Rough and ravishing (Part 3)

Uncut crystals and gemstone slices cozy up to luxury goods

Part 3 of 3

By Diana Jarrett

Earrings by Yael Designs. Emerald slices (7.04 ctw) set with diamonds (.82 ctw) in 19-karat white gold.

Radhika Tandon, president of San Francisco-area Isharya, is a go-to jeweller for media personalities who rely on stylists and dressers to adorn them in one-offs that look striking in front of the camera and on stage. Isharya’s new India-inspired collection features natural druzy quartz pieces designed to be worn easily, no matter the occasion, while adding a pop of colour to an outfit.

“Celebrities really enjoy the druzy pieces,” Tandon tells Jewellery Business. “The stones have a rougher look, and altogether the pieces look chic, with just enough edge.”

The ongoing push for sustainability underpins the lovefest with natural and sliced gemstones, says American gemmologist and gemstone expert Loretta Castoro. Some collectors simply want to see what stones look like with minimal human interaction. For instance, sliced gemstones—with their crystal rough exterior—form a natural bezel around the stone.

Jewellery artist Nina Nguyen of Nina Nguyen Designs in Naples Fla., is fascinated with the growth process of natural minerals, and this compelling force is reflected in her gemstone slice jewellery. The idea to add raw stones to her line sprang from her enthusiasm over how they are formed slowly through the earth’s organic processes. “I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful crystal-like stones in untouched areas of the world,” Nguyen says. “It’s mesmerizing to see them glisten when sunlight hits their surface.”

Nguyen goes to great lengths to find just the right stone for her original jewellery, which include sliced stalactites exposing vibrantly colourful interiors. Finding such breakout gems is not easy, but thanks to Nguyen’s years of travel, she says she’s made the right connections with people specialized in finding rare and unique stones all over the world.

When priced within the range of impulse buying, slices and crystals are mostly self-purchased and a reflection of a personal expression of the jewellery collector, Nguyen says. But when it comes to rough diamonds, customers at this level already have ‘everything else’ and are looking for unique jewellery, says Diamond in the Rough president and creative director, Anjanette Dienne Clisura. Finding the right rough to suit this niche means “demand is greater than we can often keep up with,” she reveals. “True, it’s fashion jewellery. But it’s also precious because we’re using rough diamonds, and every rough diamond is just as it’s found in nature.”

So who is the customer for these avant-garde accessories? “My one-of-a-kind jewellery is for the non-conformist, who is a true individual,” explains Toronto-based designer Ayala Raiter of Ayala Raiter Jewelry Couture. “I find my customer is sophisticated, independent, strong, and makes her own choices.” Age is a moot point when it comes to the raw stone fan. “My customers range from 25 to 80 years old,” explains jewellery artisan Jamie Joseph, of Seattle, Wash. “And I’m always amazed at the amount of knowledge they have about the stones.”

Nguyen finds a common thread linking her fashionable customers. “They are knowledgeable, and appreciate the esthetic and creativity behind a collection,” she explains. “Despite the different types of natural gemstones, one thing they have in common is their distinguished taste for jewellery.”

Castoro sees jewellery and wardrobe as parts of a whole for modern consumers. “The price point at which consumers decide to bring this trend into their wardrobe will depend on how they pair jewellery with their clothing,” she adds.

According to Raiter, raw stones—which naturally have a rugged, more masculine look and feel—are a perfect fit for men’s jewellery, particularly pendants and bracelets.

Clisura adds, “Our men’s cufflinks have been worn by celebrities like Ryan Kwanten from True Blood,” she notes. “We have also made custom wedding bands. We definitely will have a more extensive men’s line at some point, but right now, we’re focusing on our women’s bridal and fashion business.”

The potential for enticing male consumers with sliced stones is great, Nguyen foresees. “There is certainly a market for a men’s collection, especially since a lot of the stones have such a raw look,” she says. “If I branched off into a men’s line, I would probably start with special occasion cufflinks.”

Despite a tough economy, Diamond in the Rough says the trend toward rough stones shows no signs of abatement. For Tandon, these icon breakers will segue from muse to must-have for the sophisticated yet versatile, modern women.


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