Jewelry 2011: Hits and Misses

With the close of the year, it’s time to take a look at the major jewelry news and trends of 2011.

Here are my top picks offered with the caveat that these are purely subjective, reflective of my own interests and highly debatable.

Kate Middleton X-Mas EarringsMost watched accessories: First, there was the announcement with Kate wearing Diana’s ring; then there was the wedding, watched by millions, and now comes an obsessive interest in all things Middleton, including accessories. This Christmas, Kate sported a new pair of earrings from designer Kiki McDonough, a pair of 18K gold drop earrings made up of green amethysts surrounded by diamonds on a diamond hoop. The gift (presumably from Prince William) was reported and discussed in the trade and fashion blogs around the world.

Most Coveted Jewels: Liz Taylor loved and studied jewelry and in her lifetime collected and/or commissioned a number of historically important jewels and designer pieces. After her death, the auction firm Christie’s undertook the sale of Taylor’s collection taking in more than $116 million, more than double the record for a single collection (the Duchess of Windsor’s collection garnered $50 million). Perhaps the most famous jewel in Taylor’s collection was La Peregrina, the 55 carat 16th century pearl that had belonged to a succession of European royalty. That sold for sold for $11.8 million.  An ivory and gold necklace, estimated at $1,500 was sold for $314,500; a charm bracelet, estimated at $30,000 was sold for $326,500. Nothing but the pearly gates would make Liz happier.

Most Anxiously Watched: Although the price of gold has trended down from a high of $1889.70 in 2011 to close at $1612.70 at this writing, it’s still far too costly for casual use in jewelry.  Although far less expensive than gold, the price of silver has also increased and many experts predict it will exceed $50 per ounce in the next few years.

Diamond Ring makes Guinness Book of World RecordsNotable and Forgettable:  A diamond ring, produced by Ukraine-based Labortas Classic Jewelry, has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for have the most diamonds set in one ring. The ring, called the “Tsarevna Swan” boasts 2,525 diamonds for a total carat weight of 10.48. It may be hideous, but it sets a record.

Most Ineffective: The Kimberley Process, which many in the trade hoped would herald a breakthrough by certifying diamonds to ensure they are not used to fuel conflicts, lifted the ban on sales of Zimbabwe diamonds from its rich Marange fields. The discovery of the vast alluvial deposits in 2009 prompted the Zimbabwe government to seize the fields and evict artisanal workers by violence, including murder and rape. The lifting of the ban, despite the lack of progress in correcting abuses, was hailed by China and India and criticized by the U.S., human rights groups and the trade. This failure of the Kimberley Process does not auger well for future efforts.

The Shortest Goodbye: After three generations at the helm of DeBeers, a period during which the perception of diamonds was forever changed, the Oppenheimer family sold the company to Anglo American.  The multi-billion deal was announced three weeks after Anglo American approached DeBeers about a possible sale.

Newest Distribution System: The Gitanjali Group will roll out 75 ATM machines in India dispensing up to 36 options in gold and diamond jewelry. The company says “the machine is a first of its kind anywhere in the world and will further revolutionize the processes by which precious metals and jewelry is bought.”  Apparently the company is looking to cash in on the penchant of consumers in India to buy jewelry to observe tradition on auspicious days. It will also provide jewelry to commemorate Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthdays.

Girls of Great Britain tiara

Girls of Great Britain tiara

Events We’re Looking Forward to: To help commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Buckingham Palace recently announced it will display an exhibition of diamonds in August and September, 2012. According to the Palace, the exhibition will chart the gemstone’s association with British monarchs over the last 200 years. Among the items on view will be the monarch’s “Williamson Brooch” which features a rare pink diamond, said to be the finest in existence, pieces belonging to Queen Victoria, state jewelry and items from the Queen’s personal jewelry collection.

The Rise of the Designer: The trade confronted the challenges faced by the jewelry industry last year in a variety of unique and creative ways. Overall, commercial jewelry shows more flair and creativity, incorporating unusual materials and gemstones in new and beautiful designs. Studio jewelers continued to produce stunning work using no or only sparing amounts of gold. And, my own experience shows that people who may have had little interest in creating their own jewelry are learning new skills and techniques, including pearl and bead stringing. This surge in interest reflects the desire to learn new skills, re-make and re-design old jewelry for personal use and to develop salable jewelry for extra income.






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