Bold gold jewelry is back in style

May 9, 2015, 5:27 PM UTC
Temple St Clair Secret Garden Serpent necklace
Temple St. Clair's Secret Garden Serpent necklace.
Courtesy of Temple St. Clair

When Taylor Swift sang about a relationship that never goes out of style, she could have been referring to consumers’ love affair with gold.

The classic metal is currently having a moment, and few people know that better than designer Temple St. Clair Carr. One cannot find her haute couture jewelry collection in stores, although her signature rock crystal amulets and collectible cocktail rings can be found at select luxury retailers. She debuted her Mythical Creatures collection of nine statement pieces at the Louvre during Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. As demand for gold increases, designers like Carr—and her namesake company, Temple St. Clair—are introducing bigger and bolder collections to discerning customers who prize the true craftsmanship that comes from master makers.

Sally Morrison, managing director of jewelry for the World Gold Council, has noticed a trend toward stronger yellow gold looks among independent designers. It’s also present on fashion runways, red carpets, and at carriage-trade houses such as H. Stern and Cartier, all of which are driving consumer interest. The jewelry market still drives the biggest demand for gold, according to the World Gold Council’s 2014 Gold Demand Trends report, and last year’s U.S. jewelry sales were fueled by improved economic performance.

Increased interest in yellow gold and more sightings of those styles on the red carpet has led designers to respond with bigger, bolder collections, Morrison says. “I’m thinking particularly of things like Cartier re-visiting and re-issuing the nail bracelet, Juste Un Clou, that hadn’t been in circulation since the ’70s,” she says. “They brought it back in a larger scale, they made it in yellow, they made it in rose, and it was kind of a runaway hit.” Juste Un Clou was originally designed by Aldo Cipullo for Cartier in 1971. “It’s a very interesting piece,” Morrison adds. “It’s extremely iconic, it’s very specific and very edgy.”

Temple St. Clair Great Horned Owl ring
Temple St. Clair’s Great Horned Owl ring.
Courtesy of Temple St. Clair

The yellow gold trend doesn’t necessarily translate to flashy pieces, she says. For the sophisticated consumer, it’s more about craftsmanship. “I think there is a real return—or a new visibility—of an interesting craftsmanship of the hands of the maker of the piece,” Morrison says.

She points to one-of-a-kind pieces made with hand tools. “The really high-end market for very special things is very robust still, and I think that discerning people who have the sort of resources to get whatever they want are more and more looking for a kind of quality and specialness,” she adds. “I think that good design and boldness definitely plays into that but it’s also into the actual crafting of the piece.”

Pieces like the ones St. Clair produces using techniques perfected over hundreds of years in Florence, Italy.

“Gold has been well loved and in fashion for thousands of years,” Carr says. “In fact, it is really never out of fashion. Other metals and ideas come and go but gold is always there.”

St. Clair has found that its loyal fans are also big collectors. “My jewels are not merely accessories but objects to be enjoyed and treasured for generations,” Carr adds. “I cannot speak for general trends, but Temple St. Clair as a jewelry house is at a point where we have gained our clientele’s confidence, not to mention their curiosity.”

Carr describes her latest collection, Mythical Creatures, as a natural evolution of her experience working with unusual gemstones. “I have always used gold and gemstones as my materials through which I explore universal themes that interest me—from astronomical theory, to Buddhist thought to symbols of nature,” she explains. “With Mythical Creatures, I bring together both of these ways of working—rare, fine materials coupled with themes about which I am passionate—to an extreme.”

Carr settled on nine pieces for a simple reason: Because “odd numbers are always best,” she says. Seven of them have already sold, leaving the Phoenix Chick earrings and the Medusa Moon Jellyfish ring. “Each client was drawn to her specific piece for personal reasons,” she says. “We had a South American collector of unique serpent necklaces that just had to have the Secret Garden Serpent necklace and basically purchased it from a photograph she was shown. We have a lovely client who adores owls; she has collected my high jewelry pieces for years and when she saw the The Night Owl, she had to have him. The owner of The Frog Prince loves water creatures and the like.”

With a drop in gold prices, it is likely that more consumers will purchase pieces made from the metal. Designers and jewelers who once found gold inaccessible, or had to limit themselves to smaller pieces, can now respond with grander designs.

“It’s likely going to continue,” says Morrison, of the World Gold Council. “There has definitely been more of those gold statement pieces in very high-wattage cultural events recently. I would expect it to continue.” Big and bold or small and subtle, gold jewelry clearly comes back every time.