“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” cooed Marilyn Monroe in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ back in 1953. And in many ways, she wasn’t wrong. For as long as precious stones and metals have existed, we’ve become obsessed with the shiny, wonderful, luxury of them. Words by Liana Shaw
Jewellery made from shells, bones and stone have survived from prehistoric times, and were pretty simple materials to source and carve or shape. Even then such items were revered. It was a way of showing your status, culture and traditions as well as being purely decorative.
Jewellery was also worn for other reasons, such as protecting yourself from superstitions, ailments or spirits, and for practicalities, such has holding a cloak together. When metals came around, it was a game changer. Harder to come by and needing certain skills and tools to manipulate and craft, the finest creations were often coveted and collected by those who could afford it. Add into that the discovery and use of precious stones, and the artistic and cultural face of the world changed.
Nowadays, jewellery really is for everyone. The high street offers many fabulous ranges of jewellery for every budget. Your taste in jewellery is whatever you want it to be, because, since the dawn of mankind, we’ve enjoyed decorating and expressing ourselves by using jewellery.
Whether it’s The Pink Star (the world’s most expensive pink diamond at $71 million) or Catherine Middleton’s engagement ring (that gorgeous diamond and sapphire ring that was Princess Diana’s sparked a massive trend for similar engagement rings), as humans we can barely tear ourselves away from the lure of jewellery; jewels are awe-inspiring, symbolic and sentimental. It’s this connection we often have with jewellery, especially if they have belonged to someone special or are reminders of a special occasion, that reiterates that sentimentality.
Julie Blampied-Smyth, from Aurum commented, “The sentimentality is enduring, that’s the beauty of jewellery. Even though maybe the gold or mount doesn’t last forever, or possibly the style is no longer on trend, you can still transform jewellery, so that generations down the line, grandkids, great grandkids; they are still wearing the family heirlooms in a way that works for them.”
This does seem to be more of a trend in jewellery. People are looking to create their own heirlooms and treasured pieces. Apart from still enjoying high street jewellery, luxury pieces with versatility are becoming ever more sought after; a pair of diamond earrings that you can wear as a pendant too, or jewellery that comes apart to give you different looks for day and night – designers are constantly adapting to what we want.
This season on the high street heralds fun, statement costume jewellery, a lot of it with a 70’s twist and geometric designs. Costume or plated jewellery will always be a fabulous way to try out trends and different colours and allows you to step out of your comfort zone. Retro inspired plastic jewellery is going to be a playful look, and every autumn and winter, big, bold, stand out pieces (in aptly named ‘jewel tones’) are always popular, and really work for the Christmas party season. Everyone can find something that suits their style. More expensive or quality pieces are also great because they are often classic designs that come around time and time again. This doesn’t mean that trends won’t have an affect on when and how you may wear a classic item. Pearls are huge this year, but that hasn’t always been the case as they can be harder to match with a modern trend. However, with Balmoral chic becoming one of the go-to styles of the season, pearls, real or not, are back with earnest.
Whatever the current jewellery trend is, I can’t even pretend I’m not attracted to sparkle like a moth to a flame. Whilst everyone appreciates great craftsmanship and design, I’m definitely not alone. Stories from female family, friends and colleagues have shown that our attitudes to how and when we buy are changing too. In this modern day and age, women are more aware than ever of being able to choose what we buy and when we buy it. We are going out and spending money on our own jewellery, because we know what we want. Buying jewellery doesn’t necessarily have to mark a special occasion or be gifted. “Certainly as females, we are empowering ourselves and are buying our own jewellery, just because” Julie muses. Amen to that. With so many different styles and tastes being accessible it really is empowering to know that I can choose to spend my money however I want, on something that it very ‘me’.
The last year has seen layering as a massive trend, with more understated, delicate pieces that can be mixed and matched. This trend means that some pieces of luxury jewellery or chunkier designs may get resigned to the jewellery boxes for a while, as some classic styles don’t lend themselves very well to this look. Wearing more than one chain can put a strain on the metal, as the pieces get banged and tangled up during day to day business. Therefore, wearing your prized diamond pendant or string of pearls might not be suitable, as scratching and damage to such items could be a costly problem. Spending time and effort to maintain your jewellery means storing it and caring for it properly. “If you had a car, you would maintain it or get it serviced regularly” Julie explains. It’s a very valid point and makes me realise that if I want to enjoy my jewellery in 50 years’ time, it’s worth investing in proper care.
This point leaves me thinking. Regardless of whether jewellery comes from the high street or a luxury jeweller, whether it’s been in the family for generations or is brand new, these items we adorn our bodies with, often daily, are really worth something. They are a representation of our style and our lives, and with them we can create our own stories. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State in US history, even had an exhibition at the Smithsonian based on over 200 pins she has worn throughout her life and political career. Now there’s a few jewels that have seen some changes.
At the end of day, it makes one think; jewellery really is part of your life story. So, what’s yours?