Gone are the days when a string of heirloom pearls was shown off once  a year and stashed in the safe for the remaining 364 days. Today, women want to wear their finery — daily. The look is different too: stacking, sliver thin, black diamond midi rings. Mismatched emerald-studded ear cuffs. Three to five charm bracelets and gold bangles slotted alongside a beaded charity bracelet.

From Paris to the Oscars, Cape Town to Maboneng: wearing mismatched diamonds has become a perfectly acceptable look. As fashion mavericks become the icons of today, so the jewellery they wear is watched, coveted, and reimagined around the world.

One of the most important international influencers for the new mood is Italian jeweller Gaia Repossi, who is at the helm of her family’s 90-year-old business. Her asymmetric Serti Sur Vide, an 18-karat rose gold diamond ring, will set you back about £29 000, even though it appears as if the diamond nuggets are teetering on the edge of your finger.

London-based Stephen Webster has immortalised the work of contemporary artist Tracey Emin in the collection titled I Promise To Love You. Yes, there’s a tiny penis charm to add to a bracelet, and the More Passion earrings spell out exactly that in diamonds and yellow gold.

The point is, fine and contemporary jewellery has become more wearable and
more expressive — and the market is loving it. Here’s who’s rocking the new mood on local shores.

By Clare Wiese

Clare Wiese
Clare Wiese

Paka Paka pieces have been spotted on the necks, ears, and wrists of celebrities such as Uma Thurman and Kerry Washington. Clare Wiese may have been born into one of South Africa’s most successful business dynasties, but her creative and entrepreneurial spirit is all her own.

Wiese, a trained lawyer, credits her grandmother, Clare Basson, for an
appreciation of fine jewels; as well as her family’s long-standing association with Gemfields (and thus one of its investments, Fabergé), as influences in her jewellery business. “Paka means cat in Swahili, and our jewellery has a fierce, powerful and elegant design DNA, much like the characteristics of Africa’s wild cats,” she says.

Africa, of course, is at the heart of the brand, with each piece “celebrating the romance and beauty of our amazing continent, its rich mineral resources, and its pool of creative talent”.  Wiese teamed up with designers Ida Elsje and Kim Boezaart to create and conceptualise the first few collections. These include pieces such as the Sugarbush Triple-Leaf Cascading Earrings, made from Wiese’s favourite metal.

“There is a warmth and an elegance to 18-karat yellow gold that is unparalleled,” she says. Wiese is of the mind that “there is  a certain kind of woman that wants to wear fine jewellery, in a more casual and relaxed ‘everyday’ kind of way. Women are buying fine jewellery for themselves these days, and not necessarily waiting for someone to spoil them with something sparkly,” she says.

A new collection, featuring emeralds, is on the cards, and a bespoke service is offered to Paka Paka’s South African VIP clients. Wiese hopes that the next steps will include the US trade show circuit and finding her way into the jewellery department of some of the world’s leading department stores.


By Khanya Mthethwa

Khanya Mthethwa
Khanya Mthethwa

This finalist in the Anglo American Platimun PlatAfrica awards is a rising star to keep an eye on. Joburg-based Khanya Mthethwa was always curious as to how diamonds were cut, shaped, and polished. So she embarked on a diamond-cutting course, which further shaped her interest in studying gemology.

Unfortunately, South Africa doesn’t offer a degree in this subject, so she chose jewellery design at the University of Johannesburg, which included a gemology module. “It’s not any jewellery piece that sparked my interest, but rather gems themselves,” she says.

Mthethwa is also the founder of Changing Facets, an online magazine, which aims to provide exposure for up-and-coming designers and creatives. Mthethwa’s own style has a strong focus on delicate, filigree techniques, but with an African context.

However, she’s also noticed a shift in trends — especially in predicting what’s coming in 2017. “My style has gradually changed from complicated pieces to simpler styles that strike a balance between playful and elegant. Trends are forever shifting, but the inclusion of uncut gems, a ’90s revival, and the continued exploration of how jewellery can be worn on the body are gaining popularity,” she says.

For Mathethwa, the design process begins with inspiration, which she sources from nature, fashion, and music — not other jewellery designers. “When looking at other jewellers, it’s mainly to see the techniques they use. It’s better to use my environment as my inspiration, as it prevents my work and designs being
highly influenced by what others are doing,” she says.

Mthethwa also sings the praises of uncut, raw stones — currently her greatest
inspiration, as she loves showcasing the gem in its natural state. Her favourite
creation? A necklace made during her final-year studies, called Intokazi, which means maiden in Zulu. “It’s a piece that consists of a combination of elements of the filigree technique and different coloured glass beads,” she says. “It remains a favourite simply because it’s an unusual combination that allowed me to add an African aesthetic to what some may say is a Eurocentric style. It is through that piece that my outlook on design changed.”


By Chelsy Davy

Chelsy Davy
Chelsy Davy

Africa is at the heart of AYA, and Chelsy Davy — always. Davy’s jewellery is not just made for royalty, although we suggest there are a few of her blue-blooded friends who will adore to adorn themselves in the 18-karat gold pieces dotted with African-sourced gems that form part of her newest venture.

