Gold rush: The metal is a hit again

Yellow will brighten fall jewelry, fashions

August 24, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Pop culture moment No. 3,012: It was the end of Season 4 of HBO's Sex and the City when Carrie accidentally found the engagement ring Aidan had gotten her, and vomited.

And then this scene, at Carrie and her girlfriends' favorite breakfast spot, afterward:

Carrie: "It had a pear-shaped diamond ... with a gold band."

Samantha: "No wonder you threw up!"

Miranda: "But you wear gold jewelry."

Carrie: "Yeah, like ghetto gold for fun. But this is my engagement ring!"

We find out later that Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, was more opposed to Aidan than she was to his ring. But, coming from Carrie Bradshaw - perhaps the singular style-setter of the late 1990s - the implication was clear: Gold was out. O-U-T.

Although you were likely still to find some gold pieces in every woman's jewelry box, for the past 10 years or so, fashion dictated that - if you wore gold around your neck or wrist or on your ears - it had better be a "white" metal. That meant silver, white gold or, best of the best, platinum.

But jewelry insiders are proclaiming an end to that trend. Break out your bamboo hoops from the '80s, ladies. Gold is coming back.

"We're seeing a huge resurgence for fall and winter," says Helena Krodel, a spokeswoman for the Jewelry Information Center, a trade association. "It started with the summer, with all of the bohemian trends and a lot of the ethnic looks. Yellow gold lends itself really well to a more ethnic look."

Fashion's warmer colors for the coming colder months - such as browns and yellows - just look better with matching, more opulent jewelry, Krodel says. "It's a very luxurious look."

In fashion magazines and on runways, gold jewelry has begun to take hold. Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez have been photographed wearing head-to-toe yellow gold. On the September cover of Marie Claire magazine, actress Reese Witherspoon sports an armful of yellow-gold bangles and dainty gold hoop earrings.

Gold is decorating the hottest handbags and most stylish shoes, Krodel says. And warm metallic trims and embellishments are all the rage on sweaters, tunics and jackets.

"Fashion shows are certainly a big indication," says Marley Simon, designer and owner of Marley Fine Jewelry in Pikesville, which has recently created several new pieces in yellow gold. "If you watch any of the runways, you'll see big, chunky yellow gold. You'll see a lot of high-polished metals. You won't see a lot of white metals anymore."

Some jewelry experts, however, say the trend toward yellow gold was developing long before fashion designers dreamed up a color palette for fall. With prices of platinum soaring through the roof, consumers have long been looking for a more inexpensive way to accessorize.

"Platinum is sort of slowing down," says Richard Swetz, chairman of the Board of the Independent Jewelers Organization. "The price of platinum is almost double the price of gold. And with the economy being what it is, and with gas prices being so high, the average American is feeling a little pinch here."

Jewelry manufacturers pay metal refiners about $438 for an ounce of gold - up from $406 last year, Swetz says. On the other hand, they fork over about $890 for an ounce of platinum.

Though gold is by no means cheap, compared to platinum - a stronger metal - it's a relative steal.

Probably, though, the resurgence of gold has more to do with the inevitable cyclical nature of all things fashion-related. Skirts were in last year; trousers are back this year. For fall, black is the new black again.

"Twenty years ago, or thereabouts, platinum was almost a no-no for the average person and yellow gold was by far the most popular metal," says John Dickinson, who handles the custom department for online jeweler James Allen. "Not only for engagement jewelry but for fashion jewelry. And it was interesting back then that platinum and white metals, to many young people, equated to something that their grandmother would have worn. But then it cycled and gradually white metals became much more popular."

Now, that cycle has come back around. Again.

But, like many trends that develop on the runways or gain strength in industry circles, it will be a while before you see everyday Joes walking the streets in big gold chains, a la Run DMC, circa 1985.

"This is what you're going to see on the models and the movie actresses," Swetz says. "For now."

Dickinson says that most of his customers still want to wear white metals.

"But there's more discussion about yellow metals than there ever was. Two years ago, it was almost nonexistent. No one talked about yellow metal," he says. "This is a long cycle. I predict there'll be a steadily growing interest in yellow metals over the next five years."

But just as gold never really went totally out (no matter what Carrie Bradshaw said), white metals, such as silver, white gold and platinum, won't disappear altogether either.

"The fashion center is expanding rather than replacing," says Swetz.

And particularly in the bridal area, jewelry insiders say, white metals will never lose their luster.

White metals add to white diamonds an extra pop, jewelers say. And for many sentimental couples, the sheer strength of platinum acts as a metaphor for the (hopefully) enduring strength of love.

Many jewelers are mixing white and yellow metals together, for warm-meets-cool pieces.

For those white-metal-diehards - who get retro images of Members Only jackets when they think of yellow gold - starting with a mixed piece might help ease the transition back to yellow gold. Because for fashion jewelry, experts say, we're moving into a golden era.

And in real life, quiet as it's kept, Sarah Jessica Parker does wear gold.

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