Gem Trends 2018: Ultra Violet Gems and More
What will 2018 bring to the world of gems and jewelry? Learn about the latest gem trends — everything from colors, designs, and settings to the newest gemstone discoveries making a splash with consumers.
8 Minute Read
Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year: Ultra Violet
The Pantone Color Institute, the foremost authority on color and branding, has declared Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet the 2018 color of the year. According to Pantone, its annual color choice doesn't simply reflect "what's trending." Rather, it reflects what the world needs.
Ultra Violet taps into purple and blue's traditional associations with the mystical and celestial as well as more modern associations with unconventional artists such as Prince and Jimi Hendrix. With both historical weight and bold vision, this year's color choice will surely influence fashion and design, including jewelry.
This year's Ultra Violet-inspired jewelry will likely feature the following gemstones.
Amethyst, the February birthstone, is the violet to reddish-purple quartz variety. Popular since ancient times, amethyst was once favored by royalty and ranked with rubies and emeralds in value. Fortunately, an increased supply has made it much more affordable for today's consumers.
Violet amethyst is common and therefore cheaper. On the other hand, the rarer reddish-purple amethyst commands higher prices. However, either color choice can make a beautiful jewelry stone. Amethyst's rich range of color and affordability make it a versatile gem for design.
Discovered in 1967, tanzanite, the violet to violetish-blue variety of zoisite, is found only in its namesake country, Tanzania. Tiffany's promotion of tanzanite rapidly made it popular, both as an affordable sapphire substitute and a lovely stone in its own right.
Tanzanite's hardness of 6-7, slightly lower than amethyst's, makes it more suitable for earrings and necklaces than rings. Nevertheless, its vivid colors guarantee it a wide fan following. Tanzanite is also many times rarer than diamond!
The violet-blue hues of sapphire are the most well known and highly prized. However, pure violet hues can also make stunning jewelry stones. Although violet sapphire may sometimes resemble amethyst in color, it has greater hardness and brilliance. Furthermore, its price far exceeds that of amethyst.
Violet-hued sapphires are not far behind pure blues in price. Some sapphire gems can also demonstrate color change, from violet in white light to reddish violet under incandescent light.
Grape garnet, a rich reddish-purple rhodolite, was discovered in 2015 in Mozambique. These gems have a lusciousness that makes them a joy to behold, especially when red sparkles pierce through the purple.
Swarovski's Gem Visions 2018
Swarovski's 2018 edition of Gem Visions draws its inspiration from the wunderkammer. In these "cabinets of wonders," Renaissance collectors kept unique specimens of art and science. The Gem Visions catalog is like a wunderkammer itself!
Swarovski predicts three major design directions: Naturalia, Mirabilia, and Artificialia.
- Naturalia designs draw inspiration from the natural world.
- Mirabilia designs include bold looks that emphasize both uniqueness and community.
- Artificialia designs value sleek, modern streamlining.
Naturalia: Water, Earth, and Flora
Some of the motifs for water-inspired designs include limpid gems, negative spaces, and fluid metal contrasted with pavé settings. Paraíba tourmaline and aquamarine, especially teardrop shapes, make great gem choices for these designs. Swarovski even invented a new gem cut, with a cabbed domed top and faceted bottom, to mimic water.
Expect lush and tangled jewelry inspired by forests, with off-greens and browns as the basic palette.
Popular gems perfect for Naturalia include affordable earth-toned citrine and topaz. Designs that mimic leaves and flowers are classics. Expect to see them re-envisioned with new twists inspired by 2018's gem trends.
Organic and abstract shapes paired with earth tones are also popular. Look for champagne hues that evoke the desert as well as carved stones that conjure the primordial and alien. These are just some of the ways gems are being used to express nature.
Mirabilia: Individuality and Storytelling
The current emphasis on global community finds an outlet in layered jewelry and stacked rings. Jewelry of different textures and colors come together to create a striking effect.
There is also a renewed emphasis on the process or story behind the jewelry. For example, consumers love pieces that acquire patina from being worn as well as transformable jewels. Old items are being worn in new ways. Ethnic jewelry utilizing different patterns and textures of metals is also in style.
Asymmetry, natural matrix, and cracks in gemstones fit just perfectly into the Mirabilia trend. The emphasis is on imperfection. Another focus is reinvention. Consumers eagerly seek revamped antique pieces. Chokers, hoop earrings, and signet rings with modern touches are becoming more popular. Jewelry enthusiasts are finding new uses for grandma's vintage diamonds.
More and more, customers look for jewelry that stands out and tells a story. Combining bold colors like deep red, rose, caramel, violet, and black with attractive asymmetry and mosaic designs, Mirabilia is perfect for bold statement jewelry.
Artificialia: Celebrating Craftsmanship and Sleek Design
This trend celebrates humankind's mastery over the natural world. Negative space and simplicity dominate, creating a feeling of something complex being stripped down to the basics.
