Rainbow colour: Spring’s vibrant new jewellery trend

Words by
Avril Groom

2nd May 2019

From Harry Winston to Chaumet, jewellers are throwing colour-matching caution to the wind, creating stunning pieces that embrace a spectrum of shades to gorgeous effect

Back in the days when precious jewellery meant only diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, any other stone was branded “semiprecious” and automatically had less value. Now these gems, some very rare, have elevated status, opening the door to a variety of beautiful, often subtle, colours in jewellery that, toned carefully together, have become for many more desirable and cooler than the classics. Sometimes daring, sometimes soft, the magic is in mixing shades in delightfully unexpected ways.

Annoushka Beetle Ring

Recently, a surprising new element has entered the equation. Colour matching caution is being thrown to the winds and a literal rainbow of shades adorns many a piece. If it looks random, it most certainly is not and picking the right tones of the rainbow spectrum takes great skill. Some are almost child’s painting-palette bright, while others are a colour wheel of gentle pastels. Yet mixing a wide range of colours (usually in small stones) rarely looks disharmonious, perhaps because the gems are all products of nature.

Jewellery designer Annoushka Ducas makes an analogy with wild flowers. “In places where wildflower meadows still exist you get all colours, but they never seem to clash,” she says.

“Emulating nature is harder than it looks but it’s very effective.” She and her design director Liz Olver “mismatch” coloured stone charms on bracelets and earrings and have just launched a series of bold stag beetle rings, earrings and pendants in bright mixed shades, but the pièce de résistance has blue, yellow and orange sapphires and green tsavorites, giving a rainbow shimmer to a moonstone body.

Chaumet Ring

Chaumet Trésors d'Afrique Ring

Even bolder examples come from Roman jeweller Fabio Salini, who uses a modernist carbon fibre torque to suspend a dazzling array of large tourmalines, rubellites, blue topaz, amethysts, citrines, peridots, aquamarines, morganites, kunzites, iolites, green beryl and spinels in an extraordinary, one-off, shouldn’t-work-but-it-does necklace. And Harry Winston’s new, one-off Candy ring range sees each built around a major centre stone, such as a large spinel fringed with a rainbow of diamonds, pink, yellow and blue sapphires, aquamarines, tsavorites, peridots, mandarin garnets and rubies. A plain watch dial is also a great canvas for rainbow gems, as Winston’s Candy timepiece proves, scattered with stone varieties like glowing hundreds and thousands.

Two of the finest examples of graduated rainbow gemsetting, though, are the incredible, all-baguette cut Impériale Joaillerie from Chopard, with 581 sapphires and 1,000 hours of “The passion for rainbow colours has been sparked by independent-minded designers who look to experiment beyond big stones bought for investment” work, and Rolex’s Oyster Cosmograph Daytona, set with trapeze-shaped multi-coloured sapphires, also as the hour markers.

Chopard Imperiale Joaillerie

The passion for rainbow colours has been sparked by independent-minded designers who look to experiment beyond big stones bought for investment. Dior’s jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane is a key player — colour is her trademark and in 2012 she first scattered rainbow-hued sapphires across gold cannage cuffs and rings, an idea at the heart of her new Dior Dior Dior range based on couture lacework, and in the bezel of her little La D de Dior Cocotte watch in varied cuts of multi-coloured sapphires, tsavorites and rubies. British designer Solange Azagury-Partridge is also committed to rainbow shades, from the arcs of her Black Rainbow earrings, cuffs and rings reflecting every coloured glint of a black opal centre to the multi-coloured bubbles of her Chromaphiliacs pieces. Meanwhile, Moussaieff merges the bright pinks and reds of spinels and sapphires in clashing shades along with diamonds, in a stunning high-jewellery bracelet that is a colourist’s dream.

Sometimes the impact comes from a profusion of small stones, such as Chaumet’s Masai-style beading from the Trésors d’Afrique collection, making grand tribal pieces in red and black spinels, emeralds, sapphires, mandarin garnets and diamonds. More accessibly, there’s the yellow gold sparkling with pinpoints of coloured stones in Loquet’s literal rainbow charms, or a succession of coloured pavé rings, earrings and charms from Robinson Pelham. Sometimes the colours are delicate like a rainbow in mist — the Rainbow pendant from colour pioneer Kiki McDonough (who has seen “a steady increase in people wanting to wear multiple colours that light up the face”), Salini’s amazing peardrop gem and diamond bead choker, or Loquet’s pastel-ringed charms enclosed in sapphire crystal.

Loquet Revolving Locket

Loquet Revolving Locket

Simple designs often have most effect in rainbow shades. Boodles’ head of design, Rebecca Hawkins, has recoloured the classic Raindance collection in a spectrum of sapphires, which, she says, “are easier to wear than you might think, impacting against classic neutrals or with one of the jewel shades in the same intensity. A minimal design makes a strong statement — the gems are the talking point.”

Carolina Bucci, whose hardstone bead friendship bracelet is a different take on the theme, agrees that “a rainbow of gems can be used to pull outfits in any direction you want. A rainbow in nature works because there are different things going on — rain and sun at once.”

Loquet Rainbow Charm

Loquet Rainbow Charm

As Hawkins says: “You cannot underestimate the importance of selecting the right colour stones and considering the relationship between them — it can be more challenging to use a wide colour mix in one item, but the reward is telling a story through colour alone.”