The fabrics of jewellery design are changing. Literally. Pushing innovation and non-conformity against traditional methods, materials and designs within the jewellery industry has created a consumer appetite for the ‘never been done’, the unique, the bespoke. With the accelerated closure of omnipresent jewellery branches such as Pandora and, most recently, Links of London, a taste for the unconventional is revealed. People want jewellery that resonates exclusively with them, not the masses.
The quest for ethically-made, independent jewellery is a contributing factor to this consumer behavior. Yet from a fashion perspective, it is evident that customers no longer want the jewellery that the fast-fashion industry produces. There is a huge appeal in the non-traditional, and this goes for fine jewellery too. Professional Jeweller reported a rise in bespoke jewellery commissions, identifying retailer Jeremy France as an example who witnessed a 30% surge for bespoke jewellery in 2017. Customers want unique, one-of-a-kind jewellery that radiates authenticity, and many retailers are not living up to their consumers' desires.
An article published by Forbes last year asked precisely this, what happens when innovation disappears? The answer: ‘The results are showing in an independent retail segment that is struggling to compete with online sellers and non-traditional jewelry sellers’. For high-tier buyers, bespoke designs using upcycled diamonds and precious gemstones provides a fashionable and customer-orientated solution. For the average consumer, they are turning away from the once go-to jewellery brands and opting for designers who display innovation and creativity.
Forbes illustrates this design stagnancy aptly:
‘Walk into any jewelry store anywhere, and you are likely to see the same cases filled with solitaires, solitaires with halos, solitaires with double halos, diamond studs, and three-stone rings. Yes, there will always be demand for jewelry basics, but have we become too . . . well . . . basic?’
Named the new maverick of jewellery design, Alan Crocetti exemplifies just the kind of designer who fills this creative gap with a unique fashion vision. His jewellery is anything but basic. Between the earlobes of Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga, the A-list demand for Crocetti’s jewellery has made the seven letters ‘SOLD OUT’ a familiar phrase for those after his fresh and contemporary designs. Priced between approximately £200 and £600, the designer jewellery is affordable to a large proportion of consumers, yet retains an exclusive and original sense of style.
Ignoring the price tag, Crocetti’s designs verge on art. He’s collaborated with the likes of Helmut Lang and Dover Street Market, displaying the high-fashion appeal of his designs. However, it’s the values of innovation and non-conformity that fuel the success of the jewellery brand. The jewellery is fluid in form and gender-orientation. The brand’s bio both inspires and reflects the changes in consumer behavior which favours originality and transformation: ‘Our aim is to redefine the common sense of jewellery design while also defying conceived notions of it. We pride on innovation and exclusivity; timeless pieces that will represent novelty and eventually become future classics.’
A design-orientated future
Alan Crocetti demonstrates how success resides outside the mainstream - but perhaps now the mainstream tastes are changing. With more and more high street jewellery branches closing, a pressure to go against the grain when it comes to design is made visible. Impeccable customer service, a strong brand presence and refined marketing strategies are vital in shaping the success of a brand. Yet if the products themselves are not appealing to the buyer, these business models are made ineffective.
Forbes suggests that ‘consumers have been trained to expect that they will not see anything new or different at the jewelry store, so they do comparison research online and negotiate prices.’ Many consumers are seeing a solution with independent designers, whose jewellery is more likely catered towards smaller audiences therefore holds the potential of being aesthetically unique and handmade.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a reason the long established trailblazers of the jewellery industry such as Tiffany and Chopard still remain at the top. Their ability to evolve alongside the jewellery market is down to the investments they make in design. In 2017, luxury jewellers Chopard collaborated with Rihanna to create a line of jewellery that ‘blended urban chic with classic glamour’. Bulgari also exhibits similar steps to propel their jewellery brand through the ever-changing market. Last year they created their Happy Leaves necklace inspired by cannabis. The brand’s creative director Lucia Silvestri simply comments: ‘you have to be daring’.
A new example is thus being set for jewellery designers. With the demand for cutting-edge designs rising, new design strategies must be put in place which cater towards the market’s appetite for unique and unconventional jewellery. The trend in high jewellery that shows an increased desire for bespoke designs; paired with the plummeting success of mass-market jewellery retailers, a new vision for the future of jewellery is established. This vision has innovation at its heart.
Whilst the future of many mainstream jewellery retailers is uncertain, one thing we can confirm is that innovation is on the horizon for jewellery design.