Join us for our weekly BAJ:Insight on the latest industry trends by Rachael Taylor, a freelance journalist who writes about jewellery for a number of titles, including The Financial Times, The Jewellery Editor and Retail Jeweller. In her 10 years reporting on the industry, she has travelled the globe to visit key industry fairs, descended a Fairtrade gold mine on top of a Peruvian mountain, toured silver jewellery factories in Thailand, and regularly has access to the most sparkling jewels and people in the business.
Baselworld is, quite simply, the biggest jewellery show on the planet. This year was the Swiss trade show’s 100th anniversary and more than 106,000 jewellery, watch and gem buyers from 100 countries descended on the Swiss town of Basel to see the latest collections and design innovations.
There were also more than 4,400 journalists at the show, myself included. Who knew there were that many of us? I spent four days wandering around the jewellery halls soaking up all the inspiration to be found there. While this was not a particularly spectacular year for shout-it-from-the-rooftops launches (it’s been a tough year for the luxury industry), there were still plenty of exciting jewels to be found. Here are some of the most interesting pieces I came across.
Baselworld is known for its extravagance, and not only does it have some of the most expensive jewels in the world, you will also find some of the largest (and most expensive) jewels in the world. Mikimoto had a wonderful display of pearl jewels for the body, from necklaces that draped around the hips and back, to luxury hairbands and a shoulder jewel, to be shrugged on just because. Kimberlite Diamonds also had some incredible creations – oversized capes and enormous necklaces that dropped down to the waist – and each was made from solid gold and set with hundreds, if not thousands, of diamonds.
The trend for lopsided earrings continued to captivate designers at Baselworld. Studs were matched with long drops; colours clashed from ear to ear; others offered subtle tweaks you had to look really hard for to spot. Ear cuffs were still popular, and there were much more single earrings at the show than ever before. The other ear trend? Very BIG earrings, of all varieties.
Chokers and torques
The other big jewellery trend was for chokers and torques. This has been a popular trend in fashion jewellery, with every Topshop princess worth her salt strapping a 90s-style strip of black velvet round her neck. At the luxury end of the market, it is generating just as much excitement, and there were plenty of new designs unveiled.
Colourful and unusual gems
While diamonds usually get all the headlines during Baselworld, there was lots of colour to be found in the jewellery halls. Green was a popular shade (emeralds, tsavorite, malachite), and blue, which has dominated the coloured gemstone scene for the past few years, still held sway (tanzanite, Paraiba tourmaline, sapphires). One unusual gem that kept popping up was adventurine, while moonstones were absolutely everywhere (one unusual spot was an orange-hued blush moonstone at Ole Lynggaard). De Grisogono, known for gemstone innovation, presented two man-made (or at least man-tweaked) gems – reconstituted turquoise (smaller turquoise gems are crushed up and then put back together to create large rounds that are a pure blue with no dark marks), and a white crackled-looking gem called Frozen Crystal made by dropping rock crystal into very hot liquid then flash freezing it.
Pearl laser-cutting innovation
It is always exciting when you discover evidence of a new technique, and I found that on the stand of Italian jeweller Marco Bicego. His team has spent the past 12 months developing a technique that allows them to carve mother of pearl into an undulating petal-like shape. Mother of pearl is very delicate and notoriously difficult to work with so this is a real achievement. The secret? They used lasers – and the effect is wonderful.
Lava rocks, gemstone mosaics and sunset chalcedony
Finally, one of my favourite booths this year (and last) belonged to a brand called Venyx, so I’m going to pick not just one but three highly innovative pieces from it. The first is a suite of jewels set with dark pock-marked rocks called lava stones (yes, cooled lava turned into a gem); then we have a wonderful offering of jewels starring miniature artworks created by using gemstones to make micro mosaics; and lastly there is a very unusual gem (picked up at the Tuscon fair – read more about that show in this week’s Digest) called sunset chalcedony.