The Jewelry Trends to Seek Out During Vegas Market Week
By Ashley Davis
Our jewelry reflects the world we live in.
So, during Las Vegas market week 2019, expect to encounter jewels that are both bold and colorful or pared down and classic, but know that each style says something about where we are now, culturally.
From the micro-trends (legalized marijuana-inspired pieces) to overarching movements (sustainability) to trends that are purely aesthetic (color via inlay and ombré shades), here’s what we think retailers and other jewelry buyers will see more of in Sin City.
1) Cannabis Culture
In 2019, jewelry is about so much more than aesthetics.
Flora and fauna have long been designers’ muses, but a cannabis motif is particularly timely, as recreational marijuana continues to be legalized around the United States and the world.
With the news that New York might be the next state in line to decriminalize the substance, trappings of cannabis culture, both political and whimsical, are hitting the retail market, from cannabidiol (CBD)-infused lattes to Barneys New York’s new luxury cannabis accessory shop-in-shop at its Beverly Hills store.
For once, the typically insular jewelry world is in on the trend early, with designers like Brent Neale and Established Jewelry creating campy marijuana-inspired styles. Even Bulgari has gotten in on the action with its high-jewelry take (no pun intended) on marijuana leaves from the “Wild Pop” collection.
Brent Neale Winston, designer of her eponymous collection, began incorporating a marijuana motif into her work after designing a custom pair of earrings for a client.
“I loved the way they came out,” Winston explains, “so I made myself a pair. Weed has become such a part of our society that it’s just not taboo or even noticeable anymore. I get a kick out of wearing them with a formal dress to a wedding or black-tie event.”
For Dallas- and Fort Worth-based retailer Ylang 23, it’s evolving its product offerings as its customers become more daring and willing to experiment.
“Our customers are taking a lot more fashion risks when it comes to their jewelry,” says Vice President of Business Development Alysa Teichman.
“For us, it started with our piercing parties and the emergence of multiple holes throughout various parts of the ear. With some of our designers, including Established, we have decided to carry the edgier side of their collection, which includes cannabis jewelry, because if our customers want it, why not offer it?”
2) Unisex Styles
Unisex jewelry is another trend that points to a societal shift. Like gender-neutral clothing, it is indicative of the growing cultural acceptance of gender fluidity and a disregard for conforming to traditional roles.
The style for women is most commonly expressed through bold signet rings or pendant necklaces with a slight industrial feel, often in mixed metals, that lend a “borrowed-from-the-boys” energy to an outfit.
Lines also blur the opposite way, with men adopting more traditionally feminine styles, says Paola De Luca, CEO of trend forecasting company The Futurist.
“Men are actually using feminine elements in their wardrobe,” she says. “Men are wearing diamonds. Let’s not forget that, historically, men wore precious stones like rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Today, you see someone like Stephen Webster wearing a pearl necklace. Of course, he wears it in a very cool, rockstar way but it’s interesting and new and innovative.”
Men, treading on what was typically considered to be “female” turf, have been visible on recent red carpets, with actors and musicians getting more experimental with shapes, colors, textures and patterns, and wearing more elaborate jewelry. Conversely, some women, especially in light of the gender equality movement, are wearing pants instead of dresses, along with sleek, unfussy jewelry.
Think Billy Porter, of “Pose” fame, donning a tuxedo dress and pairing it with a 20-carat yellow diamond ring at the 2019 Oscars or Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation” in a simple all-black pantsuit and a handsome diamond brooch.
3) Upping Your Ear Game
The popularity of studs to be worn in multiple piercings made the earring the essential piece of jewelry in recent years. The last few seasons saw the return of larger earring looks, like the chandelier and shoulder dusters.
“Alternative earrings” merge the best of both styles, combining an edgy, often-asymmetric look with size for an innovative, statement-making piece in the vein of Ana Khouri.
Likewise, Kat Kim’s ear pin has graced dozens of red carpets, and Kim Mee Hye is constantly imagining new and unusual ways women can adorn their ears.
De Luca points to the volume of single earring sales as a testament to the trend’s strength and says as eclectic style soars, shoppers are taking control of their own look.
“Many collections are now sold not matching, especially earrings. You have an ear cuff and you wear it stacked. You wear five different earrings, three in one ear and two in the other ear, and you have different piercings, and you do your own mixing and matching.
“The attitude is: ‘You’re not going to tell me what to wear––I’m going to do it on my own,’” De Luca explains.
4) Street Style-Inspired
While some trends trickle down from fashion runways and luxury brands, others trickle up from the street.
Urban staples like script rings, gold chains and hoop earrings have worked their way into the mainstream, becoming a mainstay for the stylistically savvy far outside the realm of their original cultures.
De Luca says many a trend starts in the subways of cities like New York, London and Hong Kong, and thanks to social media, spreads faster than ever before.
“Streets are dictating, especially now in the digital era and because of social media. Consumers are dictating more and more the rules of fashion and style.”
The new versions of jewelry inspired by early-1990s street style are a little different though.
“Hoops are very much back, but modern hoops, not necessarily the old style,” says De Luca. “They’re thinner, larger and sometimes sprinkled with diamonds.”
