Chanel’s white ceramic J12 watch caused a serious stir when it appeared in 2000. In the wake of its success, Bulgari and Boucheron were among the first high-jewellery brands to begin experimenting with ceramics – the former’s iconic B.zero1 ring (from £830) and the latter’s Quatre stack ring (£2,200) both include white ceramic options – but it took a few more years for experiments with coloured ceramics to gather pace.
New York-based designer James de Givenchy was a pioneer with his 2006 collection for Sotheby's Diamonds, and has been finessing the technique of adding ceramic coatings to gold since. “Ceramic exudes personality and fine detail in a way that other materials can’t,” he says, and his red and black bracelet for Taffin (price on request) is a case in point. “A simple red ceramic accent might do what a ruby pavé surface did in the past, but it looks much more relevant to today's lifestyle. And ceramic is eminently wearable, pairing just as effortlessly with large gems as with a simple gold band.”
This relationship between coloured ceramics and gems is one that Italian jewellery house Pomellato has also played with, using the material to create beads resembling vibrant opaque stones, and to update its Capri collection (from £810). “I liked the challenge of turning something traditionally cold and inorganic into organic and sensual shapes to express fresh femininity,” said creative director Vincenzo Castaldo. “The beads mould into sinuous, feminine forms, while also producing new and unexpected shades, such as irregular turquoise and pink cabochons.”
London-based Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge’s latest collection (from £630) is something of a tribute to colour, driven by his experimentation with nano-ceramic coatings. “I came across this technique while researching for alternative ways to use colour on gold. Initially I just wanted to highlight the beauty and uniqueness of boulder opals and tanzanites in a bespoke pair of earrings inspired by the blue macaw, but I was so pleased with the result that I expanded this approach to other pieces in my collection.”
In contrast to Jorge’s high-tech adventures, Hemmerle has turned to the past in its quest to innovate with ceramics, by repurposing historic objects not traditionally associated with jewellery. A pair of earrings (price on request), for example, feature miniature 18th-century porcelain plates found at Masterpiece in 2015, and the juxtaposition of the materials brings a new lease of luxury life to both the historic artefact and the contemporary jewellery – with two tones of dazzling reverse-set sapphires echoing the blue palette of the porcelain – while also challenging our conceptions of the idea of “precious”.
Juliet Hutton-Squire is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (www.adorninsight.com).