The New Stone Set: The Contemporary Fine Jewellers Shaking up the Industry

24 Sep 2018 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Mhairi Mann

"It’s no fun to have diamonds sitting in a safe" – Anita Ko

Anita Ko, Net-a-Porter

There was once a time when fine jewellery was available to view only by a chosen few, within the confines of salons on Place Vendôme and Bond Street. Now, younger audiences are shopping by scrolling through social media and insouciantly pairing diamonds with T-shirts and jeans. The conservative world of fine jewellery has been flipped on its head, as a new generation of convention-flouting designers redefine how we buy and style precious stones.

“It is great to see the face of fine jewellery changing,” says Elizabeth Von Der Goltz, global buying director of Net-a-Porter. “Contemporary jewellery designers are creating pieces to be worn every day that are less conventional. We see customers purchasing multiple items to be worn at the same time as well as high-value items with jeans and beauty. We have sold a £20,000 Piaget watch with a nail polish before and a £15,000 Anita Ko diamond bracelet with a denim jacket. A new generation of designers is offering our customers a fresh way of wearing jewellery.”

On her modern, pavé diamond pieces, Anita Ko says: “It’s no fun to have diamonds sitting in a safe. My clients live in Los Angeles, New York and London where everyday pieces are de rigueur. So even when a special design is purchased, it’s often worn every day.” The Los Angeles-based designer is credited with spearheading the contemporary diamond ‘stack’, be it a curated finger, ear or neck. A favourite amongst Hollywood’s elite, her solid gold safety pin earrings and angular bracelets often add a punk-inspired edge to the red carpet.

Another designer tearing up the traditional rulebook is Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura, who produces clean-lined and richly textured, geometric forms made from teak, coconut shells, diamonds and yellow gold.

Bangkok-born Bodiratnangkura began producing jewellery at 13, which she sold in her own shop. She later honed her craft at Central Saint Martins before launching her eponymous label in 2016. It soon caught the attention of Dover Street Market, which now stocks the brand in London, alongside Matches Fashion.

Bodiratnangkura splits her time between London and Bangkok, where her pieces are handmade in her studio by a team of six goldsmiths. Collections can take years to finesse, drawing on Thai architecture, nature and materials. “My heritage is the vein that runs through all of my work. We value the process of craftsmanship and embrace imperfections as beauty. I like to think our pieces reflect the human characteristics: spontaneous, unexpected and flawed, but fearless.”

Also part of the Dover Street Market roster is Sophie Bille Brahe, the Copenhagen-based jeweller renowned for her minimalist and covetable cool-girl diamonds and pearls. “My focus has always been, ‘how simple and beautiful can I make this?’” Explains Brahe. “I know and work with several traditional goldsmith techniques. It was important for me to know all of the rules in order to feel comfortable changing them.”

Brahe’s thoughtfully-curated social media presence beautifully translates her sinuous earrings and delicate chains, which take their cue from astrology and the serene Danish landscape. A crescent-shaped cuff seems to thread elegantly through the earlobe, reflective of a shooting star, while an undulating diamond ring offers a fresh alternative for brides-to-be.

“I receive lots of queries about my jewellery through Instagram. For someone like me who doesn’t have a store, it is a nice way for me to be able to introduce small parts of my universe.”

“The majority of our sales come via Instagram,” agrees London-based jeweller Isabella Townsley, who ships globally from her Warwick Avenue flat. The 24-year old designer got her first break when Rita Ora posted a photo on Instagram wearing nothing except Townsley’s Relax necklace, which refashions Old English font in 18-carat gold.

Townsley studied at the Gemological Institute of America in New York and worked with Harry Fane in Mayfair. Previous courses in graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts and photography and styling at Condé Nast College put her in good stead to present her collections creatively on social media, where she distils her unique blend of playful girl-power glamour.

Her signature inverse-set diamonds, which reveal the rarely-seen spikey underside of the stone, are complemented by more affordable collections like the new Girl PWR line, which is made up of earrings and slim, stackable rings that start from £189.

Unlike traditional jewellery houses, this new coterie of ethically-conscious designers creates collections with street trends in mind. Baubles have been replaced by clean lines and geometric forms that fit the contemporary customer’s modern wardrobe and lifestyle. “It’s refreshing to see how adventurous the industry has become in recent years,” concludes Katharina Zoë Erasin, buyer for Boutique 1 on Sloane Street, a two-storey trove of contemporary designer wares. “Jewellery is such an integral part of a woman’s personality and the new wave of designers are creating pieces that are fun, unique and effortless.”