by Ellen Steiber
Fashion is such a slippery concept, always promising something new and exciting, yet often recycling older ideas. Jewelry, in particular, clings to classics. It’s safe to say that diamond solitaires will be in fashion as engagement rings for the foreseeable future, and the majority of pieces made with gold or platinum and high-quality gemstones will retain their value and appeal over generations. Also, winter is eternally the season for the glitziest jewels—a necessary sparkle to counter the long, dark nights and light up holiday parties.
But jewelry design, like any art, is inventive and always pushing old boundaries to bring us something different to crave and acquire. Luckily for us all, fashion continues to embrace a wide spectrum of styles, with something for nearly every taste. Recently, I wrote about the Resurgence of Delicate Jewelry. But if delicate jewelry isn’t to your liking, chunky cocktail rings and long, elaborate earrings are back. Which just goes to prove that many of the hot “new” styles are really old friends from the past that have simply come round again. So if you’ve always loved chokers and Cartier-esque panther jewelry, this is your year. Possibly the only thing that is truly new–and even this has been gradually building for the last few years– is Smart Jewelry, aka Wearables.
Before I get into the trends of the current season, I should say that many of the trends that we identified in previous seasons are still going strong, especially the stacking of bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Really, this year you cannot wear too many bracelets or too many rings. The more, the merrier. Multiple earrings—following the line of the cartilage or placed just about anywhere on the ear—are also very much in vogue. Though there’s a genuine interest in the minimalist look–think of the single skinny bracelets that are showing up in magazines—at this point, minimalism is taking a back seat to a kind of joyful piling on of precious metals and gems and other materials: bracelets made of leather, string, resin or even rubber; cocktail rings featuring crystal, resin, or faux gems. It’s the ability to put them all together that matters. Ideally, the multiple bracelets, rings, earrings, or necklaces set each other off—make each other pop–rather than look like a chaotic tangle.
As for stacking jewelry being a new idea, I should mention that wearing many bangles at once is an ancient Indian tradition, still very much alive in contemporary India. Not only did the temple dancers wear them, but bangle bracelets were given as wedding gifts. It was considered unlucky for a married woman to be bare-armed. In today’s India, even young girls wear stacks of bangles, made of materials as varied as gold and glass.
Geometric also being called architectural jewelry is more popular than ever, especially in big, bold bracelets and in earrings constructed of triangles or dangling cones. Bangles that open on top of the wrist, sometimes called pinch bracelets, are also on the rise. Rings that are open on top are being shown, but not as frequently as the bracelets. Hand, or flower, bracelets—in which a bracelet is connected by a chain to one or more rings—are also showing up more frequently.
Geometric or architectural jewelry is perhaps most typified by Tiffany’s distinctive T bangles:
Geometric architectural jewelry Tiffany's
So for the new trends:
Single, Long Earrings and Asymmetric Earrings (also known as the Mono Earring): We’ve been wearing neatly paired earrings for centuries now, and for some of us, that look is getting a little tired. A while ago, it became popular for women to wear a third, usually much smaller, pieced earring above a pair of matched earrings. But now this asymmetric trend has gone bold, and what’s being shown is a small stud worn on one ear, and on the other, a long, elaborate dangling earring, often consisting of several charms on chains. I love this look that calls attention to both the face and the neck. At the same time, it’s got a bit of gypsy influence, unpredictable and wild. (And speaking of classic gypsy looks, big thin hoop earrings are also making a return.)
Single long earrings or The Mono Earring
What’s essential in the single earring is that it be big and noticeable. Usually, they’re quite long—sometimes grazing or even going past the shoulder–though there are also curved mono earrings that owe their inspiration to horns.
Chunky cocktail rings: Ever since I learned that cocktail rings first came in during the Roaring Twenties as a kind of antidote to engagement rings and wedding bands, I’ve been fascinated by them. Originally a statement of independence—I don’t need a man to give me jewelry—these rings were worn to the (illegal) speakeasys by young, single women who dared to go out and drink and smoke on their own. After years of Victorian propriety, cocktail rings were worn to be naughty. And, of course, they were worn for the pure pleasure of flaunting bold, colorful gems. Even then, the cocktail ring cut across class lines. There were the pricey jewels for the rich, but it was also perfectly acceptable to wear cocktail rings set with semi-precious stones, crystal, or glass.
