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From Helen Mirren wearing Vicki Sarge to promote her new film Red 2 in Japan and DJ Lauren Laverne sparkling in a geometric gemstone necklace by Mawi at the Mercury music awards in London, all the way back to Michelle Obama playing host to the Queen in Tom Binns diamanté last year, statement-making jewels increasingly have nothing to do with carats.
“This has become the decade of the major necklace,” says Vicki Sarge, best known as co-founder of jeweller Erickson Beamon, who launched her eponymous label in September specialising in bold costume pieces. But by “major” she doesn’t mean Hope Diamond-esque but something altogether more inventive. Unlike “paste” jewellery of the past, today’s non-precious pieces are not meant to pass as an imitation of the real thing but rather to celebrate the innovation and design intrinsic to each piece.
“Costume jewellery is important again and selling strongly as a category, so much so that we’ve introduced a dedicated costume jewellery ‘destination’ in the run-up to Christmas,” says Erin Moscow, head of accessories at Selfridges. She is referring to the store’s “Destination Bejewelled”, glitter-lined glass cabinets featuring work from jewellers such as Tom Binns, Shourouk and Mawi. “The most popular pieces by far are ornate and colourful collar necklaces, which can be an extension of, or add real contrast to, an outfit. They look best worn with a simple knit or a white shirt.”
Sarge agrees. “Our customer likes the fact that she can get a statement piece necklace that is beautiful quality and yet can be worn with a casualness that fine jewellery does not allow,” she says.
Natalie Kingham, head of fashion at matchesfashion.com, says Tom Binns, Shourouk, Dannijo and Lulu Frost represent an important category within their contemporary collections, along with pieces by established ready-to-wear designers such as Lanvin and Oscar de la Renta. “Oscar de la Renta’s style of jewellery is comparable to what was previously known as paste but it’s being bought in a more contemporary way to be worn with plainer pieces for more of a day look,” says Kingham.
“I was always attracted by the bling-bling, the diva vibe, as seen in Tintin’s Les Bijoux de la Castafiore,” says Paris-based designer Shourouk Rhaiem, who worked for Chloé and Galliano before launching her namesake collection in 2007. Although her designs combine unusual materials, including intricately embroidered PVC, enamelled stones and nylon climbing rope – often in unexpected pop tones, pastels and nudes – Shourouk says that sparkle in the form of Swarovski crystals remains an essential part of her vision. Ornate pieces average around £700.
Liberty was one of the first stores in London to carry the striking designs of Antwerp-based jeweller Ek Thongprasert. The range includes futuristic silicone neckpieces in subdued colours, such as navy, forest green or rust, moulded into crenulated patterns and studded with large, flashy, cubic, zirconium stones. They sell for upwards of £345.
Why has Liberty made this move? “It’s the perfect punctuation mark to the minimal fashion trend,” says managing director Ed Burstell, adding that his bestsellers are the items in limited or exclusive distribution, such as Ek Thongprasert and Sveva. “In the lead-up to the holidays,” he says, “these items represent a fun, clever, colourful gift option that doesn’t break the bank and is super for a Christmas or New Year’s eve party.”