Editors

The Best of Everything Jewelry Related in 2021

EditorsDec 30, 2021

The Best of Everything Jewelry Related in 2021

These were the top jewelry trends, celebrity engagement rings, and jewelry disses in the last year.

Maggi Simpkins’ “In Bloom Ring” featured at Sotheby’s “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance” sale, is crafted in 18-karat rose gold featuring an internally flawless, 2.43-carat, cushion-cut fancy pink diamond, 2.73 carats of custom-cut rubies, and 0.77 carats of pink sapphires.
In 2021, fine jewelry sales continued to soar, while the industry at large made a return to some of its events and in-person commerce. 
 
Here were some of the brightest jewelry moments of the year. 
 
Best Fine Jewelry Collection: Emily P. Wheeler’s “Dress Up”
Escapism is in high demand and Emily P. Wheeler delivered that in spades in her latest collection, called “Dress Up.” 
 
Bright colored gemstones paired in tonal color combinations, hearts, and pearls provided a child-like take on glamorous occasion dressing. 
 
Wheeler showed that whimsy and beauty can be antidotes to the doom and gloom of the news cycle, even if just “window shopping” on Instagram.

Emily P. Wheeler’s “Aurora” earrings in 18-karat gold with 26.28 total carats of palm citrine, 13.07 total carats of tourmaline, and 7.1 total carats of yellow beryl. They’re from the designer’s latest collection, “Dress Up,” launched in 2021.
Emily P. Wheeler’s “Aurora” earrings in 18-karat gold with 26.28 total carats of palm citrine, 13.07 total carats of tourmaline, and 7.1 total carats of yellow beryl. They’re from the designer’s latest collection, “Dress Up,” launched in 2021.
 
Best Trade Show Comeback: The Couture Show 
In 2021, the show finally went on. 
 
CBG was the first to return to Las Vegas, with Couture, the antique show, and JCK Las Vegas following suit in late August. While slimmed down from pre-pandemic editions, buyers seemed enthusiastic to peruse in person. 
 
The Couture show moved to its new space at the Wynn Las Vegas, with the antique show occupying its previous ballrooms. Couture’s relocation originally was planned for 2020, but the 2021 new Designer Atelier made it worth the wait. 
 
Its new location within a large hall beneath a skylight provided welcome natural light that can feel so far away when cocooned in a Vegas casino, all the better to showcase the latest jewelry designs. 

Continuing the synergy between indoor and outdoor, the jewelry trade show’s award show was held outside in the city’s fabulous dry heat at nighttime.    
 
Best Trend: Revamped Zodiacs
Zodiacs are an element of personalization that designers explored with the most exciting results in 2021. 
 
From Aurelie Demark to Jemma Wynne, and Brent Neale to Marlo Laz, there was a zodiac for every taste. 
 

Best All-Around Year for a Designer: Lorraine Schwartz
Prior to 2021, Lorraine Schwartz had already solidified her reputation as the go-to celebrity jeweler, creating elaborate one-of-a-kind pieces that regularly grace the most prestigious red carpets. 

This year, her legacy took a different turn.
 
She partnered with the Natural Diamond Council on the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, granting $1 million in credit to up-and-coming BIPOC designers. She also partnered with client and friend Beyoncé, and the Gemological Institute of America to offer GIA Graduate Gemologist scholarships to three promising Black professionals. 

Her year of working toward creating a more inclusive jewelry industry couldn’t be better topped off than with the Gem Award for Jewelry Style, which she will receive at the rescheduled 2022 gala. 

Best Celebrity Engagement Ring: Kate Hudson 
Speaking of Schwartz, Kate Hudson was dripping in the designer’s jewels at this year’s Met Gala, held in September, rather than the traditional May.
 
One jewel, however, was Hudson’s own. 
 
The red-carpet event was the debut of the actress and fitness entrepreneur’s engagement ring. Like other celebrity engagement rings this year, the style was simple, but the champagne diamond center stone made it unique. 

Embed from Getty Images
 
Best Jewelry Book: Sapphire by Joanna Hardy
The tomes in Joanna Hardy’s gemstone trilogy make the ultimate jewelry aficionado coffee table books. 
 
This year, “Emerald” and “Ruby” were rounded out with “Sapphire,” published by Thames & Hudson, in association with Violette Editions in partnership with Gemfields. 
 
Hardy discusses the book and previews some of the spectacular sapphire jewels it chronicles in a video here. 
 
Best Jewelry Diss: Ben Affleck vs. Ana de Armas 
Celebrity media couldn’t get over the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez reunion this year. 
 
I couldn’t get over Affleck gifting his romantic redux jewelry from Foundrae, a brand favored by his most recent ex, Ana de Armas. 
 
While an innocent version of this scenario exists, wherein Affleck gifts Foundrae to many people in his life or was the one to introduce the brand to his former paramour, this isn’t an innocent world, and those explanations are unlikely. 
 
Read my far more sinister take, involving Affleck’s deliberate and very public snub to his ex, here. 
 
Best Royal Jewel: Marie Antoinette Diamond Bracelets
Who doesn’t love a jewel with royal provenance landing on the auction block? 
 
The provenance doesn’t get much more intriguing than French Queen Marie Antoinette herself. Interest was piqued when two diamond bracelets in almost original condition were expected to earn between $2 million and $4 million at Christie’s Geneva. 
 
Ultimately, a buyer snapped them up for a cool $8 million. 

Best Diamond: The Sakura Diamond
Also offered at Christie’s, the Sakura diamond didn’t surpass its $38 million high estimate, but still fell within its pre-sale range when it earned $29 million. 

The 15.81-carat purple-pink diamond is a lesson in diamond rarity.

The Sakura Diamond
The Sakura Diamond
 
Less than 10 percent of pink diamonds weigh more than 0.2 carats, while only 4 percent of pink diamonds receive the GIA “fancy vivid” color grade like the Sakura. 
 
Best Jewelry Sale: Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance 
Among auction houses’ record-setting diamonds and jewels with fascinating backstories, contemporary designer jewelry sales keep institutions, well, current. 
 
The sale I would have most liked to hop on a plane back to New York for was Sotheby’s “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance.” Curated in partnership with Melanie Grant, it featured an array of artistically diverse jewels from Black designers working today or in the last century. 

Art Smith and Winifred Mason Chenet were featured alongside Harwell Godfrey, Castro NYC, Rashid Johnson, and Maggi Simpkins, who created a $1 million dollar ring for the occasion. 

Most Surprising New Brand: Homer
When you’re Frank Ocean, you can break every rule. 
 
At launch, the musician’s new sterling silver and gold jewelry collection with lab-grown diamonds eschewed ecommerce for a New York City Chinatown storefront and rejected social media for a printed catalogue. (Today, the brand’s ecommerce is up and running and a week ago it flooded its Instagram account with not just one inaugural post but 90 posts in a single day.)

Designs from the Homer catalogue
Designs from the Homer catalogue

But it’s not rule-breaking or marketing trappings that make Homer interesting. It’s the Japanese cartoon-like characters and vibrant enamel colors that showcase a legitimate design voice. 
 
I’ll be keeping my eye on the brand in 2022. 
 
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