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.
When is something considered a piece of jewellery, and when is it a bejewelled objet d’art? Often the lines are blurry. Does the ability to wear a piece make it a jewel, or should it be the materials used that give a design its status?
In this week’s Digest, we’ve highlighted a story that refers to tooth jewellery – an echo of the 90s coming back to haunt the dentists of today. These tiny gems affix themselves to molars and incisors, and offer a modicum of flash for those unwilling to commit to a full-on grill. What is interesting about this story, in addition to offering a handy snapshot of pop culture, is the description of it as jewellery.
This brings me back to the question of what can be considered jewellery. Rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces – these are the easy ones. Yet, they have been expanded on. Rings and bracelets have merged, creating bringlets (a term introduced to me during a recent brand presentation) and earrings have expanded into huge cuffs. Shaun Leane took hand jewellery one step further a few years back when he created a precious chainmail glove for Daphne Guinness.
Then there are tiaras and brooches, both big accessories trends for this year. These are perhaps categories where materials matter. When a brooch or tiara is made of fabric or plastic, we could classify that as fashion. When made with gold and diamonds, it transcends into the realm of jewellery.
Precious objet d’art attract collectors, and luxury jewellery houses have been making (and selling) wonderful creations. Harry Winston has just unveiled a pair of opera glasses decorated with black onyx, diamonds and emeralds (as well as a clock made from a block of adventurine). Chanel creates precious clocks and unusual objects each year as part of its high jewellery collections – this year, a mother-of-pearl and gold fan was displayed among the rings and necklaces. Often these unusual, and highly limited or one-off, pieces are so sought after that they will sometimes have buyers lined up before they are even finished.
Other bejewelled objects I’ve seen recently that – while beautiful – verge on the bizarre, include a gold necklace with a monocle, capes made from gold, pearl-studded shoes and a diamond-set white gold hair band. Should these be considered jewellery, fashion or art? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.