It was hard to ignore the bedazzlement of statement necklaces during this year’s award season. From Jennifer Lawrence at the Golden Globes and Saoirse Ronan at the Baftas, both wearing Chopard, to Charlize Theron in a Harry Winston diamond sautoir of close to 50 carats at the Academy Awards, it seems that big necklaces are back in vogue on the red carpet.
After several years of the light, layered look prevailing, women are returning to bolder choices of neckwear in the real world too.
Fawaz Gruosi, founder and chief executive of De Grisogono, says that in the past few years the company has been selling more one-of-a-kind pieces, like the bold monochromatic diamond necklace he plans to unveil at Baselworld this week, and fewer of its wholesale collections of lower-priced, generally more discreet jewels.
This is not just a style-based development, he says. The economic uncertainty that still prevails in many parts of the world, he believes, has led to jewels and precious stones being perceived as a safe investment option.
“A piece of jewellery has become like a moveable asset,” says Mr Gruosi. “If something bad happened, you wouldn’t lose money in it and you could take it with you.”
While most of De Grisogono’s business at Baselworld, he predicts, will be split fairly equally across its one-of-a-kind pieces and wholesale collections, bold, high-ticket items also serve as a branding exercise during the fair. “We bring these pieces for clients to understand who De Grisogono is, and for eyes of the press,” he adds.
Shaun Leane is pleased to see larger pieces coming back into vogue. The London-based designer says he always includes a significant statement necklace or brooch as the “hero piece” in every collection he designs. “They are a beautiful canvas for telling a story.”
At Baselworld he is presenting a one-of-a-kind octopus cuff, the first piece in a capsule collection for Muzo, the Colombian emerald mine. The largest piece in the collection, however, is a striking necklace of diamonds and emerald cabochons, scheduled to be unveiled in May.
Comparing it to his “Queen of the Night” necklace for Boucheron’s 150th anniversary in 2008, which featured an array of precious flowers that opened at the touch of a button, he says the necklace “is a chance for me to explore concepts and different materials”.
Statement necklaces also offer Mr Leane’s bespoke clients a chance to tell their own story. “There’s a real hunger for uniqueness and people want a piece they feel reflects who they are,” he explains. Today’s self-purchasing, Alexander McQueen-wearing female client, he adds, wants a necklace that is precious but modern in spirit. “They want extraordinary jewellery in keeping with today’s fashions.”
Messika is another brand pushing a cool, modern vibe in high jewellery. The Parisian diamond jeweller is presenting a range of necklaces at Baselworld, including the Calypso, a dramatic collar of pear-shaped diamonds.
Designed to be fully flexible, the brand’s necklaces, says Valérie Messika, creative director and chief executive, are “easier to wear and considerably more comfortable than a traditional large collier once was”. These have contributed to an increase in popularity, she says.
Graff too is seeing an upturn in sales of high-priced necklaces, such as the rare emerald and ruby beaded tassel designs it is presenting during Basel. “Among our clients globally we have seen an increase in demand for one-of-a-kind necklaces, featuring rare gemstones and diamonds,” says François Graff, its chief executive.
At the more accessible end of the luxury market, Georg Jensen is hoping to build on the success it had with necklaces in 2015.
Last year, Vivianna Torun’s mid-century designs such as her Dew Drop and Runa necklaces were 16 per cent of its total jewellery business, a rise of 12 percentage points.
This year, as well as adding further iterations of the Runa necklace in tiger’s eye, malachite and other coloured stones, it has created a gold and diamond version of Ms Torun’s 1950s wide collar design, with a 195-carat pendant in smoky quartz or rock crystal.
“We are making,” says Meeling Wong, Georg Jensen’s managing director for jewellery, “a commitment to necklaces.”