Jewellery expert Beth Bernstein charts the rising popularity of coloured gemstones, especially in engagement rings, and the trend towards individuality when it comes to choosing pieces.
Beth is a jewellery historian, expert and collector of period and modern pieces, and a proud purveyor of all things sparkly! She feels a romantic attachment to the legend, language and sentiment behind each and every piece of jewellery. This passion for gemstones and jewels inspired her to pen three books: My Charmed Life, a memoir; Jewelry’s Shining Stars, a modern jewelry design coffee table book; and If These Jewels Could Talk, an in-depth look at celebrities and the stories behind their legendary jewels on the silver screen and in real life. Her fourth book, on antique jewellery, is currently in the works. For the past 22 years, Beth has also written on the topic of jewellery for magazines and newspapers, both in print and, increasingly, online
What trends have you noticed recently in the world of coloured gemstone jewellery?
Coloured gemstones have been trending for a few years now. They started out as just accent colours to yellow gold, when it became very popular, but then the gemstones began to take on a life of their own.
We have seen everything from polished roughs to slices to cabochons and beautiful new faceted stones, which are often exclusive to the designer, limited edition or one-of-a-kind, and sometimes cut specially for a bespoke piece.
The two main trends I see with coloured gemstones are in direct opposition to each other.
On the one hand, there is a move towards very clean, geometric and often streamlined pieces which utilise emerald, baguette, hexagon and princess cut stones. Some of these have an almost Art Deco feeling, with the stones outlined in enamel.
Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there is a trend towards more elaborate and ornate styles, such as long flowing chandelier earrings and statement necklaces.
Although very different, both looks work, as they appeal to different women, and both are relevant in the contemporary market as well as having an enduring appeal.
I love that we are seeing emeralds, rubies and sapphires again in engagement rings. These were so popular in Hollywood’s heyday – with the big stars of the silver screen – and it’s great to see contemporary celebrities choosing coloured gemstones once again. The new norm is individuality in jewellery.
In which interesting ways have you seen coloured gemstones being used?
As I mentioned, for engagement rings, and particularly engagement rings that aren’t in a traditional setting but are more daring and edgy or inspired by the character and nuance of antique rings, cut and made by hand.
I also love when I see a design that is almost like a mosaic of stones, like in Ana Khouri’s ring (which she has also designed in a bracelet style), and in Nak Armstrong’s pieces. I think we see a bit of this in Ruth Tomlinson’s pieces as well. They are all executed very differently, but are all alluring and intricate in their own ways.
Are you an emerald or a ruby person and why?
I have always said that ruby is my favourite stone.
I love the vibrancy of rubies, the fiery colour and, of course, the meaning behind the stone. Rubies are about passion, desire and love. I have been drawn to them since I was very young. I love the stories and healing powers behind them. And as an antique jewellery collector, I have rubies from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian/Belle Epoque and Art Deco periods.
When I see a modern design that I like, if there is a choice of stone, I choose rubies every time. I also love the way rubies play off other gemstones. Rubies and moonstones (my second favourite stone) are magical together; rubies and turquoise are unexpected, yet in yellow gold they pop. And they are a hard stone, so they are more durable, and you don’t have to worry as much about cracks and abrasions.
With that said, I wouldn’t turn down an emerald, whose meaning of hope and prosperity is also very dear to my heart.
Do you think local jewellery trends follow international trends?
To some extent. I think that they look at them and then translate them into what will be best for their customers. Of course, the more trendsetting stores – those with more independent designers and more compelling designs – will be more on top of the trends, as many of the designers they carry are the ones setting the trends. I do think that there is definitely more of a push towards coloured stone engagement rings across the board.
How do you see the coloured gemstone trend growing in the future?
I think we will see even more creativity in the market: more exclusive cuts, more mixed cuts of stones in one piece, more designs that are developed around the stones, rather than the stone fitting into the design.
I think we are going to see less ‘cocktail styles’ in which you have one large stone and not much design aesthetic and more of the pieces that really take the whole piece into consideration.
I also see more mixing of coloured stones, whether it be tonal or a juxtaposition of stones you wouldn’t expect to see together and then work beautifully in the design.
To learn more about coloured gemstones click here