Clean, 2D lines that look like blueprints can manifest themselves in jewelry in surprising ways. For example, you can see them in open rings, ear cuffs, ear crawlers, earring jackets, and delicate body jewelry that lie close to the skin like tattoos.
Surrealist motifs including body parts are also popular, as are gems with unusual hues such as teal, mandarin orange, and gray.
Engagement Ring Trends
The most-watched ring of the year is perhaps the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement ring. It features a cushion-shaped center diamond flanked by two smaller round brilliants. Both the style and the story of the ring serve as good indicators of what younger couples look for in their jewelry.
Like Princess Kate's engagement ring (perhaps the most famous engagement ring in the world), Meghan Markle's ring contains stones that belonged to Princess Diana. Prince Harry chose the two round brilliants from Princess Diana's collection.
Diamonds, especially round brilliants, may look more or less the same. However, in this instance, it's the heart that counts. To the royal couple, the ring symbolizes Princess Diana's love and blessing. The center stone, a large cushion-cut diamond, is from Botswana, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first vacationed together. Thus, this seamless, custom-designed trinity of stones honors family tradition and highlights the couple's history and identity, too.
General Jewelry and Gem Trends
Due to expert marketing, rough and unusually colored gems have found their way to curious buyers. Of course, the marketing changes with the times. For example, the past few decades saw the rise of "champagne diamonds" with yellow-brown color. Nowadays, descriptors like "champagne" — which capture the old-school love of high-living and luxury — may be making way for "blueberry," "denim," and "strawberry" stones. Such names suggest summer picnics rather than black-tie affairs.
"Blueberry" and "denim" sapphires and "strawberry" rubies have less saturated colors than coveted Kashmir sapphires or Burmese rubies. Thus, they have more affordable prices, which match their more versatile, down-to-earth, everyday image.
Keeping with the "everyday" trend, bezel settings are having a resurgence. Not only do these secure settings prevent snagging, they have an appealing, snug smoothness. They make cool, no-nonsense settings for jewelry.
Just as boyfriend jeans have become a trend, boyfriend rings are now in vogue. Women who want to go with this laid-back look may snap up these bold, masculine-inspired pieces.
Cushions, Ovals and Pears
Regaining popularity, ovals make elegant alternatives to the round. They elongate the wearer's hand and have a wonderful, classic look.
The gem cut for trendy brides, pears can be worn either vertically for a semi-traditional look or tilted for an edgy look. Designers can mix and match fancy shapes to create edgy outlines or freshen up three-stone rings that have traditionally used round brilliants.
This gold and copper alloy has taken the jewelry world by storm. Soft and feminine, it gives a warm undertone to diamond jewelry and makes colored stones pop. Petite center gems set in rose gold are a bohemian engagement ring must.
Designers now create engagement rings with wedding bands in mind. For example, contemporary wedding bands can stack snugly next to the engagement ring or form a halo or half-halo around the engagement ring stone.
Gemstones to Watch
Colored gemstone engagement rings are increasingly popular. In 2018, some recent discoveries are gaining the attention of jewelry and gem loves.
A translucent, turquoise-colored variety of chalcedony, aquaprase™ suits ocean-themed designs perfectly. Its white and tan rippling effect, formed from white druzy crystals and iron oxide, resembles sand and ocean foam or mist. With high luster and serene colors, each aquaprase™ looks like an aerial view of a Caribbean island.
Discovered in Africa in 2015, this exciting new find has been purchased by designers like David Yurman. Aquaprase™ will surely feature in many exciting collections to come.
Gold Sheen Sapphire
Discovered in Kenya in 2009, gold sheen or "Zawadi" sapphire resembles wood, with grain-like stripes and a golden-brown shimmer. Each stone appears different, and some even demonstrate the interesting hexagonal growth typical of sapphires. Some gold sheen sapphires have blue and yellow stripes, making them look like bold abstract paintings. These unusual sapphires will make unique jewelry pieces sure to pop in an everyday ensemble.
Ethiopia produces a variety of gems. In 2016, it also became a major source of emeralds with the discovery of a new deposit. Since then, Ethiopia has produced more than 500,000 carats of this gem.
Gem-quality Ethiopian emerald crystals have a vivid mint to medium-green color. Often, these crystals are clear enough that they don't require oil treatment. Ethiopian emeralds also come in large sizes, averaging three carats. In quality and price, these emeralds are comparable to Brazilian and Zambian material.
So, what does the overall 2018 gem forecast look like?
- An appreciation of the past with modern twists.
- A celebration of what we have now through re-creations of nature.
- A exploration of the future that launches full speed into convention-defying shapes and materials.
It also looks like some pretty awesome jewelry.
Phoebe Shang, GG
A gem lover and writer, Phoebe holds a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America and masters in writing from Columbia University. She got her start in gemology translating and editing Colored Stone and Mineral Highlights for a professor based in Shanghai. Whether in LA, Taipei, or New York, Phoebe spends her time searching for gems to design and being lost in good books.
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