The Hard Stones Hitting New Highs

July 3, 2024   |  Francesca Fearon
The hard stones hitting new highs Tabayer

Jewelry designers are turning a spotlight on the unique colors and fascinating patterns of hard stones such as jasper, chrysoprase and chalcedony.

Turquoise, malachite and lapis are perennial favorites in fine jewelry for their uplifting colors, offering a different design aesthetic, an easy, wearable look and accessible prices. However, it is the more unusual hard stones with interesting patterns in their structure that are catching the eye of creators, with exotically colored agates, jasper, tigers’ eye, carnelian, amazonite, chrysoprase and chalcedony appearing in many collections at Couture this year. Tabayer, which is using yellow jasper and carnelian in its Oera 04 collection, noted that chalcedony — admired for its translucency — was particularly popular with retailers at the show.

Assael earrings in Sardinian coral, lagoon tourmaline, and Sonoran Sunrise jasper. (Assael)
Assael earrings in Sardinian coral, lagoon tourmaline, and Sonoran Sunrise jasper. (Assael)


Meanwhile, it is the jaspers, petrified woods and carnelians that appeal to Peggy Grosz at Assael; she plants them in her NatureScapes collection because “they all remind me of miniature paintings of nature,” she says. “Some are landscapes, others are seascapes or skyscapes, [and] they add non-scintillating color and visual dimension.” She uses captivating combinations like Tahitian pearl and Maligano jasper, or Sardinian coral and Sonoran Sunrise jasper for earrings. They are, she considers, “fascinating, yet non-bling.”

Bibi van der Velden Scarab ring set with turquoise, watermelon tourmaline and diamonds. (Bibi van der Velden)
Bibi van der Velden Scarab ring set with turquoise, watermelon tourmaline and diamonds. (Bibi van der Velden)

Aside from the visual appeal of these ornamental hard stones, another draw for designers is that many can be hand carved — for example, the intricate motifs on unusual stones for the one-of-a-kind pieces produced by Stephen Dweck. They can also be sculpted and engraved in particular shapes for bigger production pieces like Bibi van der Velden’s Scarab rings.

“As a sculptor, I have grown up shaping hard stones like marble, so it feels completely natural for me as a jeweler to create smaller artworks sculpting ornamental hard stones like mammoth, malachite, chrysoprase and chalcedony,” says van der Velden. “I naturally gravitate towards them.”

Adding precious, faceted gemstones to a design elevates a decorative hard stone, and van der Velden has created stylish color combinations by pairing the scarab-shaped hard stone with green tourmaline, which she says proved a huge success with both American and international boutiques attending Couture.
“Customers buy the pieces as wearable miniature sculptures,” she explains. “Retailers understand this about my designs and talk to the customers with an open conversation about the value of all precious stones.”

Eden Presley Rock earrings set with lapis lazuli, turquoise, pink tourmalines, amethysts, opals and diamonds. (Eden Presley)
Eden Presley Rock earrings set with lapis lazuli, turquoise, pink tourmalines, amethysts, opals and diamonds. (Eden Presley)

Gwen Myers at Eden Presley creates another vibrant aesthetic by combining hard stones with opals, pearls and faceted gemstones for the chandelier earrings and heart pendants in her Rock collection. “I’ve been selling designs that feature these types of stone for eight years,” she says, and as a result, her retailers are familiar with the different stones and properties, and are educating customers. “These types of stones are appreciated by sophisticated collectors,” she adds. “I imagine it is not a hard sell, as customers are easily drawn to the scale and color.”

While lapis, malachite, turquoise and tigers’ eye are always favorites with her stockists, Myers says she finds “it’s more the way they are set into a design that ultimately makes them [the consumer] purchase.”

Tabayer Oera 04 ring in white gold with blue chalcedony, sapphires and diamonds. (Tabayer)
Tabayer Oera 04 ring in white gold with blue chalcedony, sapphires and diamonds. (Tabayer)

FIVE TRENDING HARD STONES

Blue chalcedony
Although chalcedony is a family of quartzes that includes agate, carnelian and jasper, it is the blue-to-grey tones that are mostly described as chalcedony in jewelry, seen in collections from Cartier, Stephen Dweck and Tabayer.

Malachite
Found mostly in copper-mining areas (copper gives malachite its color), this is one of the most popular ornamental hard stones. It is favored for its green tonal banding and is used in most luxury brand and designer fine jewelry collections.

Turquoise
Mined for more than 6,000 years, this is probably the most popular hard stone found in jewelry thanks to its summery, bright color, ranging from sky-blue to green depending on the iron or copper content.

Chrysoprase
Part of the chalcedony family, it’s always green, with apple-green the most valuable shade. It is a stone that is regaining popularity, featuring in high jewelry as well as fine jewelry ranges from designers including Elizabeth Locke and Bibi van der Velden.

Jasper
Ribboned, spotted or multicolored jasper is opaque and rarely just one color, which is what makes it so attractive to brands and designers like Assael, Stephen Dweck and Grainne Morton among others, who bring out its colors by matching it with faceted gemstones for an elevated look.

Eden Presley Flora and Fauna earrings with chrysoprase, opals and diamonds. (Eden Presley)
Eden Presley Flora and Fauna earrings with chrysoprase, opals and diamonds. (Eden Presley)

Main image: Tabayer Oera 04 bracelets set with carnelian and chalcedony. (Benjamin Mallek)

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