Every now and then I come across a piece of jewellery that tickles my sense of humour. Such witty designs appear not to take themselves too seriously, yet, like a well-crafted joke, they make me think even as they make me laugh. Most recently, Jessica McCormack’s new Strike collection elicited this response with its slightly surreal reimagining of everyday objects. Inspired by the graphics on 1950s and ’60s matchboxes, and fashioned from mixed golds, diamonds and rubies, the range is “playful in a grown-up way,” says McCormack, for whom a bangle (£42,000) in the form of a single match is a favourite.
Sweets play a similar role in the Warhol-esque designs of Geneva-based Suzanne Syz, whose bestselling yellow-gold, silver, enamel and diamond Life Saver earrings (from $10,000) strike a delicate balance between preciousness and humour. While Syz says the workshops she uses often think her ideas are “crazy”, Hoonik Chang, jewellery design director of Dubai-based brand Aisha Baker, refers to his own design aesthetic as “eccentric”. His nostalgic Cadeau earrings ($7,650), for instance, are inspired by polka-dot ribbons wrapped around childhood gifts, and feature lemon quartz alongside diamonds and pale-blue enamel. “While one of the earrings is quite classic,” says Chang, “the other creates an illusion of movement, wrapping up the ear in a way that is fun and modern.”
It’s a fitting description, too, for the work of Toronto-based Holly Dyment, a former graphic designer, fine artist and interior decorator who loves “doing faces”. Her Portrait collection (Clare ring, $6,250) combines cartoon-like images crafted in vibrant enamel with gemstone and pearl clusters, and often a signature black and white border – a reference to filmmaker Tim Burton that “crispens up the piece and adds a bit of whimsy”. Meanwhile, music is at the heart of a collaboration between Annoushka Ducas and Susie Cave (founder of fashion label The Vampire’s Wife) which sets out to translate the songs of Cave’s husband, Nick, into a charm bracelet (£27,390). “There is so much irony and mordant wit in Nick’s work,” says Ducas, whose arch trinkets include a gold bell with a diamond clapper and a mermaid.
But no round-up of whimsical designs would be complete without mention of Solange Azagury-Partridge. Her Days Of The Week ring (price on request), set with square and baguette rubies, has a kinetic playfulness to it in the form of a revolving enamelled barrel. “My design inspiration,” she says, “was a disorganised woman who doesn’t need a watch to tell her the hour, but rather a way to find out which day it is.” It’s fun – and utterly fabulous.
Maia Adams is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (adorninsight.com).