The former lawyer and Zimbabwean was recently on the continent to shoot the
campaign for her jewellery brand, AYA, which launched earlier in 2016. Davy, who graduated from the Gemological Institute of America, says the main focus of her brand is supporting and giving back to the communities located around the mines that yield the beautiful gems in AYA jewellery. In fact, AYA has already assisted in building extra classrooms for a school called Kabila Community School in Zambia, where it sources emeralds.

Davy regards the final product as the most rewarding part of the design process: However, the real work for these pieces starts in the ground, where the gemstones used are formed. AYA rubies are sourced from M’Sawize in Mozambique, Tanzanite from Tanzania, and emeralds from Zambia.

The Zambezi Collection includes delicate gold Mana bracelets, stackable Chirundu and Ka-fue bangles, and our favourite, the Sanyati earrings, which look just like tiny Milky Way constellations where the stars are made up from rubies, tanzanites or emeralds — it’s your choice.

And what about AYA’s bright future? “I hope to create a luxury world of AYA,
not just in terms of jewellery, but in terms of travel and lifestyle too,” Davy says.

baarandbass.com; plukka.com

By Eric Loubser 

Eric Loubser
Eric Loubser

Eric Loubser is the co-founder of Tinsel and Tinsel gallery in Johannesburg, a space dedicated to contemporary jewellery. His heritage almost guaranteed him an affinity for jewellery design. “I grew up in my mother’s studio and I learnt how to do things at a young age, so the technical side of jewellery making
came easily to me,” he says.

Loubser’s mother is contemporary designer jeweller, Liz Loubser, and his wife, Geraldine Fenn, is also a jeweller and artisan. “Our styles are very different, but our philosophies are generally the same — jewellery for us is a passion rather than just a job, so we spend a lot of time talking about it and bouncing ideas off each other,” Loubser says.

Many jewellers attribute an inspirational piece or design that sparked their interest in this kind of career — not Loubser. Instead, it was the promise or chance of creating something new. “It was more about seeing that there were
so many possibilities in jewellery design that didn’t always get explored,” he says.

Loubser studied art at Stellenbosch, which he credits for the different styles and a more experimental approach to his work. “I like doing things that are quite classic in terms of style and proportion, but have a bit of a twist that makes them more interesting,” he says.

An element of surprise surfaces in most of his work, such as the use of unusual stones in unexpected shapes and colours. We loved the green stone that turned out to be a sapphire! In many of Loubser’s rings, the stones are set off-centre or are mismatched. The designs have an unexpected and beautiful charm.

There’s also a sense of the organic in Loubser’s work: from a fluid, curved piece of coral set in the centre of a drop earring, to the delicately tied thread-ends securing the stones alongside it. It’s a sense of organised chaos or skilled imperfection — a design direction that is fast gaining popularity.

“I used to get clients wanting more commercial designs, but now people are
more and more open to expressing their own styles, rather than just conforming to what’s out there or in fashion. Once a client understands all the possibilities, they also start enjoying the design process,” he says.

“I try to keep the client as involved as possible, to make sure they have all the
information to make the best choice — I want them to have the piece that’s most right for them. That’s my favourite part of the process — talking to the client and getting them excited about possibilities they didn’t know existed,” he says.

At the end of the day client satisfaction is the most important thing for Loubser. “That goes hand in hand with great craftsmanship and good quality materials,” he says. “That’s the difference between having a passion and just doing a job.”

tinsel.co.za; tinselgallery.com; ericloubser.com


Kirsten Goss
Kirsten Goss

Kirsten Goss’ London start-up is becoming a South African household name. Her passion for jewellery began with the good fortune of having two eccentric grandmothers.

“One was super quirky and sophisticated, with mountains of Scandinavian jewels. She was a Georg Jensen collector extraordinaire, which is where I developed my sense of line and form,” she says. “My other grandmother was more kitsch and frivolous, which is probably where I honed my penchant for garish colours. Either which way, I was really drawn to the details in every adornment — from the boldness of the orange bakelite bead to the perfection of the Norwegian silver, minimalist rings.”

Goss studied at Stellenbosch University and then went to work in London, where she experimented more with costume jewellery. “It was quite a fun reprieve, compared to the strictness of what I had come from,” she says.

Nowadays, Goss heads up her eponymous brand, which boasts stores in Durban, Cape Town, and Joburg, while the online store offers an international audience the option of owning one (or more) of her pieces. Goss says her clients’ style and bespoke requests are changing. “The South African market was more conservative to start with, but we have developed a following of people who love our more original and irreverent designs — and are very loyal to us,” she says.

In terms of design, she believes that women are demanding far more than just the value of the materials. They want a more considered design, a fresher approach to the traditional, and something unique and contemporary. One of Goss’ newest collections is called Pretty Killer and pays homage to our millennial, technical age.

The Kode earrings are stud-drop earrings set with round amethyst stones, with a delicate, draped chain detail. As with the rest of this range, they come in Goss’s favourite metal, yellow gold, which she describes as: “Warm, malleable, rich, dreamy.”

“When it comes to stones, I’m mad about black spinel, ruby, rough diamonds, black diamonds, iolite, tourmaline, natural zirconia, and rutile quartz,” she says.

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