Maggi Simpkins’ “In Bloom Ring” featured at Sotheby’s “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance” sale, is crafted in 18-karat rose gold featuring an internally flawless, 2.43-carat, cushion-cut fancy pink diamond, 2.73 carats of custom-cut rubies, and 0.77 carats of pink sapphires.
In 2021, fine jewelry sales continued to soar, while the industry at large made a return to some of its events and in-person commerce.
Here were some of the brightest jewelry moments of the year.
Best Fine Jewelry Collection: Emily P. Wheeler’s “Dress Up”
Escapism is in high demand and Emily P. Wheeler delivered that in spades in her latest collection, called “Dress Up.”
Bright colored gemstones paired in tonal color combinations, hearts, and pearls provided a child-like take on glamorous occasion dressing.
Wheeler showed that whimsy and beauty can be antidotes to the doom and gloom of the news cycle, even if just “window shopping” on Instagram.
Best Trade Show Comeback: The Couture Show
In 2021, the show finally went on.
CBG was the first to return to Las Vegas, with Couture, the antique show, and JCK Las Vegas following suit in late August. While slimmed down from pre-pandemic editions, buyers seemed enthusiastic to peruse in person.
The Couture show moved to its new space at the Wynn Las Vegas, with the antique show occupying its previous ballrooms. Couture’s relocation originally was planned for 2020, but the 2021 new Designer Atelier made it worth the wait.
Its new location within a large hall beneath a skylight provided welcome natural light that can feel so far away when cocooned in a Vegas casino, all the better to showcase the latest jewelry designs.
Speaking of Schwartz, Kate Hudson was dripping in the designer’s jewels at this year’s Met Gala, held in September, rather than the traditional May.
One jewel, however, was Hudson’s own.
The red-carpet event was the debut of the actress and fitness entrepreneur’s engagement ring. Like other celebrity engagement rings this year, the style was simple, but the champagne diamond center stone made it unique.
The tomes in Joanna Hardy’s gemstone trilogy make the ultimate jewelry aficionado coffee table books.
This year, “Emerald” and “Ruby” were rounded out with “Sapphire,” published by Thames & Hudson, in association with Violette Editions in partnership with Gemfields.
Hardy discusses the book and previews some of the spectacular sapphire jewels it chronicles in a video here.
Best Jewelry Diss: Ben Affleck vs. Ana de Armas
Celebrity media couldn’t get over the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez reunion this year.
I couldn’t get over Affleck gifting his romantic redux jewelry from Foundrae, a brand favored by his most recent ex, Ana de Armas.
While an innocent version of this scenario exists, wherein Affleck gifts Foundrae to many people in his life or was the one to introduce the brand to his former paramour, this isn’t an innocent world, and those explanations are unlikely.
Read my far more sinister take, involving Affleck’s deliberate and very public snub to his ex, here.
Best Royal Jewel: Marie Antoinette Diamond Bracelets
Who doesn’t love a jewel with royal provenance landing on the auction block?
The 15.81-carat purple-pink diamond is a lesson in diamond rarity.
Less than 10 percent of pink diamonds weigh more than 0.2 carats, while only 4 percent of pink diamonds receive the GIA “fancy vivid” color grade like the Sakura.
Best Jewelry Sale: Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance
Among auction houses’ record-setting diamonds and jewels with fascinating backstories, contemporary designer jewelry sales keep institutions, well, current.
The sale I would have most liked to hop on a plane back to New York for was Sotheby’s “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance.” Curated in partnership with Melanie Grant, it featured an array of artistically diverse jewels from Black designers working today or in the last century.
When you’re Frank Ocean, you can break every rule.
At launch, the musician’s new sterling silver and gold jewelry collection with lab-grown diamonds eschewed ecommerce for a New York City Chinatown storefront and rejected social media for a printed catalogue. (Today, the brand’s ecommerce is up and running and a week ago it flooded its Instagram account with not just one inaugural post but 90 posts in a single day.)
But it’s not rule-breaking or marketing trappings that make Homer interesting. It’s the Japanese cartoon-like characters and vibrant enamel colors that showcase a legitimate design voice.