By Lorraine DePasque, Contributing Editor
This year, if buying some new gemstone jewelry is on your to-do list—especially pieces that will complement many different outfits in your wardrobe—here's our advice: Go brown.
Sounds dull? A bit drab? Actually, it's just the opposite. Because the new browns are, as they say, "not your mother's earth tones!" The warm and always-neutral palette of browns for 2010 is about cheerful, luminous, and often light-as-air in appearance. A perfect example is Tuscany, one of the top ten fashion colors for spring, according to the Pantone Color Institute. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director, explains, "In the past few seasons, we know that the brown tones have become so much more popular. Tuscany is a variation of the brown theme, but again, this is a light version for springtime." Translation? It's somewhere between sand and taupe—what fashion arbiters might deliciously call latte.
Speaking of fashion arbiters, Pat Tunsky, creative director for The Doneger Creative Group, an international trend forecasting company based in New York City, adds that, "This season's beigy-brown family often mixes three or four tones of neutrals on a single piece of clothing."
And when it comes to jewelry this year, the same is true. Some of the best designers in the world are fearlessly combining different pale brown gems on a single piece.
When that single piece is a statement necklace, for example, the outcome is nothing short of sensational. Tunsky's colleague at Doneger, David Wolfe, says, "For spring/summer, the statement necklace is the ‘It' accessory—and in all variations." Tunsky says that the new neckline in clothing for 2010 spotlights the collarbone, "something we haven't seen in many years," says Tunsky." So not only does this make it a great year for necklaces but also for long earrings, as the fashionably exposed collarbone won't fight a dramatic dangling drop.
Major fashion designers are showing a lot of statement necklaces for the upcoming seasons, notes Wolfe, but also big bangles and cuffs. The thing to remember, he points out, is that "2010 is about all about dressing up but not being overdressed," and the new understated brown palette plays perfectly with this in-vogue subtle style.
Indeed, part of the beauty of the new buoyant brown gems is the range of precious stones available and, subsequently, the range of prices for the jewelry. Overall, one of the fastest growing trends has been in the quartzes, which are being used in many affordable collections. One of the most trending gems is smoky quartz, available in shades from champagne to whiskey to cognac. Agates, too, are part of the quartz family and, over the past year, agate-focused designs are popping up everywhere. The general name for these stones is chalcedony and chalcedony quartz sometimes has patterns that you may never before have seen—some even look like miniature landscapes found in nature! For example, moss agate. However, if you're more the glitzy type who tends to be drawn to sparkle, there's always brown or beige druzy agate, which is literally covered with tiny sparkling crystals. It's very unusual and, whenever you wear it, you can be sure people will ask about it.
All of that said, one of the most popular quartzes has been rutilated quartz—and it shows no signs of slowing down, as it is also a favorite of young Hollywood. It's clear crystal quartz with arrays of golden or reddish brown needle-like neutral inclusions inside it. The needles contribute to the gem's unusual beauty.
Admittedly, some women may be a bit wary—at least, in the beginning—of the more unorthodox new browns. If you fall into this category, here are two other fashion favorites, growing increasingly popular every day: natural brown diamonds and natural brown pearls. Diamonds and pearls traditionally appeal to the more traditional among us but, this year, thanks to the excitement over "the new browns," they never looked so unconventional! For one thing, brown diamonds are everywhere—but, remember, these effervescent gems are not usually called brown. Try champagne or cognac or chocolate. The same goes for pearls. They're not always referred to as brown pearls but, instead, chocolates and, for the lighter brown-undertone ones, goldens and peaches.
Keeping with the fashion-forward style, be sure to look into the tawny-toned rough-cut diamonds, which typically come in an array of brown hues, from the lightest of tan to the darkest of cocoa. But if you desire that clearer faceted look and perhaps at a lower price, consider zircon, a gem that's been around for ages but which, lately, is a favorite of some of the best jewelry designers. Its fiery brilliance can rival any gemstone and the relative affordability of its elegant earth tones clearly is contributing to its steadily growing popularity.
On a final note, if you love fashion and all its innovations, be open to new jewelry designs where the brown gems are set in rose gold or high-karat yellow gold, not just 18 karat but 21-, 22-, and 24 karat. The overall effect of a luminescent brown gem set in these rich-toned golds is elegantly understated wearability. Think of smoky topaz or champagne diamonds set in rose gold: It's an almost neutral look but with pop, pizzazz, and panache.