Bold gold becomes jewellery’s centre of attention

Gold is striding into the jewellery spotlight, as its sculptural purity and sensual allure propel it from supporting role to centre stage, says Vivienne Becker. Styling by Thea Lewis-Yates. Photography by Andy Barter

Clockwise from bottom left: Jacqueline Rabun gold Mercy torque, £8,500. Cassandra Goad gold Onda ring, £1,890, and Onda Unico cuff, £5,225. Chaumet gold and diamond Escapade bracelet, £54,500. Tiffany & Co gold City HardWear necklace, £8,875. Belmacz gold Tevas bangle, £17,800. Sean Gilson gold Ovoid earrings, $4,400. Belmacz gold Odom ring, £11,600. Vhernier rose-gold Eclisse ring, £5,200. Hannah Martin gold, rose-gold and diamond Possession ring, £6,450. Props: Salvatori Omaggio a morandi bottle, €324, from pamono.com. Dale Rogers ammonite fossil-wood sphere, £300, from dalerogersammonite.com
Clockwise from bottom left: Jacqueline Rabun gold Mercy torque, £8,500. Cassandra Goad gold Onda ring, £1,890, and Onda Unico cuff, £5,225. Chaumet gold and diamond Escapade bracelet, £54,500. Tiffany & Co gold City HardWear necklace, £8,875. Belmacz gold Tevas bangle, £17,800. Sean Gilson gold Ovoid earrings, $4,400. Belmacz gold Odom ring, £11,600. Vhernier rose-gold Eclisse ring, £5,200. Hannah Martin gold, rose-gold and diamond Possession ring, £6,450. Props: Salvatori Omaggio a morandi bottle, €324, from pamono.com. Dale Rogers ammonite fossil-wood sphere, £300, from dalerogersammonite.com | Image: Andy Barter

With the onslaught of colour in today’s rich array of gemstones, not to mention all the frenzied layering, stacking and accumulating of recent seasons, jewellery is seeking respite – and a bit of “palette” cleansing – in the architectural purity and power of bold gold. With its noble and tactile nature, its epic narrative and emotional connections, gold has moved from being a supporting act in the jewellery world to its undisputed megastar.

“Gold is no longer a vessel that holds stones,” says Jan Springer, a gold specialist and consultant for bodies such as the World Gold Council. “Always the monarch of metals, it has now become the jewel itself and is being celebrated in its own right, worked into strong, bold designs that appeal to strong, bold women.”

This season’s mix of epic golden grandeur and minimal, sensual styling takes jewellery a step further towards design-driven modernism, and at the same time accelerates the rise of the singular, substantial statement piece. Working against the grain for the past 15 years, designer-jeweller Hannah Martin has always emphasised gold’s heroism, channelling it into powerful and provocative androgynous designs that, she believes, now look and feel particularly right. “I think it’s linked to the quest for purity, honesty and integrity – all qualities of gold – in all aspects of life,” she explains.

In her new Possession ring (£6,450) and cuff (£13,800), Martin combines sculptural forms with graphic planes, exploring the conflict between ownership and freedom, restraint and liberation. The power of gold – and of the ring itself – contrasts with the sense of vulnerability that comes from the glimpse of flesh through the ring’s open centre.

Clockwise from top left: Cartier rose-gold and diamond Juste un Clou bangle, £18,800. Pomellato rose-gold Iconica bracelets, from £7,300. Birks gold Plaisirs ring, £350. Chopard rose-gold Ice Cube ring, £1,130. Jacqueline Rabun gold Mercy bangle, £3,635. Pomellato rose-gold Iconica rings, from £1,720. H Stern gold and diamond Signature HS bracelet, £4,400. Props: Pols Potten bubbles & bottles, £225 for four, from amara.com
Clockwise from top left: Cartier rose-gold and diamond Juste un Clou bangle, £18,800. Pomellato rose-gold Iconica bracelets, from £7,300. Birks gold Plaisirs ring, £350. Chopard rose-gold Ice Cube ring, £1,130. Jacqueline Rabun gold Mercy bangle, £3,635. Pomellato rose-gold Iconica rings, from £1,720. H Stern gold and diamond Signature HS bracelet, £4,400. Props: Pols Potten bubbles & bottles, £225 for four, from amara.com | Image: Andy Barter

While this golden moment represents a shift in jewellery terms, it also reflects the current fashion for glistering sheen, golden sequins, metallic textures and rich gold baroque accents. Bold gold jewellery works perfectly with spring’s singularity of colour too; whether it’s setting off vivacious vermilion or ice‑cream pastels, the ultimate neutral works every time – a foil to full-on colour.

