Diamonds are forever—but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the past. In fact, the future of jewelry is arguably more exciting than at any other time in history.
At Robb Report’s House of Robb at South by Southwest, our watch and jewelry editor, Paige Reddinger, spoke with editor in chief Paul Croughton about what’s happening in the world of jewelry, from the use of futuristic materials to the involvement of buyers in the jewelry-making process. The TL;DR? It’s definitely not just your mother’s tennis bracelet anymore.
Some of the biggest innovations are happening with the materials jewelers are using to craft their pieces. Stones are stones, but thanks to technological advances, makers now can move beyond diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Boucheron, one of Paris’s oldest jewelry houses, has even turned to NASA-grade materials in some of its newer pieces. Reddinger talked about the brand’s use of Aerogel, which was previously used to capture stardust and insulate the Mars Rover Unit. After 857 hours of work, it’s now seen in Boucheron’s Goutte de Ciel necklace, replacing the stone that would normally sit in the center of the piece.
While work like that is possible at a large jeweler such as Boucheron, private jewelers are also changing the industry’s landscape, by making personal pieces that a bigger company wouldn’t necessarily have the time to focus on. These smaller jewelers make about eight to 10 pieces a year for VVIP clients, Reddinger said, allowing them to be even more “creatively innovative.” For example, the jeweler Emmanuel Tarpin had a client who inherited his mother’s classic stones. Rather than just resetting them in the traditional way, Tarpin put them in a thin titanium bracelet, with the stones spelling out his mom’s name in Morse code (the client was a fan of sailing). That’s something “so personal and so cool,” Reddinger said—and a piece you wouldn’t see coming from a legacy house.
In that same vein, buyers are increasingly interested in seeing through a piece of jewelry from start to finish, and rough diamonds in particular have become a status symbol in the industry. It’s “the ultimate bragging rights to have designed your own stone,” Reddinger said. Companies like Belgium’s Signum are offering clients the chance to buy a rough stone and then custom cut it from the ground up. One buyer even proposed to his fiancée with a rough in a beautiful setting, inviting her to create the diamond she wanted. Another client put down $2 million ahead of time for when the house “found something good.”
Of course, “people want traditional jewelry and always will,” Reddinger noted. But those classic pieces can now sit side-by-side in your jewelry box with space-age stones and one-of-a-kind cuts—that is, if you can get your hands on them.