Personalised jewellery remains as popular as ever, with consumers continuing to vote with their wallets in favour of products that present sentimental appeal. SAMUEL ORD explores some of the most important trends of 2022.
Jewellery has long been used as a cultural signifier denoting status, mark, and even rank, and so in an age dominated by these appeals to individualism, it should come as no surprise that personalisation weighs heavily on the minds of consumers today.
This desire to draw the lines of identity, from cultural status to occupation and personal bonds remains alive and well and before we go any deeper, we should take a second to define our terms, because after all – jewellery is almost always “personal” on some level, even when it’s not bespoke.
Jewellery has long been considered a personalised purchase. Indeed all jewellery was bespoke – but in a climate of mass production and swelling product lines, retailers, suppliers and consumers could be forgiven for asking themselves what is personalised jewellery?
Is it limited to custom-made pieces or does it include jewellery engraved with a personal message? Do items that allow consumers to customise with interchangeable elements fall under the personalised jewellery banner?
Pandora still number one
While charm and bead jewellery is nothing new – it dates back centuries – there can be no dispute that Pandora’s approach to personalised jewellery changed the world. From its humble beginning in Denmark in the early 1980s, Pandora has blossomed from a family-run business in Copenhagen to more than nearly 7,000 stores worldwide.
Much has been written over the years about the success of Pandora’s unique charm bracelet – growing from a venture routinely rejected by retailers to a consistent doubling of sales each in the early 2000s – growing from $US4.5 million in 2000 to over $US500 million in 2007.
As a testament to the ability to ride on – or even create a consumer trend – only two decades later, the company employs 27,000 people and in 2021 generated $US3.5 billion ($AU5.09 billion) in revenue in 2021 – a company record. This, no doubt would annoy most naysayers who, in the early days, dismissed the product as ‘cheap costume jewellery’. It suggests that the brand still has the staying power that many dismissed early days.
Earlier this year, Pandora unveiled plans for a new factory in Vietnam, the company’s first production facility outside of Thailand, where Pandora operates two factories.
The factory in Vietnam is expected to cost $US100 million and will create jobs for 6,000 people, with plans for an annual capacity of 60 million pieces of jewellery manufactured – suggesting Pandora will remain at the top of the pyramid
when it comes to personalised jewellery for some time to come.
Not everything is as it seems
Not everyone is as glowingly positive about Pandora’s performance. Freetrade investment writer Gemma Boothroyd spoke with Professional Jeweller following the release of Pandora’s Q1 figures and said the company was facing
“Personalised products are Pandora’s crown jewel. But they might turn out to be the thorn in its side too,” she says.
“The past few years have ushered in a slew of customisable jewellery marketplace platforms. The likes of Etsy and Amazon Homemade have made it increasingly easy to buy tailor-made jewellery online. Historically, jewellers would struggle to gain scale in their sales and marketing efforts without a storefront or gallery showcasing their designs.
Boothroyd says that online marketplaces and social media have changed the game, “and it’s turning out to be a challenge for jewellery behemoths like Pandora.”
Whether that’s true or not, people’s preference for personalised products is unabated.According to Statista, an analytics company, Etsy presently has 96 million active users worldwide, culminating in $US2.3 billion in revenue last year. Etsy had seven million active sellers as of 2021. Per the company’s data from 2020, jewellery was the third most popular category.
It has been said that the international jewellery market has experienced three consumer phenomena were windfalls for jewellery retailers ; the Japanese quartz watch, the SWATCH watch and Pandora.
And while many jewellery brands have hopes of becoming the next Pandora – some have claimed they are – and most retailers would like to see another phenomenon, the fact is the personalisation trend continues perhaps, with new roads.
Rediscovering an old canvas
Heard the term earscaping?
Pierced ears have long been a popular platform for expressing identity and today there’s an opportunity to go bigger than ever before.
Also described as ‘curated ear-piercing design’, earscaping is about curating a selection of earrings that feature anywhere from the lobe, cartilage, rook, and any other pierceable location to create a striking and attention-grabbing design that’s personalised to the ear in question.
There’s a chance to be unique with the selection and placement of each and every piece.
It’s not a brand new phenomenon – STUDS, an “experimental retail, and e-commerce” business based in New York claims to have invented the term, however with growth in opportunities for designers using sites like Etsy, Amazon, and Facebook has come increased access to designs.
“It’s not that the concept of ‘earscaping’ hasn’t been done before,” writes Liana Satenstein for Vogue.
“Piercings have been around for thousands of years; styles varying within different cultures –but the lingo encapsulates the current trendy metropolitan vibe of ear piercings.
“Just as you might go out for a cocktail, a girls’ weekend could just as easily include a new addition to an earscape.”
Many celebrities and prominent social media figures have given the practice of earscaping a boost in recent months. The biggest of all may well be singer Dua Lipa, one of the world’s most popular pop stars who has rapidly become a fashion icon.
