Jacques Cousteau—the multi-hyphenate French naval officer, divemaster, oceanographer, filmmaker, and author—once said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” A gaze into the depths of a fine aquamarine, sapphire, tourmaline, opal, or emeralds—gems that echo the colors of the ocean—has much the same effect.
Jewelry designers have long been inspired by the colors, movements, and unfathomable depths of the world’s great oceans. Lydia Courteille’s Deep Sea collection was built around the blue opal and ocean fauna. “I love jellyfish, squid, shark, seahorse, crabs, etc.,” the French designer tells The Zing Report. “I’m passionate about the ocean.” So much so that when she sells a piece from the Deep Sea collection, she quickly makes a new one to replace it.
Courteille details a specific sea-side inspiration: “In 1985, I was in Southern Turkey and discovered a secret place, Kas Kekova, a peninsula accessible only by the turquoise sea. There’s a big fortress, a few Lycian tombs, and a sunken city that’s 3,000 years old. There is just one house because of a large earthquake.”
New York-based designer Nina Runsdorf is also energized in her design process by her passion for the ocean: “The color of the sea and how it captivates for hours is endlessly inspiring,” she says. “I love opals; their natural color variations and the richness of their texture are the perfect medium to evoke the sea while celebrating nature’s irregularities.”
The designer is especially fond of the Atlantic (seen from her backyard in the Hamptons), and the Mediterranean, where she joined friends for a boating trip through Sardinia and Greece earlier this month.
Aquamarine and tourmaline, shown below in pieces from Ara Vartanian, Emily P. Wheeler, The Last Line, and Tessa Packard, conjure images of the clear, cerulean Caribbean Ocean.
British designer Packard says the water is an organic inspiration for her, as her life has centered around oceans. “I was born overlooking Ipanema Beach in Rio, fished at dawn in the West Indian Ocean, watched sea eagles hunt over ice-capped bays in the Arctic Circle, learned to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, and continue to enjoy blustery walks on our beloved Gullane beach in Scotland,” she explains.
In the designer’s Plastic Fantastic collection, inspired by design in the 1950s in Florida, “I tried to encapsulate the movement and tones of the ocean by picking an up-cycled vintage blue Lucite band that was subtly mottled, as well as pairing it with a gorgeous aquamarine stone, which has traditionally always symbolized the sea in gemstone lore,” she said.
David Webb, the prolific American jewelry designer, was endlessly inspired by nature. His professional legacy includes a library of oceanic-themed tomes such as Shells: Pleasures and Treasures, Life in the Sea, and The Book of Exotic Fish. According to a spokesperson for the brand—which continues to thrive today based on its rich archives—”marine life crept into David Webb’s oeuvre in the form of fish brooches, Pisces cuffs, and whimsical mermaid jewelry, too.”
His brooch depicting the mythical Roman god of water, Neptune, bears another gem tied closely to oceans—a South Sea cultured pearl makes up the deity’s pleasingly plump belly.
See him below, along with a handful of newer pieces that bring the majesty of the ocean into our jewelry boxes:
David Webb 18k gold, green enamel, and platinum Neptune Brooch with South Sea cultured pearl body, modern brilliant-cut yellow diamond eyes, pear-shaped yellow sapphire, circular-cut ruby, and modern brilliant-cut diamond detailing
Nina Runsdorf 18k white gold earrings with Australian opal and iolite carved bead earrings with pavé diamonds, price on request
Foundrae Sana Wholeness Extended Clip Extension Chain Necklace in 18k gold with Tahitian Pearl and diamonds, $10,585
The Last Line Aquamarine Large Biggie Earring in 14k yellow gold with aquamarine, $275
Jenna Blake Pearl Shell Charm in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $1,600
Jenna Blake Enamel Helix Shell Charms in 18k yellow gold with enamel and diamonds, $10,400
Lydia Courteille Marie-Antoinette Dark Side Ring in 18k yellow gold with sapphires and aquamarine, price upon request
Top and above: Lydia Courteille Deep Sea necklace in 18k black rhodium gold with black and white diamonds, sapphires, fancy sapphires, amethyst and blue opal, price upon request
Ara Vartanian Emerald River Chain necklace with white diamonds in 18k white and yellow gold, $26,800.00
Tessa Packard Palm Beach Ring in 18k yellow gold and vintage lucite with aquamarine, £2500
Emily P. Wheeler 18k yellow gold Audrey Choker with aquamarine, crystal quartz, and diamonds, $190,000