Gold has always been at the heart and soul of Italian heritage brand Pomellato. In 1967, its founder Pino Rabolini drew on his family’s goldsmithing tradition to forge an entirely new, fashion-focused genre of ready-to‑wear fine jewellery aimed at independent working women. Today, the brand goes back to its roots with the Iconica collection, based on the original early-1970s band ring. Smooth, sensual and sculptural, it is perfect for all-day, everyday wear. The band has inspired rings (from £1,720), a bangle (£16,900), pendants (from £1,590) and chain bracelets (from £7,300) that fit together to form a necklace, all in Pomellato’s own signature tone of rose gold, a cross between yellow and pink hues that highlights the soft contours of its designs.

Creative director Vincenzo Castaldo describes today’s look as “exuberant yet minimal”. He attributes its appeal partly to the spirit of neo-baroque eclecticism in fashion, but mostly to the essential timelessness of the material. “Gold has always been a symbol of power and eternity. It’s ductile and eclectic, and while it may be presented in different forms and styles over time, its colour and glory never fade.” He believes it is part of the vital relationship between a woman and her jewellery; it hugs the body and it always warms to the skin. “It’s about complicity. The human touch is such an important ingredient: a gold jewel has to be playful and pleasurable.”

The chain, with its punk and street-style associations, rocks its way into the industrial corner of the current gold trend. It’s a style epitomised by Cartier’s iconic Love bangle and Juste un Clou collection; both are hardware inspired, both celebrate gold while harking back to the 1960s and 1970s, and both now have new iterations: a slimmer Love bangle (from £22,100) and a double Clou bangle (£18,800).

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The necklaces (from £3,060), sautoir (from £5,860) and earrings (from £2,080) in Chopard’s Ice Cube collection feature minimal, crisp links of rose gold, textured in the brand’s “ice-cube” style, paired with ceramic links, while in the ring (£1,130), the textured bar stands alone. Chopard is leading the way in using Fairmined gold, which is melted and alloyed separately in its workshops – a factor that is beginning to reshape the image of gold and enhance its popularity.

Last year, Tiffany & Co also used the gold chain as the central motif of its City HardWear collection, tapping into the tough urban spirit and energy of New York City. Generously rounded rectangular links alternate with ball-bearing motifs in bracelets (from £1,400), necklaces (£8,875) and earrings (£2,325), referencing the industrialised New York of the 1920s and 1970s.

The other side of this story is a style of statuesque, sculptural purity, either architectural or organic – a look that is flowing, like molten gold, through collections. Chaumet’s Escapade collection (ring, £7,790; bracelet, £54,500) is designed around a wide, twisted ribbon of gold, while H Stern’s new Signature HS collection (ring, £1,700; bracelet, £4,400), a visual play on the founder’s initials, takes a powerful graphic-but-fluid approach. The idea, explains his son, the brand’s creative director and president Roberto, was to create “hidden harmony” rather than an obvious monogram. “The H represents strength and a desire for stability, while the sinuous S stands for being flexible and creative. We felt that the abstract design required warmth, and it was intuitive to make it in yellow gold. Our Noble Gold [soft-toned, between white and yellow], which I love, lends itself more to figurative forms.”

Julia Muggenburg, the German-born designer behind Belmacz art and jewellery gallery in Mayfair, draws on an intoxicating mix of tribal ornament and contemporary art to find the architectural purity she instils in her all‑gold pieces: the Zeppelin (£18,000) and Odom (£11,600) rings and wide Tevas bangle (£17,800). She maximises the sculptural qualities of gold to create these primal forms, while the lustre that warms their contours and ripples light across their surfaces becomes a decorative feature in its own right. She feels that the appeal of gold today lies in its core value, its deep associations with stability and quality, especially to a new generation of buyers who are opting for fewer, more significant possessions. “Flimsy is over. The solid, substantial gold ring is the ultimate personal signifier, a symbol of who you truly want to be. This is universally understood, and millennials have caught on.”

