The die (or should that be dye?) was cast when Cate Blanchett stepped onto the red carpet at this year’s Oscars wearing a pared-down black Galliano for Margiela dress with an effervescent Tiffany & Co bib necklace (price on request): vibrant turquoise beads bubbled over softly luminous aquamarines, lit by a sprinkling of diamonds. Then at the Cannes Film Festival, De Grisogono, the Geneva-based jeweller with a strikingly audacious style, paraded its latest high-jewellery collection, the star of which was a monumental necklace of turquoise beads – heavenly sky blue and exceptionally rare these days – threaded into three rows clasped by diamond rings flashed with emerald-set links. Aside from the bolt-from-the-blue style statement that the necklaces delivered, there was a dramatic subtext: turquoise had shed its hippy-dippy summer holiday image to become a prized element in high jewellery.
And turquoise is not the only blue stone changing the jewellery landscape. While blue gemstones have long been popular (especially among the British aristocracy), the newest jewels are turning expectation on its head. Layering different tones of stone, playing with textures and juxtaposing opacity with translucency, they are filled with movement and a modern sense of drama. Alongside turquoise are bluebell-tinged tanzanite, startling neon-bright Paraíba tourmalines, darkly flashing blue-black opals, cornflower-blue sapphires and blue diamonds – as well as less expensive stones, such as royal-blue lapis lazuli, milky violet-blue chalcedony, blue topaz, zircon, kyanite, iolite or the fragile but stunning apatite. Aquamarine – in tones of sunlit sea or moonlit lake – in particular is enjoying a huge revival, especially the deepest Santa Maria-coloured stones, so called after the Brazilian mine where they were originally found. They are “cool” again, says gemologist and jeweller Tito Pedrini. In few places is this more evident than Shaun Leane’s new aquamarine-set version of his Aurora ring (£9,200).
The new blues have been swept in on a wave of sea-themed high-jewellery collections, such as Van Cleef & Arpels’ spectacular Seven Seas collection (prices on request), which will be launched later this month in Monaco, on the shores of the Mediterranean. A luxuriant palette of marine blues, sparked with hints of green and purple, stretches across the collection. The finest turquoise creates high drama, particularly striking in the Reflets Adriatiques necklace, where luscious drops are suspended from a collar of sapphires, Paraíba-like tourmalines, flashes of emeralds and diamonds. The Mer Chatoyante necklace with detachable clip uses shades of sapphires, tanzanites, aquamarines and diamonds, Mer de Vent teams sapphires with pearls, and in the star-shaped Lagune Precieuse necklace, flower clusters of aquamarines shimmer with hints of sapphires and diamonds.
Tiffany & Co’s annual Blue Book high-jewellery collection is this year called The Art of the Sea (all prices on request) and is the first to be created by design director Francesca Amfitheatrof. Masterfully modern yet with a strong 1940s film-star flavour, it captures the movement, moods and constantly changing nuances of the ocean. Working closely with Tiffany & Co gemologist Melvyn Kirtley, Amfitheatrof chose a ravishing range of blue stones. A cushion-cut blue spinel is positioned high in the centre of a mighty bangle enclosed in fish scales of shaded pear-shaped sapphires, while blue diamonds ripple on a pebble ring; bright Montana sapphires and darker blue stones mingle to create waves on a painterly bracelet; a colossal purplish tanzanite is tossed on the spiralling surf of a ring; sea-toned blue tourmaline hangs in a watery droplet from a necklace; and a huge blue-green chrysocolla sits on a swell of sapphires on a ring.
Along with the sea, there’s a strong Indian influence bringing blues to the fore. Amrapali, Indian jewellers to the west, say they literally can’t get enough turquoise, and have dedicated an entire showcase in Harrods to blue jewels – particularly striking is a sky-blue enamel ring topped with an aquamarine (£9,030). Boucheron’s couture collection, Bleu de Jodhpur (launching next month; prices on request), is inspired by the blue-painted houses of the so-called Blue City and celebrated through jewels rich in aquamarines, sapphires, lapis, tanzanites and chalcedony. Standout is a between-the-finger ring, where a superb aquamarine is held aloft by two sapphire-set tigers.
Paraíba tourmaline – the colour of a Hockney swimming pool and named after the state in Brazil where it was discovered in the 1980s – has been the gem sensation of recent decades. Going back to its roots, Brazilian jeweller H Stern – whose founder Hans Stern was the father of the Brazilian coloured-stone industry in the 1950s – has launched a capsule collection of Paraíba and diamond jewels (from £49,700). In London, designer-jeweller Glenn Spiro intensifies their vivid colour by mixing them with specially cut turquoises and sun-yellow diamonds on a pair of drop-shaped earrings (price on request). While Brazilian stones are dwindling in number and usually small, astonishing Paraíba-like tourmalines now also come from Africa. Moussaieff has one of the most sensational with possible African provenance: a 57.21ct stone of hypnotic colour and brilliance, set into a curling feather titanium necklace that’s matched by diamond chandelier earrings with Paraíba drops (both price on request).
Blue topaz – in a range of captivating tones, from intense sky blue to the chic, steely deep London Blue – offers a more affordable alternative. Kiki McDonough favours the former: “It’s modern, light and feminine, and goes with most complexions and most colour clothes.” She sets it in all forms of jewellery, including diamond-rimmed drop earrings (£3,200) and her newest Candy earrings (£1,900), which use flat-cut stones, enabling the light to shine through and create the effect of a summer sky.
The latest tone-on-tone look is also keeping blue stones on trend. Talented Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge uses native stones wherever possible, mixing intense hues of London Blue topaz or tanzanites with sapphires set in blackened gold for his edgy Electric earrings and rings (from £5,900). For a more sensual look, he’s also drawn to lighter combinations – say aquamarine or diamond with chalcedony (£16,680). “There has always been such a variety of naturally blue gemstones,” he says. “But now I believe it’s time to use them for casual, light pieces that illuminate summer style.” Stephen Webster combines tanzanite and aquamarine in the Magnipheasant Plumage ring (£28,000), while Pippa Small mixes tanzanite, labradorite, kyanite and aquamarine in her Jellyfish drop earrings (£3,900), but also adds brown to the blues – a growing trend in colour combinations. Similarly, in the Melody of Colours collection, De Grisogono sets an important aquamarine on a huge curved ring pavéd in aquamarines and brown diamonds (£70,400), while Glenn Spiro sets a stunning Mozambique Paraíba tourmaline with petal-shaped turquoises on a shank of smoky quartz on a striking ring (price on request). The possibilities stretch to the blue horizon and beyond. Stones the colour of sea and sky “are associated with happiness, light and vitality”, says Pedrini. “It’s a fashion that’s going to last.” Ladies, sing the blues.
For more gems of stunning hue, see the coloured diamonds smashing auction records.