At the Grammys, the singer was spotted with a diamond flower, a hoop, and an evil eye post, grounded by a larger gold safety pin.
Left to Right: Megan Fox wearing Established zodiac pendant; Dua Lipa sporting the earscaping trend; Briony Raymond zodiac pendants.
Megan Fox’s engagement ring by Stephen Webster; Rihanna’s charm bracelet by Annoushka.
Tried and true
No exploration of personalised jewellery is complete with an acknowledgement of zodiac and birthstone jewellery.
The trend of wearing gemstones connected to birth is believed to originate in Europe around the 16th century. During the
Victorian era, birthstones were the stone of choice to mark an engagement. This phenomenon was of course eventually superseded by a preference for diamonds.
Birthstone jewellery is consistently popular but received a major boost earlier this year with the public engagement of actress Megan Fox and musician Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly).
Baker presented Fox with a ring created by designer Stephen Webster. The ring features two jewels – one untreated
Colombian emerald to denote Fox’s birth in May 1986, and a D-colour diamond to mark Baker’s birth in April 1990.
The band is designed to resemble a thorn, making the ring painful to remove. I guess love really does hurt!
British fine jewellery designer Stephen Webster says working with birthstones remains a straightforward tactic to add personal significance to design.
“During the creative process Colson had mentioned that Megan’s birthstone is emerald which he wanted to incorporate in some way, along with a diamond, his birthstone,” Webster tells Nashville Lifestyle.
“The resulting ring actually consists of two rings which by the use of magnets buried within the gold, are attracted to each other and sit together perfectly on the finger, a detail that is both modern and quite extraordinary.”
Zodiac jewellery meanwhile rose to mainstream popularity in the 1930s and again in the 1970s, via French jewellery houses attempting to make the most of the Age of Aquarius cultural trend.
New York fine jewellery designer Briony Raymond has dominated the spotlight in 2022 when it comes to zodiac jewellery.
With a background in gemmology and art history, Raymond has supplied a number of prominent celebrities with zodiac-inspired pieces.
Musician Robyn Fenty (Rihanna) is often seen sporting a necklace featuring a Pisces medallion, her star sign. Raymond also designed a necklace for the singer dominated by Libra themes, worn in tribute to her musician partner Rakim Mayers (ASAP Rocky).
Rihanna is far from the only A-lister to seek Raymond’s services – Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gigi Hadid, and Lily James are just a few of the names to be spotted in Raymond’s work.
“Many of us have looked to our star signs as a way to prophesise our future and encourage us on the hardest of days,” Raymond tells the Robb Report.
“I see wearing your sign as a way to keep this sense of comfort from the stars closest to you and it was with this ethos in mind that I was inspired to design a collection of luxurious everyday talismans incorporating the signs of the zodiac.”
Another key promoter of zodiac jewellery worth acknowledging is, of course, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. Markle wears Taurus and Virgo zodiac pendants, the star signs of her son Archie and husband Prince Harry, sourced from Canadian jewellery brand Suetables.
Markle is also enthusiastic about birthstones too. Her custom-made Lorraine Schwartz eternity ring features peridot, sapphire, and emerald, the birthstones of herself, her husband, and her son.
Jewellery appeals to a person’s sense of sight. It also appeals to a person’s sense of touch. Why not the sense of smell, too?
Fragranced jewellery, or scented jewellery, is a niche product which has lurked in the shadows of mainstream appeal but has always failed to break through.
The key thing holding back the concept appears to be design. How a manufacturer can produce a piece which continues to emit a fragrance over time, without it being overwhelming or overpowering, is a complicated equation.
The practice is actually centuries old. Jewellers have been creating scent-themed pieces since the Victorian period, but the concept has swung in and out of vogue.
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Hoffman is one of the industry’s leaders in fragrance-enriched jewellery design.
Hoffman is the wife of actor Dustin Hoffman – the star of films such as Rain Man and The Graduate – says that a fusion of jewellery and fragrances provokes strong memory recall.
“The sense of smell, more than any other sense, has the power to recall memories,” Hoffman says.
“Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through our sense of smell more than any other of our senses.”
Locally, designer Sheree, owner of Shaille Chainmaille, is one of many Australian jewellery designers combining fragrance with jewellery.
Among the items featured in Shaile Chainmaille’s catalogue is a stainless steel whirly bird necklace which presents the customer with the chance to add a scent of their choosing.
While scented jewellery will continue to jump in and out of fashion, one thing is for sure – major retailers will continue to search for that magical combination, as fragrances and perfumes and fine jewellery are both intimately connected under the ‘luxury’ umbrella.
Just this month, Chanel opened a new flagship store in Perth (Western Australia) and the Raine Square location is being marketed as a combination of “fashion, beauty and fragrance.”
Oh, and how’s this for personalisation? In an Australian first, the change rooms at Chanel’s Perth store can be personalised to customers’ preferred airflow, music and lighting.