From left: Vhernier rose-gold Abbraccio ring, £4,050. Tiffany & Co gold City HardWear earrings, £2,325
From left: Vhernier rose-gold Abbraccio ring, £4,050. Tiffany & Co gold City HardWear earrings, £2,325

Belmacz’s Bauhaus series of stud earrings (£420 each) in simple geometric shapes – triangle, square and circle – are small, perfectly formed and beautifully chamfered, with a burnished matte finish, to deliver a fashionable gleam of gold. They look equally chic worn singly, in mismatched pairs or with a long drop (£3,900).

Canadian heritage jeweller Birks, which has recently launched in the UK through Mappin & Webb, also offers a bold, clean-cut, modern geometric look. Its Plaisirs de Birks collection of contemporary everyday gold pieces includes an elegant ring (£350) and the simple elongated gold-bar earring (£325) worn by Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle.

For those seeking more drama, look to the work of Sean Gilson, an under-the-radar designer-goldsmith who makes all his pieces by hand at his ateliers in New York and Connecticut. His striking long gold earrings ($4,400) are uncompromising in their geometry: rigid-but-tapered gold bars that drop into smooth, solid egg- or pyramid-shaped finials, or smooth, curvaceous motifs reminiscent of spinning tops.

In today’s new golden age, statuesque and architectural morphs easily into fluid and organic interpretations of modernist style. Italian brand Vhernier has mastered this look: its powerfully conceptual, highly stylised jewellery of impressive volumes, dynamic movement and bold abstraction of form has brought a courageously contemporary aesthetic to Italian branded gold jewellery. Handmade in Valenza, the town at the heart of the country’s jewellery-making traditions, Vhernier’s gold pieces are crafted in a particular tone of rose gold that exudes an understated elegance and, says owner and company president Carlo Traglio, complements all skin tones. Since the brand opened its first London boutique last year there’s been a noticeable demand, Traglio says, for “full gold versions” of its signature designs, such as the Pirouette ring (£4,250), a smooth dome of gold lined with jet. The Abbraccio ring (£4,050) is a warm, sensual embrace of generous silken gold bands, while Eclisse (£5,200) too curves inward and Onda (£4,050) takes the form of a voluminous, undulating wave of gold.

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It was waves on the beach at São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, that inspired London designer-jeweller Cassandra Goad to create her Onda ring (£1,890) and Onda Unico cuff (£5,225) in her Journey to Brazil range. Each of her collections is inspired by an exotic trip, and in her latest, Ola Mexicana, gold evokes the sun-soaked country and its relationship with the metal, both physical and spiritual – suggested by conquistador Hernán Cortés when he said, “We Spaniards know a sickness of the heart only gold can cure”. In the Pesos necklace (£5,700), referencing Mexico’s currency, the designer brings a rippling softness to overlapping highly polished discs of gold – matte on the reverse – stitched together, quite literally, by gold thread.

The physical and spiritual connotations of gold come together perfectly in the Mercy collection by London designer-jeweller Jacqueline Rabun. A committed modernist, she distils her concepts, always based on the human experience and intimate relationships, into jewellery that has extreme purity of form and strength of line and a remarkable tension between force and serenity. The sensual silhouette of the collection’s gold rings (from £866), bangles (£3,635), pendants (£3,500), earrings (£532) and torques (£8,500), expressed as a stream of gold that swells into a luscious drop, is informed by the curves of an hourglass. With this symbol, Rabun taps into the nobility and agelessness of gold to capture the continual flow of time in a physical form. “Architectural references look incredible in gold, but there’s an underlying story connected to what’s going on in the world.” Pure gold, held to have healing powers since antiquity, is associated with wellbeing and with deep emotions, particularly compassion and courage. “We are going through a time when we need all of these.”

Above all, perhaps, gold possesses authenticity, integrity and a sense of stability, as well as timeless modernity. These qualities, so sought-after today, are drawing us ever closer – even subconsciously – to the “monarch of metals”. Long may it reign. 

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