The amazing fashion icon Iris Apfel once said, “More is more and less is a bore.” Cocktail rings definitely belong to that school of thought. In this day and age, when it seems we have to be so exceedingly careful about so many things—our diets, our health, our money, the schools we send our children to, our on-line identities—it’s wonderful that this very decadent piece of jewelry has come back. You can wear one, of course, but now you can also wear several on each hand and, if the jewelry ads are to be believed, several on each finger. The rings themselves range from gemmy cabochons to druzy crystals to faceted stones to faux everything. The key word is big, but these rings are also all about color, deep and bright. In terms of jewelry, cocktail rings are about as close as you can get to wearing Christmas ornaments on your fingers. Though they are no longer a declaration of independence, cocktail rings still make a statement: It is fun to be fabulous, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Pomellato Chunky Cocktail Ring
Tilda Swinton ad for Pomellato
Knuckle Rings: In a slightly weird combination of the delicate look and the “more is more” philosophy, multiple wire-thin rings are being worn on each hand, with at least several of these rings worn above the knuckles. Knuckle rings are almost never worn singly. You wear them above other slender rings, and you often wear several matching knuckle rings on one hand. Because the rings are so thin and yet worn in a decidedly odd place, they call attention to themselves. Me, I always wonder if they’re comfortable and whether or not a ring worn above the top knuckle is too easy to lose. And yet the look is striking and a definite departure from the more classic, style of only wearing one ring per finger. Keep in mind that worn above the top knuckle and so close to the fingernails, knuckle rings call attention to nails. They are the perfect thing to wear when you’ve just gotten a killer manicure.
Chokers (aka Dog Collars): These tightly fitting necklaces have been going in and out fashion since Sumerian times. They were popular during the French Revolution, in the late 1800s, and then again in the 1940s. They reappeared in the 1990s with Goth style and on celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Britney Spears. And now they are back. You can tell because Rihanna, Hayden Panettiere, and Kim Kardashian have all been photographed in them.
One of the most famous chokers of the not-too-distant past belonged to Princess Diana and is known as the Crowns and Regalia Choker. Before Diana married Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth gave her a 20-carat sapphire brooch, surrounded by diamonds. Diana didn’t wear brooches much, so she had the gem made into a choker with eight strands of pearls on each side. In 1981, she wore it the night she danced with Michael Jackson at the White House.
Princess Diana's Choker
You certainly don’t need real jewels to wear an of-the-minute choker . TopShop is selling an inexpensive black velvet choker with a faux emerald. If you’re a fan of the classic black ribbon choker, these have to be among the easiest pieces of jewelry to make, requiring only the right pendant, beads, or ornament sewn on as the centerpiece. Though the black ribbon is part of the choker’s return, it is only one facet of the style. Most of the chain necklaces I’ve seen recently have been chokers—some big link, and other finer and consisting of three or more chains. Also, there are chokers made of beads, lace, silk, velvet, pearls, leather, rubber, or two attached metal plates.
Custom Velvet Choker
Extravagant Dior Choker
One variant is a revival of the Celtic torc, usually an open metal ring or collar that slips around the neck. And some designers have gotten far more elaborate and even veer into metal Peter Pan collars.
Pamela Love Meridian Collar
Cloud Collar Necklace
John Hardy, who designs in Bali but always has his finger on the contemporary Western pulse has also been showing quite few chokers in his sensual metal braids.
John Hardy Sterling Woven Choker
Smart Jewelry or Wearables—Since the 17th century, we’ve worn jewelry that tells time of day. In 1816 Louis Moinet invented the chronograph, which combined a watch with a stopwatch. In the twentieth century, well before it was even possible, we became comfortable with the idea that our time pieces might also link us to others—remember those nifty wristband Communicators that Captain Kirk wore in Star Trek? And years before that , in 1946, the cartoon character Dick Tracy and his police force wore 2-Way Wrist Radios that combined watches and radios, allowing them to talk to each other. But it’s only recently, after the advent of the digital watch and the cell phone, that objects on our wrists actually allow us to communicate with our computers and each other.
