use of male jewelry were the Akkadians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, as well as most African and Native American tribes.  So it seems Europeans were the odd men out in their lack of ornamentation.

Truthfully, although you won’t find too many earrings on European men in the Middle Ages, they weren’t completely without adornment. Forgoing what they considered more feminine relics, they instead chose beauty with a more “masculine” spin, such as gemstones embedded in sword hilts, and they also made use of signet rings, an ornament that could double as a functional piece in letter sealing. It seems no matter how far back you look ­­– and no matter where ­­– you will always find some decorative outlet, regardless of gender distinctions.


Avant Garden

Fashion designer Kendra Scott, CEO and founder of the eponymous Kendra Scott Design, Inc., has a new jewelry line out for Spring of 2015. The collection, cleverly titled Avant Garden, blends a modern style (“Avant”) with natural, elemental beauty (“Garden”). The result is a slew of soft, pastel hues like rose quartz, rose gold druzy, blue lace agate, and plenty of others. These natural tones combine beautifully with the sleek, modern cuts and designs, as seen in the Billie Ear Climbers; inspired by organic crystal spears found along rocky cavewalls, this striking piece is designed with three spear­shaped cylinders that get progressively taller as they climb up the earlobe. The middle spear attaches to the ear, while the upper and lower give the appearance of the “ear climbing” reflected in the name.  These earrings come in one of three soft color options: rose gold, rhodium, or gold.

Within the Avant Garden collection are a number of colorful cuffs, a piece that is pretty popular in today’s market, ranging from lilac to mint to iridescent white.  There is also the bold Yasmin Hand Bracelet, a bracelet that is worn over the whole hand, though it maintains a simple, elegant appearance. The gold­ plated cuff on the wrist is attached to a thin chain that loops over the back of the hand to fit around any finger, giving the piece somewhat of a middle eastern feel.

Every bracelet, ring, and necklace pushes the limits of creativity and innovation, so be sure to check out the rest at:­designer­jewelry/new­and­now/avant­garden

Night at the Oscars

Last week’s Oscars marked yet another success for fashion on the red carpet. Among some of the creative and flashy pieces worn Sunday is Margot Robbie’s 18 karat yellow gold necklace with a chain made out of a functioning zipper, lined with small round gemstones that alternated between diamonds and sapphires. The zipper ended at the bottom with a cluster of strings of beaded sapphires.  The antique design was actually inspired by the 1930’s Duchess of Windsor.  See more here:

Scarlett Johansson wowed everyone with a piece that was actually part of the collar of her emerald dress but had the semblance of a stunning high­-necked bib necklace.  The collar was made with Swarovski crystal.  To compliment it, she wore a pair of asymmetrical emerald earrings set in 18 karat pink gold.  The right had a single, on ­the ­lobe pear ­shaped emerald and two accompanying diamonds while the left was adorned with significantly more: in addition to a dangling, multi-­stoned piece on the lobe, it had also another emerald on the helix (where the upper ear connects with the head) as well as two thin gold hoops ­­midway down the ear and on the tragus.  See more here:

But, perhaps the most unique piece of jewelry is the one that can’t really be qualified as jewelry at all.  Lupita Nyong’o wore a gown encrusted from top to bottom entirely with white pearls –­­ over 6,000 of them!  With it she wore a large diamond ring as well as a pair of dangling earrings, each one with three round diamonds followed by a much larger, teardrop­ shaped diamond on the bottom. If Nyong’o’s attire counts as jewelry, her gown might just make a new record for heaviest jewelry worn on the red carpet.  See more here:


Gem Cuts

Jewelry is not just about which stones get placed where, but about how each stone is cut or placed.  Last week, we discussed some of the basic terminology used in the jewelry market, you may also want to learn about the different styles available.

There are a few gemstone shapes, the most common of which is the “round brilliant” cut. Each cut is designed for varying degrees of color and light reflection; the intricate cuts are, of course, also beautiful in their own right.  The round brilliant is the shape of the classic engagement ring stone. It contains exactly fifty-eight facets, arranged specifically to reflect the maximum amount of light out of the top of the stone.  If cut inaccurately, the light that is meant to reflect off the top instead leaks out of the bottom, giving the stone a duller appearance.

A similar style is the “oval” cut, which relies on the same design, using only fifty-six rather than fifty-eight facets. Another with fifty-six sides is the “marquise” cut, with a history dating back to King Louis XIV of France.  According to some historians, he had a diamond formed into the exact shape of Madame de Pompadour’s mouth.  This then became the marquise, a narrow almond-shaped stone. The “pear” cut, shaped like a teardrop, is most common in earrings and pendant necklaces.

Some other shapes include the “heart brilliant” cut and the “princess brilliant,”a square stone with facets stretching out like an X from the center of the gem’s top to its four corners. The “emerald” and “baguette” are both rectangular cuts, but beyond their basic shape they have strikingly distinct features.  The “emerald” has broad, flat facets that resemble stairs, as well as beveled – rather than pointed – corners. The baguette, meanwhile, has fewer facets, with a flat top surface and beveled cut along all four of its edges, as opposedto just its corners. These eight are most of what you’ll find when looking for gemstones in the jewel industry.

Be sure to know what you’re looking for before you go shopping for your next diamond ring!

Jewelry Sculptors

One dynamic duo you will want to watch out for is Chen Chen and Kai Williams. Their background in sculpting and architecture adds a fascinating energy to the jewelry they create. These two Pratt graduates opened a joint studio in 2011, where they constantly add to their repertoire of furniture, sculptures, and of course jewelry.  Part of what makes their work so unique is their particular ideology: no material is inert. For designers like Chen and Williams this means that they allow the vitality of the material itself to find its own form. Their process leaves the end result open to an element of chance, which ultimately expresses individuality even among similar products. In fact, no two bracelets are the same, only variations of the same idea. Their go-to medium is stone, which — while common in furniture and sculpting — is refreshingly innovative in the jewelry market.  The outcomes are pieces like the Stone Age Bangle, a gray-white Carrara marble bracelet with a swirling, pristine look often found on kitchen counter-tops.  Others, like the Blue Pearl Bangle made out of granite, utilize the same minimalist style.  They also work with more common jewelry materials, like resin and aluminum, found in the black and white Moon Ring.  One of their most spectacular, not to mention unique, pieces is the Layer Cake Necklace, which utilizes such unexpected materials even for a duo known for its unusual creations. The necklaces are made from various vibrant scraps found in their studio, then soaked in urethane and wrapped around a round slice of logwood. The entire piece hangs from neon pink rope.  Every product seems to be more eclectic than its predecessors. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

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