Humans have practiced the art of body adornment with forms of jewelry since the dawn of time. And it’s always the current creative generation tasked with making that decoration relevant and meaningful. In today’s terms, they are millennials— the new jewelry generation. We examine their personal adornment, what they like to wear, and why. We ask how closely they mirror previous generations in their jewelry choices, telling their stories and reflecting their values.
In their SS19 edition, Swarovski Gem Visions trend experts highlighted a mega shift in marketing and design, especially when it comes to this new jewelry generation. And, regarding the evolution of jewelry, they identified two drivers of change — new wealth and social revolution which define different attitudes, tastes, and priorities.
Here, we find many parallels between that other social revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s whose influence has permeated fashion and design in recent seasons. Yes, some things are different, yet there are many commonalities. The 1960-70s saw the rise of meritocracy coupled with an explosion of individual expression. This era, perhaps, was the birth of enduring youth culture.
Goodbye prom dresses and formal jewelry
The jewelry from the 1960s era acted as a social message carrier. Sixties’ jewelry themes ranged from opulent to much less formal designs. Such jewelry was used to reject social conventions while sending a clear message of independent expression. Take the Rockocracy, for example, who loved color and design, breaking with tradition and wearing jewelry far beyond the formal setting.
With omnipresent colors, jewelry throughout the 1960-70s featured dazzling colored gemstones and alternative materials like brass and plastic. Designers experimented with textured gold and opaque minerals like coral, turquoise, onyx, tigers eye, malachite, and lapis lazuli. Necks were draped with solid chain link sautoirs with oversized medallions or trailing beaded tassels. Earrings and rings were imposing, while cuff bangles were impressively wide.
Hippie-luxe was IN as the Jet Set broke with tradition to make their statements. Designers like Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Chaumet, Bulgari, and in New York City, David Webb, gave the Jet Set the new jewels they loved to flaunt, often drawing on cultural and historical references in fresh new ways.
From Jet Set to Dress down
Fast forward to 2018. Here, with the influence of millennials, we draw many parallels to the Swinging Sixties. Today, conventions are discarded. There is a fresh creative freedom. This is the new jewelry generation.
Millennials want their jewelry to be personalized, to tell subtle, even hidden stories, and to reflect the social issues their generation experiences. They aim to understand the origins of their gemstones, whose qualities may be more important than their value. And as the democratization of jewelry continues, millennials are more attracted to designs that embrace free and creative expression.
In response to demands from this new consumer, who, in contrast to the Jet Setters, prefers to dress down, designers are producing jewelry that reflects their values. It’s all about casual jewelry made to wear every day and in every way. Designers are drawing on the variety of sizes, cuts, and colors of Swarovski Gemstones and Created Stones. They’re exploring ingenious applications that allow jewels to move and shine in entirely new ways.
We observe street style alternatives, even with diamonds, and especially in bracelets and earrings— both so central in the age of the selfie. Another nod to the ‘60s, fascination with industrial chic and alternative materials also creates the possibilities to use radical new cuts like the Swarovski Zirconia side view cut.
Making waves in today’s jewelry design
Today’s desirable pieces are increasingly created by socially aware and globally influenced young women. These designers are creating edgy jewelry that is often amusing and always relevant to their generation and lifestyle. Like Nadine Ghosn’s Hamburger Ring, for example. Its seven rings can be worn separately or together to depict that favorite fast food.
Or what about Solange Azagury Partridge’s amusing Popcore creations? These and others are answering the call to lay down the markers of a new creative age. And as women are designing, so too are they inclined to buy their own jewelry as the evolution of Female Power continues to influence our industry.
Stunning illustrations by Elena Ciuprina