Back to black: jewellery turns to the dark side

Black is inspiring innovation, as jewellery designers explore unorthodox materials and game-changing applications in a quest for the perfect hue

From left: Eva Fehren blackened 18ct white gold Abstraxt ring, $9,250. Buccellati DLC-treated white gold, yellow gold and diamond Macri Giglio cuff, £28,000. Amrapali rhodium-plated 18ct gold, diamond and citrine earrings, £8,500
From left: Eva Fehren blackened 18ct white gold Abstraxt ring, $9,250. Buccellati DLC-treated white gold, yellow gold and diamond Macri Giglio cuff, £28,000. Amrapali rhodium-plated 18ct gold, diamond and citrine earrings, £8,500

Timeless and versatile, black is a colour that never goes out of fashion. Right now, however, this iconic hue is enjoying a significant moment in the spotlight.  

At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, British architect Asif Khan unveiled a pavilion spraypainted with Vantablack VBx2 – a substance that absorbs more than 99 per cent of light. The structure was dubbed the “darkest building on earth”. Closer to home, black accessories and beauty looks were a key trend on the spring/summer 2018 ready-to-wear catwalks. And who could ignore the use of black as a powerful symbol of protest at the Golden Globes and Baftas when actresses donned black gowns in support of the Time’s Up movement?

From left: Chanel 18ct white gold, diamond and ceramic earrings, £3,800. Boghossian diamond and fossilised wood cuff, price on request. Boucheron 18ct white gold, diamond, onyx and mother-of-pearl Vendôme Argentique ring, price on request
From left: Chanel 18ct white gold, diamond and ceramic earrings, £3,800. Boghossian diamond and fossilised wood cuff, price on request. Boucheron 18ct white gold, diamond, onyx and mother-of-pearl Vendôme Argentique ring, price on request

In the world of fine jewellery, black is also inspiring innovation, as designers explore unorthodox materials and game-changing applications in a quest for the perfect hue. For Eva Zuckerman (a formally trained painter and designer), of Eva Fehren jewellery, it was a desire to integrate her artwork into jewellery that saw her spend months perfecting a handpainted enamel process. “There was a lot of trial and error, but it was rewarding to explore something new,” she says of the technique showcased in her Abstraxt ring ($9,250). “The shapes remain sharp and geometric, but the dreamlike watercolour effects of the enamel (set under a sapphire crystal) elevate it to another level that would be hard to achieve with different media.” Furthermore, says Zuckerman, the blackened 18ct white gold imbues her work with both tough and mysterious qualities not always achievable with other metals.

Also championing the use of mixed media, De Grisogono’s Allegra necklace (£42,700) is a striking confection of pink golddiamonds and black leather cords. The black leather transforms a feminine jewel into something modern, edgy and full of attitude. “My strength lies in being anti-commercial. I do things out of passion,” says De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi, whose passion for black jewellery began when he dedicated his debut collection to the Black Orlov – a black diamond once the possession of Russian princess Nadia Vyegin-Orlov.

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Renowned for signature engraving techniques that date back to the goldsmith ateliers of the Italian Renaissance, Buccellati has turned to black to add a modern flourish to its Macri line. Applied with a DLC (diamond-like carbon) covering – an exclusive treatment of vacuum sealing and gas ionisation that covers yellow gold with a black finish – the appeal of the Macri Giglio cuff (£28,000) lies in the contrast between the black backdrop and its yellow gold and diamond surface details. “Buccellati has always created jewels that were almost black,” says the house’s honorary president and creative director, Andrea Buccellati, when asked what inspired it to develop this new technology. “Today, thanks to DLC technology, jewels can be totally black and Buccellati, with its goldsmithing techniques, exalts the colours of the stones.”

Using black to accentuate gemstones in this manner is a popular approach. Amrapali uses rhodium-plated 18ct gold to intensify the beauty of stones such as citrines and diamonds in a pair of drop earrings (£8,500). Boghossian’s cuff (price on request), from the Art of Inlay collection, features white diamond motifs inlaid into midnight-black fossilised wood.

From left: De Grisogono pink gold, diamond and leather Allegra necklace, £42,700. Alice Cicolini pink sapphire, tsavorite garnet and black jade Summer Snow earrings, £2,945
From left: De Grisogono pink gold, diamond and leather Allegra necklace, £42,700. Alice Cicolini pink sapphire, tsavorite garnet and black jade Summer Snow earrings, £2,945

At Chanel, the earrings (£3,800) in its Ultra Fine jewellery collection – made with mirror-like black ceramic, brilliant-cut diamonds and 18ct white gold – are a reminder of the power of simplicity and the elegance of a monochrome arrangement.

The inclusion of black gems themselves into dxesigns introduces further depth and diversity. From the couture collection 26 Vendôme, Boucheron’s Vendôme Argentique ring (price on request) features black mother-of-pearl whose diesel shimmer contrasts dramatically with gleaming black onyx, graphic white diamonds and a lattice-like 18ct white gold and diamond setting. And at Alice Cicolini, Summer Snow earrings (£2,945) feature richly glowing, carved black jade flowers juxtaposed against pink sapphires and tsavorite garnets. “The 1920s and ’30s have been a consistent source of inspiration and that offsetting of black with a softer more romantic tone is typical of this era,” says Cicolini. “The earrings reference this mood, blending art nouveau ideas of entwined tendrils and blossom with the harder-edged femininity so typical of the deco period.”

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With its ability to support tastes ranging from classic to cool, black jewellery is set to emerge as the season’s must-have update. For those looking to try something new, now is the perfect moment to take a trip to the dark side.

Maia Adams is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (adorninsight.com).

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