It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that in times of economic instability when many forms of investment seem precarious, attention turns to precious stones and metals.
The turmoil on global financial markets has put the gold price at an all-time high and fine jewellers at Basel this week are launching high jewellery collections that include some of the most extravagant and valuable pieces they have ever created.
The precious materials in the unique pieces created by Bulgari include a rare fancy 25-carat deep blue diamond and a 95-carat sugar-loaf sapphire set with baguette cut diamonds, illustrating the confidence they have in the fiscal buoyancy of their wealthy clients.
The fertile imagination of Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, has produced more jewellery pieces than ever before, including a ring set with a 33-carat Chameleon diamond.
“It’s the biggest of its kind in the world,” says a proud Ms Gruosi-Scheufele, “because in high jewellery we work only with exceptional stones.” The diamond changes from golden yellow to olive green in heat and light and will be sold for several million dollars as a collector’s piece. Ms Gruosi-Scheufele has added to her collection in the lower price point with the new Happy Amore range, featuring little clusters of diamond hearts, in pink rings and pendants. “I’m a fan of pink gold and pink sapphires,” she says, “and it’s very in tune with fashion right now.”
The yellow gold revival continues this year but it is less shiny. Pieces are either burnished or textured with a matt effect, or given a warm glow with a touch of pink or a dash of diamonds. H Stern, the Brazilian jeweller, uses its own sophisticated coloured alloy called Noble gold, which has a flesh tone retaining the elegance of white metal with the warmth of gold. “Rose gold is the biggest colour move for us,” says Stephen Webster, seven times winner of the UK Luxury Designer of the Year Award, confirming the trend for warm coloured metals, “and we’re using bronze mother of pearl and stone combos that work with it”.
The Chameleon diamond is not the only unusual colour in the Basel showcases, which are a blinding combination of golden obsidian, Imperial jade coloured chrysoprase, milky-white quartz, rich red spinels, green tourmalines and violet sapphires.
“I’ve always been a colourist,” says designer Fawez Gruosi of De Grisogono, “but now I’m using more combinations of colours and more complex treatment of degradations bringing out colour in a new way.”
Mr Gruosi is building on his toning techniques, matching different materials of similar shades. “For example I’m using brown diamonds on brown gold and black diamonds on grey gold.”
Shaun Leane is also using two-toning colours in his Aurora Collection, setting pink sapphires, rubies and amethysts together in interlocking cocktail rings and earrings or a warm mixture of lemon quartz, champagne diamond and citrine set into yellow gold. Pearls too are coming in fancy colours, graduating from pale golden to metallic green and fine aubergine in the Schoeffel and Autore collections.
Designs are organic-looking and nature-inspired in step with the spring/summer runway shows which were laden with floral prints. The Camellias are in full bloom at Chanel in a chic new modern yellow gold collection or monochrome black and white diamonds and the Marquesa rings at Harry Winston have coloured gemstones surrounded by floral diamonds.
However, the new cut for semi-precious stones is all about delicacy. They are thin and flat-looking, like slivers of a gem stone. “This is a definite trend,” says Dan Izbicki of Pascal, “‘evolved from the popularity of the Indian rose-cut diamonds in recent years.” The Jaipur collection by Marco Bicego features chain necklaces set with irregular cut, shimmering, sliver-cut stones in flat-looking, imperfect circles and oval shapes.
Carol Woolton is jewellery editor of Vogue