Unconventional Color
Award-winning bridal designs spotlight nontraditional gemstones for a fresh take on matrimonial expression
What’s going to be “in” for weddings this year? According to wedding resource The Knot, look to such things as Wild West and Coachella-esque themes, unexpected venues (caves, anyone?), white-glove opulence and fashion-forward jumpsuits for the daring bride. Also on tap: the latest technology, from drones for aerial photos to mobile apps such as TaskRabbit to take on any small to-dos and TouristEye to help plan the honeymoon itinerary.

Of course the resounding theme here, as it has been for several wedding seasons, is a personalized twist on tradition. Today’s couples can find their wedding inspiration literally everywhere and infuse their personalities into every aspect of it.

The same goes for bridal jewelry. While colorless diamonds will always be conventional, colored diamonds and the big three—rubies, sapphire and emeralds—have certainly become more mainstream in engagement rings, spurred by such high-profile engagements as The Duchess of Cambridge. But we’re also starting to see other gemstones step into the bridal spotlight.

The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), a leading source on natural colored gemstones, natural pearls and cultured pearls, hosts each year its AGTA Spectrum Awards, considered the finest jewelry and gemstone competition in the world. The competition not only inspires great innovation in the use of color in jewelry design but also launches trends. This year (not unlike past years), the winners in the Bridal Wear category, sponsored by The Knot, were exquisite examples of bridal rings, earrings and necklaces that really expand the view of what bridal jewelry can be.

For instance, the first-place winner was a pair of beautiful Anemone earrings by Deidre Featherstone of Featherstone Design, New York City, that could well serve as a bride’s “something blue.” In typical Featherstone style, the earrings feature interchangeable elements. The Anemone “tops” of the earrings showcases tanzanites totaling 5.37 carats, purple sapphires totaling 3.72 carats, blue zircons totaling 2.88 carats, tsavorite garnets totaling 1.67 carats, neon-blue tourmalines totaling 0.97 carat, indigo tourmalines totaling 0.40 carat, Paraíba tourmalines totaling 0.26 carat and diamonds totaling 0.16 carat set in platinum. The Chime drops or “enhancers”—which make a delicate chime sound when moved—feature laguna agate “halos” totaling 38.12 carats, cornflower blue chalcedony totaling 47.7 carats and diamonds totaling 1.30 carats set in platinum.

What makes these earrings even more special is their versatility: The enhancers can be removed, allowing the bride to wear just the tops to more casual events and thus get an extended use of her bridal jewelry.

The second-place as well as the Manufacturing Honors winner is equally as versatile, representative of a collection of stackable rings that allow you to create a unique piece of jewelry that expresses your life’s milestones (A video of how the rings stack with each other can be viewed here). Designed by Laurence Bruyninckx, Antwerp, Belgium, the piece consists of the 18-karat white gold Terra engagement ring, featuring a golden beryl totaling 0.80 carat surrounded by a diamond halo and shank totaling 0.30 carat. Stacked on both sides of the ring are the 18-karat rose gold Nyx guard and the 18-karat rose gold Feronia guard set with two marquise-shape orange citrines and pavé-cut orange sapphires on the shank.

In addition to the rings’ ability to be stacked and interchanged, the colors complement well The Knot’s prediction of a rose gold and “Marsala” palette for bridal 2015, with Marsala, a robust and earthy wine red, being color authority Pantone’s Color of the Year.

Third place and Platinum Honors went to earrings by Michael Endlich of Pavé Fine Jewelry Design, with two locations in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif. Here, we have the conventional diamond, but in the fashionable “slice” form totaling 7.07 carats, accented with diamonds totaling 0.67 carat set in platinum. They make for an arresting statement piece for the modern bride, in line with the bold add-on trend for bridal 2015.

The Gem Diva Award winner, sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), is another head-turner, this time by Suzanne Kalandjian of Suzanne Kalan, Northridge, Calif. The 18-karat white gold necklace features a 20 mm white topaz pendant with baguette-cut colorless diamonds underneath and surrounding the gem.

The WJA Diva Awards also include the Dazzle Diva division, the theme for which this year was “transformation.” Pamela Froman of Pamela Froman Fine Jewelry, Los Angeles, took first place in the bridal category for her engagement ring design that allows the bride to change out the center stone of the ring depending on her mood or outfit. Gemstone options include traditional brilliant-cut diamonds, rose-cut opaque diamonds, even opals.

“Just because you’re committing to one person for the rest of your life doesn’t mean you have to commit to only one center stone,” Froman said about the design.

The award-winning design is currently being manufactured with the proposed launch to coincide with Froman’s new bridal collection launch this spring. The collection includes engagement rings featuring center stones as varied as black opal, black opal crystal, morganite and tanzanite.

Tanzanite was also the star of the Entry Platinum Innovation winner. Designed by Susan Drake of Spectrum Art & Jewelry, Wilmington, N.C., the Tilt-a-Whirl ring features a trillion-cut tanzanite accented with a myriad of diamonds set in platinum. The bold and inventive design can serve double-duty as both the engagement ring and the bride’s “something blue.”

Also “blue” are the Honorable Mention-winner platinum earrings by Bella Campbell of Campbellian, New York City, featuring aquamarines totaling 5.61 carats surrounded by a halo of grossular garnets totaling 3.51 carats, accented with diamonds totaling 0.56 carat set in a feminine floral-like design. The earrings would make a magnificent accessory for the “big day.”

Take a look at our gallery of the designs below. We’re sure you’ll agree that in addition to being expertly crafted and beautiful to behold, the unconventional color gives these jewels an out-of-the-bridal-box expressiveness as unique as a couple’s love.
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Picchiotti Italy
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Palmiero Italy
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Carlo Barberis
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