Women's Jewellery

The swing vote

Free and fluid, yet making a strong statement, the latest pendants mean serious business as day-into-evening jewels. Vivienne Becker gets the lowdown.

December 21 2010
Vivienne Becker

The pendant, worn long and loose, is the epitome of the casual, laissez-faire opulence that is shaping the way we wear our jewellery these days. It is also the perfect complement to the season’s minimalist mood. The pendant emphasises and elongates the silhouette and its longer line balances the below-the-knee hemline or swings along nicely with the swish of a full, 1950s-style skirt. While fashion’s focus is very much on the neckline and bust, the pendant has become the easy, fling-on-and-go alternative to the more formal necklace, making it a natural choice for all-day-everyday and day-into-evening wear. I’ve added my Belmacz carved blue chalcedony heart pendant to my daily speedy jewel-dressing ritual; tailored yet feminine with its gold loop and long silver chain, it seems to mix with any other piece of jewellery and is now on a par with earrings in the “instantly dressed-up” stakes.

Almost more than any other jewel, the pendant offers creative freedom in terms of shape, material, technique, theme and ornamentation. It is ideal for the office because it doesn’t interact directly or provocatively with the body, it doesn’t have the flirtatiousness of earrings, for example, but it does exude an aura of authority and allows the wearer to stamp her identity on a business outfit. What makes the pendant today’s top boardroom bauble, however, is a new purposeful strength to its design that’s challenging the supremacy of the ubiquitous layered look.

“Single, simple, sculptural pendants that make a statement, often with textural interest and on longer chains, are fluid and soften the season’s strict tailoring,” says Nicola Goodman, co-founder of jewellers Goodman Morris. To suit the mood, she has designed a rose gold key pendant (£135) and the Planet Sweet collection (from £318), hung with bold hammered gold discs set with smoky quartz or black diamonds.

Holli Rogers, buying director of Net-a-Porter, agrees with Goodman: “The pendant has emerged as one of our key jewellery trends this season – from the Panther Knocker necklace by Anita Ko (£3,260) to Carolina Bucci’s Tropicalia pendant (£3,875) and Aurélie Bidermann’s handcrafted gold-dipped and -plated pieces (from £640), the pendant is the perfect day-to-evening investment piece.” Aurélie Bidermann brings simplicity and strength to organic motifs; a feather, an oak leaf or ears of wheat. Newish brand Annoushka focuses on the versatility and self-expression of jewel-wearing, and for them pendants have been hugely popular since they launched last year, with the latest limited-edition coloured-gem Mythology butterflies (£1,400) flying off the shelves. At Belmacz, designer Julia Muggenburg’s Baby Love pendants (from £460) also fit the strong and simple formula; sculpted brown agates with painterly markings can be hung on safety-pin-like brooches as well as long chains.

Mount Street jeweller and luxury emporium William & Son, established by William Asprey, has a strong client base of businesswomen who are increasingly opting for the jewelled pendant to wear at work and show their status, just as a man chooses a particular watch to send the right message. Responding to this demand, William & Son offers a range of modern classic gem-set pendants that work for both day and evening wear – another client requisite. The Sparks necklace (£7,150), designed by Pesavento for William & Son, is a simple diamond circle hung on a gold and black diamond chain. Meanwhile, Asprey and his team have designed pendants to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary: again circular, they enclose a floating mosaic of pear-shaped diamonds (£11,900), aquamarines mixed with diamond tendrils (£12,150) or heart-shaped emeralds with diamonds (£30,000).

Kiki McDonough, specialising in colourful jewellery for working women, has seen the pendant steadily grow in popularity over the past two years. “You can wear a pendant with any neckline; it’s a very easy piece. Now the trend is for longer chains, the feature of a necklace is worn lower down, which is quite casual and also good for evening.” Her bestseller is the Kiki Classic pendant (from £3,400), a cross-shaped cluster of gemstones such as amethyst, citrine, blue topaz and yellow quartz. The Florence series features textured goldwork; either ropes rimming petal-shaped gems (from £1,300) or a rounded beehive design with a cabochon gem (from £2,900). Her new Opera pendant (from £3,400) – a globe of faceted rock crystal, blue or smoky topaz, ringed with a gem- and diamond-set gold band – has a rich, almost medieval flavour.

If strong and simple is the key theme for pendants this season, then Fred, the unmistakably French brand synonymous with Riviera chic, could have some of the answers. Founded in the 1930s by Fred Samuel, the brand has a distinctly androgynous, sporty, contemporary style that translates into a series of pendants centred on the contrast and blend of the square and the circle – its signature theme. Called Success, the design combines curves and angles into one open stirrup shape, representing the mix of masculine and feminine. The pendants come in white gold, half pavéd or randomly scattered with diamonds (from £4,095), or swinging from two open circles on a longer pendant (from £1,505). Meanwhile, the new Success Mobile (from £660) is an openwork composition of overlapping shapes and the Mini Success pendants (from £795) are super-slim, discreet and smooth against the skin.

Theo Fennell, known for his key shapes and baroque crosses, has always explored the freedom and possibilities of the pendant – his biggest-selling item. “The pendant is a standalone jewel,” he says, “a conversation piece without emotional complications.” His newest richly narrative designs focus on fine sculptural, engraved and enamelled detailing. Limited editions of the Phi pendant (from £6,145), the ancient Greek symbol for harmony, and his signature crosses (from £11,695) are wound with lilies and poppies, the softness of their leaves contrasting with the strength of the underlying symbols. The bee, however, is a new motif for Fennell, worn alone as a small and delicate pendant (from £1,100), or as a fine detail buzzing about a spectacular yellow beryl, tourmaline and diamond drop (£12,500). Bringing his design within reach of more modest budgets, and eminently suitable for daytime wear, Alias is Theo Fennell’s first fine jewellery collection in silver. The pendant takes pride of place here too, with versions of both the cross and the key (from £475) textured and trimmed with laurel-wreath motifs.

Despite the attraction of its “emotional neutrality”, Fennell adds that the talismanic aspect of a token or keepsake also plays its part in the popularity of the pendant. He has seen a growing demand for lockets or necklaces that open or have compartments. It’s a variation of the design that appeals to individual designer-makers such as the hugely talented Zoe Arnold, whose intriguingly detailed pendants often come in boxed sets of three or more (from £2,100) and tell a story; or Hannah Livingston, winner of this year’s Astley Clarke Bright Young Gems Award. Her gold-plated box-shaped lockets (from £200) are crafted like furniture, with turned legs and finely hinged lids that open to reveal folded parchment for a personal message, or the start of your own story.