In recent years, the athleisure movement has taken fashion by storm. We can now wear our Lululemon leggings from barre class to the bar and pair sneakers with everything from joggers to dresses and even suits. But where does that leave jewelry? According to local designers, the jewelry market in Connecticut is surviving and even thriving in this new casual era. In fact, JL Rocks designer Jamie Camche says that “gym jewelry” is the catchphrase of the day, as consumers seek out items they can wear from the studio to brunch.
“The world has become extremely casual in and out of the workplace,” says Camche, whose downtown Westport shop is home to artisanal and designer jewelry. “The movement is toward pieces that can be worn from home to the office to dinner. We hear ‘everyday’ almost daily.”
As it turns out, the everyday trend covers the whole spectrum, from entry-priced jewelry to fine and estate pieces. Steven Fox has seen a similar shift among his customer base in Greenwich, where women are no longer locking away their baubles for a special occasion. “Jewelry has changed,” says Fox, who offers estate jewelry as well as history-inspired custom designs. “People are dressing much more day-to-night, with less of the formalwear for the evening. A lot of that comes from young people and their lifestyle.”
At Deep River Jewelry Design, goldsmith and designer Russell D. Cunningham says customers are taking a quality-over-quantity approach. “People are choosing to have a few nicer pieces to wear more often, rather than a whole lot of different pieces,” says Cunningham, who specializes in custom designs and antique restoration.
But don’t mistake the everyday movement for boring or plain, as designers report a return to color and an increased focus on unique and statement stones.
Évocateur designer Barbara Ross-Innamorati, whose Norwalk shop is known for its collection of art- and fashion-driven jewelry, is seeing an interest in drippy necklaces and big cuffs, as well as celestial themes and colorful flowers. Another industry buzzword is versatility, as shoppers look for pieces they can mix, match, stack, layer and restyle for maximum impact. The same goes for the bridal category, with newlyweds shopping for stackable rings that create a personalized look.
For engagement rings, Westport designer and gemologist Faye Kim says couples are thinking more and more out of the box. “They’re considering alternative metals, gemstones and styles that are more compatible with today’s casual lifestyle,” she says, noting that another popular choice is to repurpose family heirlooms.
In any category, Connecticut is home to a sophisticated consumer with a wide array of tastes. “Connecticut jewelry buyers run the gamut from classic looks — think: pearls and heirloom jewelry — to fashionistas who love the trend and are always first to try new designs,” Ross-Innamorati says. “The theme that runs through all Connecticut jewelry consumers is that they see jewelry as a personal expression and want their look to reflect who they are.”
Statement pieces from five Connecticut jewelry designers:
Russell D. Cunningham, of Deep River Jewelry Design, a studio and gallery housed in a historic 18th-century sea captain's house, says consumers have been pushing the boundaries creatively of late, like with this green tourmaline pendant, which he says “looks like waves crashing into the ocean.”
Barbara Ross-Innamorati, founder of Évocateur in Norwalk, is seeing the return of the statement piece in 2019, loving big cuffs and celestial motifs, like these gold leaf designs, accented with Swarovski crystals and finished with a burnished patina.
A Westport designer, Faye Kim is renowned for her unique, colorful takes on fine jewelry, such as these tourmaline, aquamarine and mandarin “spessartite” garnet stones, set in 18-karat gold, which offer a twist on traditional cocktail rings.
Greenwich-based Steven Fox says, “Whether it’s a piece from the 1920s or something we made six months ago, there is a common thread of style and wearability.” This diamond platinum heart pendant necklace features 97 round, ideal-cut diamonds set into a two-dimensional platinum heart.
JL Rocks’ Jamie Camche focuses on core pieces that can be layered on the neck or bracelets stacked on the wrist. The idea, according to the Westport designer, is to offer affordable fine jewelry pieces that can be purchased in multiples to mix and match, like the 8 of Diamonds Bracelet, featuring .47-carat diamonds set in rose gold, silver, or yellow gold with a pull closure.