The Digital Age of Jewellery

The Digital Age of Jewellery
Wearing Becca Macdonald

In the days of old, aka before we spent on average three hours, fifteen minutes scrolling, typing and swiping on our phones every day, jewellery was a category in which timelessness and tradition were valued above all else. Sure, there were always quirky novelties to showcase a designer’s dexterity and technical know-how. But in the main, trends were evolutionary rather than revolutionary and aesthetics were often safe, created within set boundaries and made to appeal to as many consumers as possible. This was generally because jewellery wasn’t the market it is today. Growing at clip of around 5 to 6% per year since the middle of the decade, demand has changed the rules of the game, with categories including fashion jewellery booming and a newly empowered customer—the woman who buys for herself—looking for a more individual, eclectic reflection of her personality.

Wearing ring by Bine Roth

With this new design sensibility, trends have become far more important to the success of collections. As women seek to express themselves with jewellery as they once did with their apparel choices, channelling the Zeitgeist has become more important than ever. And the water cooler of that spirit is new media—social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr which have become instrumental in making and breaking trends and in turn brands. The power of the influencer to subtly mould desires and tastes has upended the design funnel and created a feedback loop for creatives to find inspiration and guidance. Think of any jewellery trend over the past two years and it will probably have been supercharged—if it didn’t actually originate—from social media. If I consider the pieces I’ve bought over the past three years, they’ve all been—in some way—influenced by social arbiters of taste, whether introducing me to brands or priming me with trends which suddenly by osmosis, I go from not even thinking about to needing immediately. Shells, medallions, even the dominance of gold have all got social media to blame for their current popularity. The comeback of statement pieces, especially trophy earrings certainly has a social angle. More delicate jewellery is far harder to photograph and showcase on Instagram squares, and if women are investing their hard-earned cash, they want their followers to firstly, be able to see it and secondly, for those in-the-know to recognise the piece and its currency.

Wearing Ora Pearls

Working as an influencer myself, I’ve seen first-hand how the process works. Initially, a brand contacts you to select an item as a gift in the hope you may post it on your feed at some point in the near future. Then suddenly you start to see the piece you picked out everywhere—often first on other influencers, then regular consumers. It turns out the pendant or chain you instinctively selected is the same accoutrement that other tastemakers chose too, your originality completely overpowered by the collective barometer of taste. In this way, brands can’t push defined trends on influencers—that never works. There has to be an organic element to the process, with genuine engagement, or else a trend never picks up momentum. That is why it is so vital that a creative director or design team is in tune with the aesthetic mores of social platforms and able to respond to the fast-moving micro trends which have the potential to go mega.

The trends gaining the most traction now are idiosyncratic and offer a clear signal about the type of woman who wears them. Take the freshwater pearls. Natural, non-spherical and beautifully organic, freshwater pearls often paired with unhewn gold point to a consumer engaged with issues of sustainability and imperfect beauty rather than anything overly polished. Elsewhere the comeback of heavy gold link chains offers a powerful, 80s and 90s inspired attitude, with a more masculine energy whether they are worn alone or layered up. For the consumer with a penchant for the dainty, this season’s fruit-inspired trend picks up on Instagram’s obsession with peaches, lemons and cherries, adding a burst of summer-time optimism the whole year around. As for new categories of jewellery, the anklet is having a moment with a new erogenous zone identified. Whether super-fine or snake-chained, it’s a must-have item for any fashion insider. When it comes to precious and semi-precious stones, the trend for horizontally set, narrow emerald cut stones is certain to gather steam in the season ahead. And for the truly fun at heart, the vogue for brights—from pretty coloured stones to beads adds a pick ‘n’ mix, youthful approach to any jewellery box. No matter the woman, there’s a social-media inspired trend, just waiting to be discovered.

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