No white after September; no mini-skirts over 40; never mix spots and stripes – such classic rules of dress have long been abandoned, as is clear from the current catwalks. Jewellery, however, has often held much faster to tradition – until now. Liliane Jossua, founder of the Paris “concept” store Montaigne Market, says, “The crisis has made people think and change their view of jewellery.” A small group of jewellery designers, mostly Paris-based, has emerged to come up with alternative ways of wearing jewels, shifting emphasis on to unfamiliar parts of the body and unexpected forms.
Not long ago, for example, Katia Gaydamak, one of two Russian-born sisters behind the jewellery brand Privé, was “playing around with a bracelet that was too big, moving it on to her palm,” says her sister Sonia. She moved it so that the gem-set lacy design sat on the top of the hand, while the “bracelet” fit over the palm. “People stopped us in the street to ask about it,” says Sonia, and the sisters realised they had struck a chord.
Privé designs veer from delicate interlacing to a fearsome iguana or crocodile, all intricately crafted in delicate white, yellow, rose or black gold, with diamonds or rubies. Characteristic of these alternative jewels, they blend a precious refinement with a hint of the ethnic.
Pristine is an avant-garde brand by Paris-based Lauren Rubinski that specialises in dramatic earrings made to be bought singly or mixed with others. Elise Dray’s earrings balance one spectacular design that wraps curvaceously round the ear – a velvet sapphire-set peacock feather, a slithering serpent, her signature diamond fire-breathing dragon – with a smaller stud for the other ear: a leaf or a tiny serpent.
It doesn’t stop with the ears. The Glove Cuff, by Lebanese designer Noor Fares, is a jewel for the whole hand rather than just the wrist. Inspired by henna tattoos, it rolls comfortably over the top of the hand and under the fingers, is composed of pearls, smooth ebony or turquoise beads, and is fastened with a diamond-set gold clasp. Double-digit rings, or rings that spread out over two fingers, may have become almost mainstream (they are a speciality of Van Cleef & Arpels and Garrards’ new, very British, Star & Garter collection) but have been taken to another level by Elise Dray, who turns gently undulating gem-paved serpents into a dainty triple-digit knuckleduster, and creates gem-set rings designed as coiled serpents or writhing dragons for the top finger joint. Her Hippy ring consists of two very fine gold bands, worn above and below the finger joint, linked by an even finer chain ornamented with a tiny charm – a cross, snake or fleur de lys.
Gaia Repossi, scion of the Monaco-based jewellery house, offers gold or silver cage-like rings or simple gem-set diamond bands made to be worn singly or in groups on the upper joint of the finger or on the toes. They’re part of a growing movement that ornaments all the fingers or nails, as in the squeeze-to-fit gilt nail rings by Bijules, sold in Paris at the H3 Gallery.
“Fine jewellery can get a little boring,” says Montaigne Market’s Jossua. “This is modern, a way of being different. Everything changes. Even jewellery.”