Jewelry For a New Era

Long gone are the days when women would get dressed to go out, then remove one piece of jewelry. Today’s more eclectic and personal strain of styling calls for a maximalist approach to accessorizing: one where traditional materials take on modern forms, and everything looks better in overabundance. Stepping up to the task are a new class of jewelry designers – artisans unbound from convention who are putting individualism first.

Turning her family’s heritage atelier to modern ends is Gaia Repossi, a third-generation Parisian-Italian jeweler who designs with an uniquely intellectual spirit. Originally a painter who also studied anthropology, Repossi’s cultural interests show in the tribally-influenced forms of her label’s signature Berbere ear cuffs and multi-band rings. Artists from Alexander Calder and Cy Twombly to ancient Greek and Roman sculptors further inspire Repossi’s modernist applications of rose gold, black gold, and pavé diamonds. Spare yet impactful, they exude elegance and attitude in equal parts.

Where Repossi skews minimal, other designers turn up the volume. Outsized pieces from Lanvin, like a rough-hewn amethyst pendant or long tassel earring, exemplify the label’s exuberant executions of costume jewelry – quirky, romantic, and above all fun. Joining it in maximalist adornment is Givenchy, whose oversized rhinestone broaches play out Fall 15’s darkly Victorian currents. Equally attention-grabbing? Simone Rocha’s twists on ladylike dress, translated into accessory form on a bold collar of clustered faux pearls. Their pieces are major players in an ensemble cast: unashamedly sculptural focal points.

Himo Martin, the designer behind Montreal jewelry label Pearls Before Swine, cultivates tension on a smaller scale. His casts of thorns, spikes, and rough chains in gold and silver have a rawness and organic nature that stands out even among an armful of bracelets and rings. Speckled electroplate finishes and tarnished, irregular surfaces approximate natural wear from the elements, and will continue to evolve over time. Rejecting the expected and placing precious materials in a new context, Martin’s jewelry instead emphasizes the kind of beauty that’s often overlooked. His men’s pieces, new to SSENSE this season, display a balance of toughness and delicacy that transcends gender. Worn as part of an eclectic selection, their sensitivity amplifies all that surrounds them.

Martin is just one of the designers rediscovering the possibilities of the pearl. Where he emphasizes their fragility by embedding them in roughly textured settings, Copenhagen jeweler Sophie Bille Brahe treats them as celestial orbs in miniature. Taking inspiration from astronomy, she places single pearls on gold double rings or gracefully curved single earrings. Spiraling ear cuffs embedded with diamonds recall planetary orbits. Alone, Bille Brahe’s minimalist treatments of fine materials convey an elemental simplicity and grace, but also bring composure to a diverse collection of jewelry. Like all the best pieces, they stand on their own yet do not overpower.