5) Inlay All Day
The ubiquity of enamel—a trend that is still going strong—has paved the way for inlay, another way to create large swaths of dynamic color through relatively inexpensive stones like lapis lazuli, turquoise, mother-of-pearl, malachite and pink opal.
While many gemstone-favoring designers have long incorporated inlay and the aforementioned stones into their work, it’s exciting to watch a newer crop of brands, like Retrouvaí, explore the possibilities the technique has to offer.
Ylang 23’s Teichman says Jennifer Meyer’s heart and eye pendants, set with turquoise, lapis and opal, ignited the inlay trend in her stores.
“The way that designers use inlay has continued to evolve, most notably with Retrouvai’s Compass collection—we especially love the ‘Grandfather’ compass, which rotates; Jacquie Aiche’s exquisite inlay eye and galaxy pieces; and Marla Aaron’s inlay lock series,” says Teichman. “We expect to see a lot more inlay in the future.”
6) Color Waves
An emphasis on color in recent years has resulted in a slew of rainbow, pastel and ombré styles landing in retailers’ showcases.
But some of the most inspiring designs are coming from designers who have a gift for color, carefully combining just a few shades of the same color family, rather than throwing every hue of the rainbow together.
“We love that more and more designers are taking risks with new stones and putting them together in different ways,” Teichman says.
Vram, Arman Sarkisyan and Nam Cho are just a few designers who make an art out of stone selection, crafting tonal stories that are undeniably appealing to the eye.
7) Spiritual Symbols
Symbols derived from Eastern spiritual practices are only growing in their appeal. Designers’ best versions, like the ones pictured, work on both a spiritual and intellectual level.
Noor Fares’ Chakra collection is based on the premise of energy centers in the body, touted in Hinduism as well as many New Age spiritual practices.
Ancient tantric symbols adorn many of the pieces ARK designer Ann Korman creates.
“I am not religious,” she says, “but I believe anything and everything is possible. I reached a point where I only wanted to wear jewelry with meaning and intention. I also wanted to uplift and inspire other people because I feel we are at a place in time when people need to feel empowered.
“I think many people are like me and want to wear things that are meaningful and can inspire them every day,” says Korman.
The Futurist trend forecaster De Luca agrees, attributing a rise in spirituality to the prevalence of motifs relating to the galaxy and the cosmos in jewelry design, which often allude to astrology.
“Modern society is more attracted to spiritualism than religion,” she says, citing the popularity of astrology, yoga, gemstones, crystals and all manner of energy healing. “Spirituality kind of embraces every culture, and that’s very appealing to people.”
As concepts like mindfulness and practices like meditation become once again popular in Western cultures, so do works inspired by them. It’s just one more way that fine jewelry can feel meaningful and sentimental to its owners.
8) Sustainable Materials
Aligning with other sectors in the jewelry supply chain, such as the mining, refining, manufacturing, and gem cutting industries, for which traceability and sustainability are becoming increasingly more important, designers also continue to experiment with alternative, sustainable materials.
Vogue Italia’s American jewelry design showcase has transformed into a call to contemporary designers to broaden their sourcing materials and use non-traditional items, like tagua nut as an ivory substitute.
A number of brands like Dana Bronfman, AnaKatarina Fine Jewelry and Yael Sonia aren’t sacrificing style for eco-responsibility; instead they’re letting their imaginations run wild by searching for unexpected resources.
“Jewelry clients are becoming more and more informed about the ethical and sustainable origins of the materials used in jewelry,” says Ana-Katarina Vinkler-Petrovic.
“They are conscious of the impact of their purchasing and want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Today, the design and process of sourcing are intertwined in the story of the piece.”
De Luca is quick to note that designers have been exploring what are considered non-precious materials for more than 100 years, citing René Lalique, the Art Nouveau-era artist who would incorporate elements like wood into his work at the turn of the 20th century, as a reaction to the first mass-produced jewelry.
There was also Italian jeweler Fulco di Verdura, who emigrated to America at the beginning of World War II when precious materials grew scarce, and began to use shells or vintage jewelry, essentially recycling the jewelry’s original materials.
Today, more brands than ever are looking for alternative materials with less of an environmental impact than traditional ones.
“Rough diamonds with lots of inclusions and many stones, like malachite, were not appreciated in the past,” says De Luca. “It was only flawless gemstones and diamonds; everything should be the same. Now, designers are using these materials for a more sustainable and ethical approach to the environment and life.”
The trend forecaster says this reflects a cultural embrace of imperfection and uniqueness, too.
“It’s like imperfection becomes perfection and flaws become uniqueness and beauty. Even models now, they’re not so perfect. They’re a little off. A little off makes it interesting. That’s a big revolution in society that translates, inevitably, to jewelry.”
9) What’s Old Is New
The line that divides the sale of antique and vintage jewelry from new designs is blurring. Many more retailers are selling both, due to consumer demand and a large supply.
Barney’s New York now stocks works from Stephanie Windsor Antiques while Fred Leighton sells on Net-a-Porter. As a result, the interest in antique jewelry shows is exploding among jewelers.
Other designers are also repurposing vintage pieces, just as Verdura sometimes re-worked them into something new. There’s a growing movement, typified by brands such as Toni + Chloë Goutal and Mindi Mond, of sourcing antique pieces, refurbishing them, and reworking them to create new jewelry art, breathing modernity into old items from the jewelry box.