Tessa Packard has always been interested in materials “considered ‘low’ or cheap,” she says. A surprising revelation, considering the designer and founder of London-based fine jewelry brand Tessa Packard routinely creates jewels that cost upwards of $10,000.
Yet, “I like to see whether good design and innovative narrative can challenge, and hopefully change, people’s perspectives on what is beautiful, cool, or coveted,” she tells The Zing Report.
Brightly hued plastics in jewelry have been circulating for some time, with brands including Mounser and Corey Moranis spinning out eye-popping statement jewels in various plastics. The craze for color, and less precious materials, is adjacent to the so-called kidcore aesthetic, defined by vivid primary hues and ’90s nostalgia (if you want to do a deep dive into kidcore, start here).
Now a handful of brands are putting a true luxury spin on the trend by setting diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and other precious gems into plastics.
Packard’s new Plastic Fantastic collection was inspired by “the spirit and the glamour of the 1950s pool party,” and sets vintage plastic jewelry—dome rings, bangles, plastic links, etc.—with colored gemstones. The Palm Beach ring pairs a blue plastic dome ring form with a voluminous Mozambique aquamarine, while the Tortuga necklace boasts oversized plastic turquoise-hued chain anchoring chunky lapis lazuli beads (see it above).
In Los Angeles, fine jewelry designer Grace Lee is doing something similar, only with diamonds and resin; she recently debuted a collection of resin pieces set with tiny, bezeled diamonds. Standouts in the series include the Resin Pod necklace (see it at top), which features an amorphously shaped pendant sprinkled with one, two, or three baby diamonds; undulating plain resin bangles; and her own plastic dome cocktail ring, meticulously set with seven small diamonds (see it below).
“Combining resin with diamonds is the ultimate juxtaposition of opposites on many levels,” Lee tells The Zing Report. “Resin represents the low, while diamond the high. Resin is manmade while diamonds are natural. Resin is a soft material that can be formed while diamonds are hard.”
Packard’s equally smitten with the juxtaposition, along with the history of plastic: “In under 100 years, plastic has essentially gone from being celebrated as the most innovative and fashionable material to being labelled as one of the greatest environmental disasters for our planet,” she notes. “And despite the cries for greater sustainability in the luxury industry, there’s been no real widespread uptake in the buying of vintage costume jewelry.”
She adds that “a whole genre of costume jewelry” essentially fell off a cliff, rendered worthless. “This bothered me because much of this jewelry was fun, well designed and statement, even if materially it wasn’t worth very much.”
Those feelings fueled the designer’s desire to see if she could do something innovative. “I wanted to see if I couldn’t convince the 21st century jewelry buyer that plastic could be both sustainable, beautiful, and cool once again.”