It’s fair to say that the average woman loves diamond rings and beautiful gold earrings, but for the more adventurous who want to indulge their passions and show their personality through more creative and fanciful jewellery, now is the perfect time to indulge that flamboyant side. Or to give a Valentine’s hint in the right direction.
Enter the trend for opulent cocktail rings that celebrate a menagerie of fantastical wild animals: fairytale frog princes, fierce foxes, slithery snakes, shapely seahorses and even tweeting birds. The intricacy of these imaginative pieces places starting prices in the thousands of pounds. They take two forms: animal silhouettes embellished with hundreds of micro gemstones, or jewel-encrusted animals clutching a central, super-sized gemstone in a palette of intense colours – think cranberry pink, lush green, sunshine Leviev cat brooch yellow and deep sea blue.
The use of fantastical animals in jewellery isn’t new, of course. World-renowned fine jeweller Cartier has been championing this style since 1948, when it made a panther clip-brooch in gold, black enamel and emeralds for Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, who regularly stole the spotlight with her individual jewellery style. Cartier has been adding new pieces ever since.
Chopard also took up the mantle recently and launched its fantasy jewellery collection, Animal World, for its 150th anniversary. Here, wolves and cats sit happily with more exotic animals such as hippopotami, alongside the imaginary (dragons). In Piaget’s new Limelight Garden Party collection, diamond-set birds ‘perch’ near intensely coloured central stones, which are bordered by plants and flowers fashioned from diamonds, emeralds and pink tourmalines.
It’s not just the large international brands that are willing to step inside a world of fantasy; some of London’s leading independent design houses have quickly wised up to the trend. Boodles, for example, nails the other-worldly look with its cocktail ring featuring a charming diamond and tsavorite-encrusted tree frog clutching a central stone of either imperial topaz or mint-green tourmaline, while another sees a pair of enchanting lovebirds whispering sweet nothings over a pink tourmaline surrounded by diamonds (£32, 960).
Over at Stephen Webster, the designer took up the trend after being surprised by the frenzy that surrounded the launch of his Crab ring and decided to explore the seabed. Drawing inspiration from French author Jules Verne’s fantasy adventure novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Webster’s aquatic-themed collection comprises pieces inspired by the weird, wonderful and fascinating creatures encountered during the journey recounted in the story. Incredibly detailed spider crabs, jellyfish and an ocean full of aquatic designs, including a Stingray ring set in 18-carat white gold with black and silver diamonds and emeralds (£11,650), form the brand’s most creative collection to date.
In another incarnation of the trend, London jeweller Theo Fennell has unveiled a one-off piece called the Hummingbird ring. Handcrafted in the workshop above the Theo Fennell flagship store on Fulham Road, this 18-carat rose, white and yellow gold, morganite, sapphire and diamond cocktail ring features an intricately designed handcarved band of entwined hummingbirds (£28,500), and is a subtler take on the trend.
What is driving this sudden surge for fantasy-inspired jewellery? First you have to acknowledge the influence of the recent glut of highly popular and well-received fantasy-oriented fi lms. Think Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter and Twilight series and the visually spectacular Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland. Then perhaps one might surmise that there is a desire, in gloomy times, to immerse oneself in a world of fantasy and mystery to escape responsibility for a moment – these cocktail rings speak of more carefree, maybe even outlandish days.
Furthermore, product that features a fantastical element has become increasingly appealing against more humdrum designs that are classic, practical and perhaps just a bit dull. This is jewellery to have fun with and show off in, jewellery that expresses individuality through oneoff designs. Finally, as more pieces enter the market, more designers are building a visual template of what it is possible to use as inspiration for their own creations.
Indeed, according to those who predict industry trends, the fantastical in jewellery design is set to become even more spectacular, with jewellery designers keen to show off their talents and make far more dramatic, adventurous and experimental pieces. Expect new shapes, stone cuts and materials that play with proportion and focus on form – the outrageousness of costume jewellery made real with precious stones and metals.
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