The Bright Stuff

WHAT'S HOT: Right-hand diamonds dazzle, earrings dangle, men's watches sparkle and necklaces float.

Focus On Jewelry

January 18, 2004|By Rod Stafford Hagwood | Rod Stafford Hagwood,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Fine jewelry trends change at a glacial pace.

After all, who wants to sink hundreds or even thousands of dollars into something that will look dated next season? No one in his right mind. So jewelry designers, retailers and manufacturers have to work harder to generate excitement about their bangles, baubles and bright shiny things.

One of the newest -- and biggest -- trends is diamond rings worn by single women on their right hands.

"It's saying that on your right hand you can wear a ring of power," says Ken Hash, jewelry buyer at Smyth Jewelers in Timonium. "It's about women ... not feeling uncomfortable about buying a ring for themselves."

So far, the powers that be in the jewelry game have pushed their right-hand rings to the public via the ready-to-wear runway shows in New York. At the spring 2004 shows in New York last September designers Carmen Marc Valvo, Alvin Valley, Badgley / Mischka, Ralph Lauren and others all featured right-hand diamond rings from the likes of Fabrikant, Fred Leighton, Harry Winston, Jacob Arabo ("The King of Bling" for hip-hop stars) and Chopard.

"We had diamond rings in various gorgeous shapes as the only adornment to suggest a different, more personal approach to jewelry," Mark Badgley commented at the time.

And on the hit TV show Sex and the City, the overtly style-conscious stars all sport diamond right-hand rings on and off the set. Julia Roberts, Debra Messing and Cameron Diaz also have been caught right-handed.

But stars at events like the 55th Emmy Awards were also sporting fine jewelry's other hot ticket: chandelier earrings. Working dangling ears that September evening were Jennifer Aniston and Patricia Heaton, and the trend has shown no sign of stopping, according to jewelers.

"This year the focus is on the ears," says Jeffrey Josephson, president of Raymond Lee Jewelers in Florida. "Women will be wearing upswept hairstyles to ... show off the dramatic earring styles that are quickly gaining in popularity. After several years of seeing tiny studs and hoops, earrings are getting bigger and longer."

"We're selling more dangling earrings than ever," says Jennifer Svec, jewelry buyer at Smyth Jewelers. "Dangles in general are a little bit bolder and bigger. And there's lots of beads and sterling and gold and metals."

Other hits this year include the use of colorful gemstones.

"We're selling more color gems, gold and pearl [drop-earrings]," Svec says. "And the biggest trend I've seen is the alternative medium -- rubber necklaces and leather jewelry. That's what I can't keep in stock. They have different pendants on them or silk cords. One of our best selling is a pearl and leather necklace. It's hot with everybody now. We sell it to teen-agers and their mothers."

Sun staffer Lori Sears contributed to this article.

The South Florida Sun- Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

These delicate, colorful and stunning cascading diamond earrings with briolette drops are from Harry Winston. ($78,000)

WHAT'S NEW AND FLASHY

Here's a shopping list of what's hot in the fine jewelry world:

* Right-hand rings (either treat yourself to a new diamond ring or recycle heirloom pieces).

* Chandelier earrings (the bigger and flashier, the better).

* Coral (from pink to orange).

* Three-stone diamond jewelry (representing the past, present and future).

* Charms and pendants (Britney Spears, Madonna and Demi Moore all wear delicate charms -- from initials to the zodiac).

* White gold and platinum bridal jewelry (it's still the dominant look, but yellow gold is making a strong showing as estate pieces get fashion's spotlight).

* Conversion pieces (versatility is the name of the game with necklaces that convert to bracelets, lariats or even belts; pendants become brooches; line earrings that become hoops and reversible rings or rings with floating stones).

* Sterling silver necklaces (popular looks include necklaces with ball chains, medallions with black cords and "floater" necklaces with nearly invisible cords featuring spaced pearls that appear to float on the wearer's neck).

-- Rod Stafford Hagwood

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