Glass discovers the delights of delicate jewellery
These days you can’t move for giant jewellery. In fact, some of it’s so huge you can’t move in it. Sculptural tubes of jewelled metal at Lanvin, weighty cuffs at Balenciaga, ceremonial-like gems at Marni that would put the Maharajas to shame; it’s all decidedly fierce and statementy. Which poses the question, what to do if you don’t want to make a statement all the time? What if sometimes you want to be quiet, but not silent?
This is a question I have been mulling over as I don’t feel the need to announce my arrival -literally or figuratively - with high-pitch volume. I’m from the non-shouty school of style which translates as good denim, a fair bit of grey marl, understated accessories and, call me old fashioned but I like a shoe that doesn’t suggest poles and pasties. I prefer my jewellery to be seen and not heard while still saying something eloquent about me. Which brings me to charms.
Charms, pendants, amulets, there’s something very appealing about sentimental trinkets that hang from a thin chain or loose bracelet. “Charms are a symbol of love, they tell the story of the wearer. A bracelet full of charms is a beautiful diary of one’s life,” is how fine jeweller Jacqueline Rabun puts it (rather poetically, don’t you think?). But I completely get her drift. Why wear an of-the-moment piece that can be worn by A.N. Other fashion-follower when you can choose a delicate charm or three that says something much more personal? Rabun’s ‘Alphabet’ collection features numbers, letters and symbols in a clean, architectural font in 18 carat gold or silver. I would group one of these with a couple of fancier charms to offset its simplicity. In fact, wearing an eclectic cluster of charms is ideal for fidgeters like me who like their jewels to have a little bit of gentle jangle. Even better are the ones with moving parts that can be twiddled and twisted in moments of deep or aimless thought. Particularly fiddle-friendly are the folklore-inspired amulets by Annoushka. These detailed charms in the shape of apples and acorns are based on the Russian fairytales that Annoushka Ducas’ mother used to read her. An 18 carat gold apple has moving diamond-studded leaves to be twirled satisfyingly around its stalk.
Charms that open or have moving parts are also the trinket of choice for Annina Vogel who makes bespoke jewellery from rescued Victorian charms found on her travels. Vogel has amassed an impressive stock of antique charms which hold God knows what secrets, including her favourite, a lady in a bath that opens, ‘you can see her cheeky bottom inside!’. Part of the appeal of an antique charm is that not only is it imbued with its own heritage but it then takes on your unique history too. Charms that have been out of circulation for decades turn up in antique stores and auctions to be given a new chapter to their narrative, thus lengthening their lifespan.
According to Keith Penton, head of Christies’ jewellery department in London, charms are enjoying something of a revival. At a recent auction of royal memorabilia from the late Duke and Duchess of Kent, a 1930s charm bracelet sold for £6,875. Among the 18 charms were a jack-in-the-box, a miniature fireplace by Cartier and an ocean liner by Boucheron. ‘Charms represent your life on a chain. They were very popular from 1910 to 1960 and the size of the jewellery went up accordingly,’ says Penton. ‘In the early nineteenth century they were quite delicate, but by the 1960s they were huge – great clunky bracelets dripping with birdcages.’
Ah, back to the size issue again. I’m not sure I want to wear clunky bracelets dripping with birdcages, but a softly-spoken fine chain hung with an initial pendant, an engraved amulet or a miniature harmonica that you can play, that’s the kind of gentle statement that says everything about me that I want it to.