New wearable gadgets seem to be released every day, most of them designed enhance to fitness and health. Almost all of them track activity—monitoring and recording the pace of a walk or run, lap times with GPS systems tracking distance and altitude. Also measured are heart rate, calories consumed and burned, and even our sleep patterns. Some of these devices offer coaching tips and will even design a workout program for you. Still other tracking devices are health specific, designed to monitor data that helps manage conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Interestingly, one of the most heralded smart devices, the Google Glass has not caught on despite its cutting-edge technology. This seems to be due to its high price and the general consensus that you can’t wear it without looking like a total nerd.
Most of the information gleaned from trackers is coordinated with a smart phone app, so that you can upload your data to the Cloud and tailor your workouts for your own goals—such as increase in strength, speed, endurance, or weight loss. In this digital age, every one of us can now generate the kind of highly specialized data about our own bodies that we used to seek out from coaches and trainers. Some of these wearables work with Android phones, others with Apple’s IOS interface, and some like Microsoft’s Band work with both. Tech companies are already designing similar devices for cycling and swimming.
Of course, the one everyone is waiting for is the to-be-released Apple Watch. (Spring 2015 is the new date.) Apple products have a way of morphing from cutting-edge tech, to lust objects for the masses, to everyday tools that none of us wants to live without. Which raises the question: In two years, will we all be wearing Apple Watches? I can see how recording and monitoring data about yourself could be useful for athletes and absolutely life-saving for those with conditions like heart disease and diabetes. But honestly, in this age of hacking, I have qualms about sharing that much personal information with the Cloud. Also, I’m not sure I want to my monitor myself that closely. And yet, it is not inconceivable that one day, I’ll wind up with all this information on my wrist. It is the wave of the present and the future, and it is clear that these devices are becoming increasingly common.
Two caveats when choosing a tracker: Battery life varies among the different devices, so some will need to be re-charged more frequently than others. Also, not all trackers are compatible with all devices, so make sure whatever you choose works with your smartphone or tablet.
Being a jewelry freak, my real question is: how are theses wearables as jewelry? Right now, they fit into several general styles:
The Big Digital Rectangle On Your Wrist. Among these is the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, which is really more of a phone with a camera, and it comes in six bright colors; it’s been rated one of the best Fitness Tracker Smart Watches.. The Bowflex EZ Pro Heart Rate Monitor has three functions—watch, stopwatch, and a heart-rate monitor—and looks a bit like a digital diving watch, with a round frame over its rectangular face. The Basis B-1 Band, which has been rated one of the best overall fitness trackers, has a nice stainless steel version that not only tracks heart-rate but collects data on your “Habits,” providing gradually increasing fitness goals. The TomTom Runner Cardio series, specifically designed for runners and considered among the best trackers for running, comes in a number of colors and monitors heart rate, laps, calories burned, and allows you to analyze and share your stats via apps.
Though it won’t be released until next spring, we know that the Apple Watch will be one of the Big Digital Rectangles on Your Wrist, but being an Apple product, it will be, as they say, “extensively customizable.” Apple has always put a premium on innovative and elegant design. So it is no surprise that there will be a choice of sizes, bands, and metals. Apple has also designed gorgeous graphic interfaces that allows the actual watch face to change, so that you’ll have a choice of screen displays—anything from what looks like a traditional watch face to a butterfly design to a set of icons to– in a nod to vintage collectibles–a Mickey Mouse watch face. And because Apple products tend to be status symbols, there are plans for Edition, the luxury version of the Apple Watch, which will come in several shades of 18-K gold.
Tory Burch Fitbit
The Slender Wrist Band—If you prefer a more minimalist look in your trackers, there are quite a number of what are essentially slender rubber or silicon wrist bands, some with digital displays, some without. A number of these including the Jawbone Up24, which tracks the patterns in your sleep, are thin, light and, yes, comfortable enough to sleep in. Most of these, however, don’t log training sessions. The Skechers Go Walk Activity Tracker counts steps, monitors sleep patterns, and holds 9 days worth of memory. And the Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band comes in five colors, records exercise, assigns personal daily goals and lets you know when you’ve been inactive too long. Some of these slender wrist bands wrap around your wrist like a snake bracelet, including the second generation Up by Jawbone.
