If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that the jewelry industry is resilient. Even in challenging times, this business has bounce—smack it down and it inevitably boings back up.
And times are certainly complicated right now. Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re on our second major “highly infectious” variant, a development that will surely impact brick-and-mortar spending and has already led to industry event shuffles—Jewelers Mutual moved both its GEM Awards and 24 Karat Club Banquet event from January to May last week. Add labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, which are lengthening delivery times, and jewelers have a lot to navigate in the coming months.
But demand for fine jewelry remains high. Very high, in fact. Diamond producers De Beers and Alrosa both reported sharp increases in demand for diamonds this month, and Signet Jewelers, the largest jewelry retailer in the U.S., posted blockbuster third quarter sales, with brick-and-mortar vaulting 20.3% and online sales skyrocketing by 96.1% compared to 2020’s third quarter. Anecdotally, several indie retailers have told me that sales have been stronger this season compared to the past two holiday seasons.
Will the sales boon last? Impossible to predict—there are so many unknowns afoot! Which is why retailers and manufacturers should be working to anticipate what their customers will want next: new (or back-around-again) styles, gems, stone cuts, etc. You upgraded her diamond studs this year, but what styles will inspire her to spend in 2022? Jewelry retailing, like all luxury goods retailing, relies on stoking desire through design that triggers that gotta have it response. No one needs a ruby pendant or a platinum ear climber, but plenty of people desire those little luxuries. So, fill your cases with surefire sellers, yes, but also venture out on a limb every now and then—avid jewelry lovers are looking for pieces that feel different and special.
Need a little buying inspiration? Here are five fine jewelry trends destined to be big. Originating in global jewelry workshops and championed by tastemakers including top stylists, influencers, and celebrities, these looks are poised to fly out of cases in 2022!
Are rivière necklaces the jewelry trend story of 2021? Quite possibly. After a decade of slinky chain necklaces dominating our clavicles, diamond rivière necklaces and bracelets felt surprisingly fresh in 2021 (at this year’s JCK Las Vegas, several jewelry editor friends and I ran like Pamplona bulls for tennis necklaces and bracelets). Then, by year’s end, Sarah Jessica Parker, star of the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That, began popping up on red carpets in Nak Armstrong’s Nakard creative gemstone rivière necklaces. Hook, line, sinker. Everyone wants one now!
Dark Matter: Blackened/Oxidized Silver, Steel and Rhodium
Alone or paired with yellow gold (borrowing from Victorian jewelry design), blackened silver, steel and rhodium are suddenly everywhere, adding alluring shadows to collections on all tiers. Designers including Alison Nagasue and Monica Rich Kosann have been playing with pitch-black chains, on which they hang contrasting yellow gold chains, while brands such as Harwell Godfrey and Selin Kent have been using rhodium to add moody accents and to plate classic designs, respectively. The look is dynamic, nostalgic, and just a little gritty. Perfect for these nuanced times.
Big Gem Demi-Fine
Tell me you love wearing big precious gems without wearing big precious gems. That’s the silly line that runs through my head when I think about the emerging trend of jewelry that marries chunky semi-precious stones (think rock crystal, topaz, and quartz) with silver and golds. You know the delicate, tiny-diamond jewelry pieces we’ve all been wearing for the past decade? This look is the opposite of that. It’s all about maximalist design with lots of volume that hearkens back to Kenneth Jay Lane’s fabulous fakes and glittering cocktail party-ready costume creations from the 1950s and ’60s. Swarovksi’s recent collections under creative director Giovanna Battaglia embodied the trend with its giant, candy-hued crystals. But smaller designers are also spinning out gorgeous pieces with big gems and small price tags. L.A.-based Earthling Jewelry, to name one, makes these chunky, Hermiker diamond-and-brass rings that at $168 are perfectly priced for the impulse buyer.
Pearls have been popular for several years now, especially with Millennial jewelry consumers. But more recently, designers have been branching out from classic studs and simple rings to incorporate the lustrous gem into innovative-feeling designs. Up-and-coming fine jewelry brand Mateo New York uses pearls in elegant, playful designs that incorporate diamonds (see above), while jewelry retailer Ylang 23’s in-house collection, 23 Musts, strings small freshwater baroque pearls with lapis lazuli, turquoise, and other colorful gems to create colorful, casual-feeling strands for necklaces and bracelets.
Eccentric Eternity Bands
The once-hum-drum eternity band has broken out this past year as a vehicle for creative, fresh-feeling design; it’s no longer just a component in a bridal stack. Direct-to-consumer brand Verlas’ chic knife’s edge eternity is among its best-sellers; Jade Trau’s popular Kismet ring, which spaces diamonds out on along an otherwise plain gold band, has become a defining design for the atelier; and Suzanne Kalan, who’s iterated more creatively on the eternity band than any other single designer out there, is doing brisk business with glam eternity styles featuring stalks of metal set with baguette-cut diamonds and other gemstones (see above). —Emili Vesilind