By Ashley Davis
Adam Foster 18-karat yellow gold ring with 23 carats of carved quartz hand-painted with crushed mother-of-pearl and white diamonds ($9,990)
New York--From imaginative and avant-garde to boldly primitive, designers are currently shaping their jewelry visions with translucent gemstones like rock crystal and moonstone.

White diamonds retain popularity, in part, because they’re neutral and suit every skin tone, and quartz and moonstone are their less expensive equivalent.

These materials also allow designers to work with larger stones at a more economical price point, though some designers add an abundance of diamonds or colored gemstones to elevate their translucent stone pieces to one-of-a-kind works of art that fetch thousands of dollars.

Karma El Khalil, for example, has created an elaborate choker of elongated hexagon moonstones. Framed by white diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold, which emphasize the cool tones of the moonstone, the piece feels like the epitome of luxury, and its $60,000 price point reflects that.

Likewise, Nigaam, which often favors Art Deco motifs, sources the highest-quality Brazilian crystals to incorporate into its collections. Its rock crystal, emerald and diamond bangle features completely clear, hand-cut crystals, set side by side to form the base of the design, a jewelry engineering feat. It retails for $35,000.

One reason designers favor these translucent materials is because they can be carved and engraved.

Adam Foster, a rising designer to watch, has used the translucence of rock crystal because it is the medium best suited to displaying his intricate carvings, which are executed in the same vein as those of Wallace Chan.

Elie Top uses carving techniques to create seal-style rings with complicated insignia that fit the medieval look of his latest collection.

Not all carvings need be so intricate. David Webb’s archive is filled with pieces that employ rock crystal; they provide the weight that was so essential to Webb’s aesthetic. Many of the pieces are carved into large, curved planes that emphasize the heft of the material.   

Carving is also an essential element of designer Alice Cicolini’s oeuvre. Moonstone and quartz are materials she frequents in her signature carved pieces, which she shapes into delicate flowers and statement bold “domes” inspired by architecture.

Walters Faith and Pascale Monvoisin are two lines that use crystal to engrave words and simplistic designs. The former uses quartz as a clean backdrop for a monogram engraving on a pendant, and the latter etches specific words with primitive symbols into quartz, emphasizing the piece’s handmade quality.

And some renditions of the translucent stone style are simpler still, like Michelle Fantaci’s crystal orb pendant or Cyril Studio’s crystal sphere-centered line. Each evokes the natural, mystical quality of the stone, displaying it in a simple, polished form and letting that shape inform the rest of the respective pieces.

Of the designers embracing the clear trend, Nikos Koulis might have done so with the most fervor, debuting a growing collection of clear jewels in white gold, diamond and what was supposed to be a top-secret material, at the Couture show last year.

As is usually the case with Koulis, he has already been copied by several imitators and the material was revealed to be clear enamel. Still, his process is still highly unusual, so much so that he has patented his own specific technique, which is handcrafted in his Athens workshop.

Click through the above slideshow to see the many varied interpretation of the clear and translucent gems.

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