Over the last few years there has been an increasing shift in the bespoke engagement ring market moving away from the classic diamond solitaire towards a new era of the colour-loving customer, who wants something that little bit different at the heart of their ring.
As designers we have increasing numbers of conversations about coloured gemstones in jewellery. Adding colour not only helps to create something all the more unique, but it also allows the designs we create to express customer stories in more vivid detail. This is one of the reasons we regularly begin the design process by searching for unusual, coloured gemstones in order to find our customers the perfect centrepiece for their bespoke design.
Colourful Characters – Why Choose Colour?
Gemstones have a natural tendency to show within their appearance a lot about the conditions in which they were formed, in many instances having unique properties which are suggestive of where they were formed and mined. While some gemstones’ provenance can be more difficult to source they are still a beautiful way to express geographical meaning within a design. For example representing the place a couple met, or for our customers all over the world signifying a little piece of home.
In comparison to diamonds coloured gemstone minerals like aquamarine, tourmaline and sapphire are more easily found in larger crystals. Being more widely available means these stones can be cut into larger pieces that come without an eye-watering price tag. Choosing a coloured stone can mean that that a show-stopping size is all the more obtainable on a budget.
Cost, size and meaning are all factors, yet for so many people the magic of having a coloured stone is simply that at a glance they know it is theirs. Due to these gemstones being so incredibly varied in their structures each stone has a completely different character of its own. While diamonds will always have the classic romance to them, the difference between two diamonds may be so subtle it is barely noticeable to the untrained eye. This is one of the most enchanting features of choosing coloured gemstones and also what makes them so interesting to design with.
Designing in Colour – Challenges and Opportunities
Coloured gemstones have unique crystal structures that lend themselves towards certain styles much sort after in bespoke engagement rings. Tourmaline is one example of a gemstone that is so distinctive it is made for designs with an Art Deco inspiration. These crystals grow in long finger-like formations, which are typically cut into baguette and emerald cuts both characteristic shapes of 20’s architecture and design. Displaying vibrant greens, pinks or more rarely blue these hard-wearing gemstones make the perfect pop of colour in classic Art Deco designs usually flanked by geometric metal work or small diamonds.
One of the challenges we face when designing with coloured gemstones is overcoming any worries about durability, especially when it comes to creating a sentimental piece such as an engagement ring. Emeralds, amethysts, amber are often popular and have their own particular romance for engagement ring designs but these can be too brittle for everyday wear. The beauty of being able to talk to people about stone choices is that there are normally really stunning alternatives that they have never considered, or even seen before, which are perfect for a durable design.
Sapphire is the perfect example of a stone that actually comes in far more colours than the classic royal blue we all think of. Sapphire is naturally available in many shades of blue and almost any other colour under the sun, making it the perfect durable alternative to some of the most sort-after but least durable coloured stones.
Many of our emerald loving customers choose tourmaline or green sapphires, which have their own olive-teal hues varying from a pale to a vibrant saturated colour. Purple sapphire is a stunning alternative to amethyst, which can scuff and mark over time, whereas a sapphire will wear less easily. Amethyst often looks glassy and can cloud easily as it gets more worn. Sapphire on the other hand has a high refractive index meaning light bounces back out of the stone creating the appearance of more sparkle and life. Amber is the final example; it is formed from fossilised tree resin and mostly used to represent the Baltics as a key geographical meaning within a design. Where durability is a concern for the wearer we regularly create designs with orange or yellow sapphires.
Part of the challenge of designing with coloured stones is that sometimes our customers have such a strong connection to certain stones that, for them, there is no alternative. In this instance as designers we need to consider aspects of the design which could help to prolong the life of the stone. This could include setting style, height and shape of the stones we use, and structure of other intricate details. These considerations will allow the people wearing coloured gemstones to enjoy their jewellery to the full, in the knowledge that the design best protects their own unique slice of nature.
A Colourful Topic – Ethics and Gemstones
The issues behind mining, sourcing and selling coloured stones are ethically complex, and this is not something we can ignore. An increasing number of stones we work with come from small-scale mines, which directly trade with our suppliers. Many of our coloured gemstones come from people who regularly visit mine sites and are involved first hand in the sourcing, cutting and selling of each individual stone making it all the more personal and transparent. As with all of our design processes we are always happy to talk about the ethics, trace-ability and provenance of the gemstones going into the jewellery. For a more detailed overview of this topic see here: https://www.hkjewellery.co.uk/ethical-gemstones
Colour Equals Bespoke
In summary, coloured gemstones are beautiful alternatives to diamonds and have their own charm, so it is no wonder than this new trend is gathering speed. The rise in demand for colour in engagement rings and other jewellery can only mean more opportunity within their designs; this allows us to perfectly tell our customer’s stories in all their technicolour detail. To find out more about the gemstone choices we offer feel free to contact us or visit one of our wonderful gemstone pages.