BAJ Insight: Ways to introduce colour to jewels

BAJ Insight: Ways to introduce colour to jewels

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.

One of the most exciting – and tantalizing – trends in jewellery right now is colour. Not a particular colour, but any colour, and lashings of it.

There are myriad ways to introduce bright rainbow flashes to jewellery designs. Some require traditional craftsmanship, while others call on the latest technologies; some will rocket the price of a jewel skywards, while just as creative alternatives will actually lower the price point of jewels. This is a truly democratic trend.

I’m sure there are new ways of working with colour brewing at the benches of the BAJ at this very moment, but for now, here are some existing ideas for inspiration on how to make your designs a little bit brighter and capture the vogue for rainbow jewels.

Titanium

Definitely a method for the more advanced jeweller, titanium is notoriously hard to master, but for those who do it can be heat treated to turn a variety of colours from green to purple, or a swirly mix. Many luxury jewellery houses are now using it alongside gold in haute joallerie collections.

Credit: Glenn Spiro

Enamel

There are two applications of enamel that will bring colour to any design. The first is traditional arty methods such as cloisonné and champlevé, but recently designers have been using thick glossy layers of block-colour enamel to cover precious metal and create bright pops of colour.

Credit: Bea Bongiasca

Ceramic nano plating

Much in the same way that designers are using enamel to layer over the top of precious metal, ceramic nano plating applies thin layers of brightly hued ceramics over metal to create unexpected colourways. Rather than being painted on, this is plated onto the metal.

Credit: Fernando Jorge

Rhodium

As well as brightening white metals, rhodium plating can be used to darken gold and silver – either the entire jewel, or just the settings to make them blend in or contrast with gems. Create blackened gold, or experiment to raise other colours such as lilac.

Credit: Noor Fares

Gemstones

An easy way to introduce colour is through bright coloured gemstones. This can be as cheap as a rainbow of sapphires or even Swarovski crystals, or can take you into the stratospheric realms of Paraiba tourmalines and pink diamonds. Graduate a shade or use different colours to create a rainbow.

Credit: Noor Fares

Silk thread or chord

A brilliant way to reduce the price tag of jewels is to lower the metal weight by replacing chains with bright silk chords, cotton thread, bright leather or perhaps something more industrial like climbing rope. This makes a great contrast to diamonds or other precious elements and works best for bracelets, but can also look good on a necklace (a leather choker, for example) or as an element of an earring, like a bright playful tassel.

Credit: Aurelie Bidermann

Paint

One of the emerging trends from Baselworld was the use of miniature hand-painted artworks. This was mostly seen in the watch halls, but these art works can be affixed to jewels too. Rather than enamel, this is actually artists’ paint, applied in tiny, painstaking proportions.

Credit: Suzanne Syz

Bepsoke alloys

If you think that your only options for gold are white, yellow and rose, think again. The colour of gold has nothing to do with the gold content but the balance of alloys it is mixed with. Rose gold, for example, has a higher copper content, and jewellers have been tinkering with the mix to create shades like green, purple and fuschia.

Credit: Neissing

Silicone

If you fancy trying your hand at 3D printing, creating jewellery with silicone parts is a great way to do it. You can print designs directly and then colour them by hand, or even plate them with precious metals. As well as being bright and easy on the budget, silicone is also light so you can create larger, more wearable designs. If you don’t fancy 3D printing, you can also use mould injection to create silicone jewels.

Credit: Evgeniia Balashova