The Jawbone Up24 is considered one of the best for sleep tracking and can even be set to vibrate gently and wake you up in the morning. Microsoft’s Band, a smartwatch with Windows-like tiles, can tell time, count your steps, let you know if you need sunscreen (it has a UV sensor) and can be synced to a number of fitness apps that keep track of your data. The Fitbit Flex tracks steps, distance, calories burned, and at night tracks your sleep patterns.
The Disk Tracker—These may look the most like traditional watches, a round disk on a band. Among them are Moov, which has a voice coach that will guide you through walking, running, and even boxing workouts. Despite the wristband, the Moov can be placed almost anywhere on your body and is considered one of the best fitness trackers for exercise. The Fitbug Orb, another movement and sleep tracker, is one of the most affordable of these devices and is considered to be a great value for the price.
Disguised Trackers: If you don’t want the world to know that you are tracking your every move—or if you simply prefer jewelry that looks like jewelry– there are several cleverly designed covers for trackers. The Fitbit Flex has joined with designer Tori Burch to create a series of metal hinged bracelets and pendants that the Fitbit tracker slips right into. These have the sleek geometric lines of architectural jewelry and provide a classy way to dress up your tracking device, so that you can wear it just about anywhere:
Misfit Shine is a round, almost coin-like device, that comes in ten colors and offers wristbands in four colors. But you can also snap your Shine into a Bloom pendant with a lovely metal floral design, which also comes in several colors:
Misfit Shine Bloom Necklace
The Return of the Panther: It’s a birthday celebration. Cartier’s elegant panther has just turned 100. First introduced in 1914 in black and white onyx and diamond pavé, the Cartier panther has long been a staple of fine jewelry, evolving over the years and featuring just about every gem.
The term panther usually refers to a mountain lion or cougar, but Cartier was using it as Panthera, the genus that includes the big cats– leopard, tiger, lion, and jaguar—the only cats who roar. So for Cartier and other jewelers who followed, panthers sometimes are spotted and other times have tiger stripes. There have been panthers with black onyx noses and emerald eyes, panthers with fur of gold and ruby eyes. They’ve been part of brooches and earrings and bracelets, rings, watches, and clocks. The Duke of Windsor had one commissioned for his wife, Wallis Simpson, in 1948, and she promptly bought more, including a spectacular cabochon emerald topped by an onyx-spotted gold leopard; a panther bracelet; and another incredible pin, this one a leopard made of diamonds and sapphires, perched atop a star sapphire orb weighing 152.35 carats.
Great Cats by Cartier
The heiress Barbara Hutton wore the Cartier panthers, as did Daisy Fellowes and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis. In more recent times, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Juliette Binoche, and Stella McCartney have all sported Cartier panthers.
Juliette Binoche in Cartier Panther jewelry
Lady Gaga wearing Cartier Panther Jewelry
According to Natasha Silva-Jelly, Cartier’s panther motif was inspired by Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s friend, muse, and artistic director, whose nickname was La Panthère. Toussaint was an original, known to appear at parties in silk pajamas and a leopard-skin coat. Cartier’s very first panther was not a piece of jewelry. Rather it sat on top of a vanity case that he designed for Toussaint in 1917.
This year, in honor of its birthday, Cartier is introducing all new panthers—all of them extravagant and quite amazing. The panther rings, in particular have evolved from the older pavé style into creatures more geometric and quite a bit fiercer.
Panthere de Cartier rings
Cartier’s panther necklaces have also been updated with styles ranging from relative simply panther pendants to panthers atop fringe and panthers suspended from chains.
Cartier Panther Necklace
What’s interesting to me, though, is how the panther has caught on with other jewelers. The big cat is no longer limited to Cartier. So don’t fret if you don’t have a Cartier budget. There are knock-offs made with CZ’s and panther bracelets in blackened sterling silver.
Affordable Panther cuff by Rick Cameron
I suppose what it comes down to is that inspired by Toussaint, Cartier let the big cat out of the bag—and it’s adorned fierce, strong women ever since.
Though other trends are surfacing, these have been the main ones to be shown in the autumn and winter of 2014. As we move toward solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, it’s a good time to deck ourselves with sparkling stones and colorful jewels, always holding onto that promise of returning light.