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Classic Chic(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 02,2008)

Brooches & Pendants


Once more utilitarian than decorative, today's brooches and pendants are designed to catch the eye as works of art

Pendants may no longer be used as amulets to ward off harm or brooches to fasten tunics at the neck, but nevertheless both remain perennially popular jewellery items worldwide.

Inspired by Nature, geometric shapes and the designer's creative imagination, today's pendants and brooches complement and draw attention to the wearer.

Less limited by physical conventions than other types of jewellery, they complement any fashion trend because they can be big or small, rigid or articulated, three-dimensional or flat.

They also have the added advantage that they match the seasons as brooches and pendants tend to be associated with colder and warmer weather, respectively.

Their larger size and heavier weight lets brooches work well with jackets and winter outerwear, while pendants are more summery items that can be worn against bare skin with a sheer blouse or even over a sweater.

That's why brooches account for about 10%-15% of production at many Hong Kong companies with pendants contributing another 10%, according to Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers' Association Associate Chairman Sunny Chan.

He says demand is "probably growing faster" for pendants than brooches, although there's always a market for brooches. "In the past, older women preferred brooches but in the future that may change," Mr Chan says, adding that brooches have been especially strong sellers in Japan, while in Europe, Russia and the US, pendant sales are on the upswing. "Simple necklaces with small pendants are doing well," he adds.

Animals, insects, flowers, hearts and circles are among the most popular designs for brooches and pendants. "Coloured stones and fancy- coloured diamonds are selling and younger women are wearing these too," Mr Chan observes.

Big, bold brooches are the latest trend in countries such as Italy, the UK and France, sometimes in sizes that are half the size of a human hand.

"Brooches are definitely getting bigger," observes Lawrence Ma, Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's Hong Kong International Jewellery Show Organising Committee.

"It used to be that costume jewellery took its direction from fine jewellery, but because costume jewellery is now so big the fine jewellery market is following suit," Mr Ma notes. "Large sizes let people see the brooch from a distance."

Goldiaq Creation Ltd Managing Director Bronia Yip concurs, noting that her firm's brooches are 5-10cms in size. "But they're lightweight and some are hollow or made with thinner gold," she notes, adding that some examples sport stones as large as a 50-carat aquamarine.

Mature women 30-years-old and older may like larger sizes, but young women are more comfortable with small and medium sizes, Ms Yip says.

Flower and butterfly designs are "always in fashion", along with the company's trademark style of using graduated shades of a single colour in its designs.

"One of our best-sellers features a trio of pink sapphire flowers with diamonds set in 18K pink gold," she reveals, noting the US$5,200 FOB Hong Kong price tag.

Prices for large brooches at the 10-year-old firm start at US$5,000 FOB Hong Kong, but range from US$3,000-5,000 for "updated classic" designs (a cross between classic and fashion-oriented).

Medium-sized pendants are also in vogue at Goldiaq. "They should be noticeable but not too outstanding," notes Ms Yip. Both simple and complicated styles, with precious and semiprecious stones, are selling.

Hong Kong is good at using a lot of smaller stones in jewellery, she adds. "We can do micro-pavm because our labour costs are cheaper," Ms Yip claims. "In Europe and the US, they use large stones."

Bright beauty

Bright, multicoloured brooches and pendants have done well in export markets in recent years.

"Peridot, orange garnet, red tourmaline, pariaba tourmaline and sky-blue aquamarine have been very hot, but the stones are in small sizes - 2-3 carats," notes Dominic Mok, Asian Gemmological Institute and Laboratory Ltd Principal and an instructor in jewellery design. "Before, people were using larger sizes but now they're too expensive."

Fancy-coloured diamonds in smaller point sizes are showing up more frequently too, he says, adding that classic styles, simple geometric shapes and trees and flowers are currently the most desirable designs.

Large brooches have also been in demand at Unicorn Jewelry Design Ltd, where FOB prices run from US$3,000-20,000. "Ours range from 2-6 inches in size and come in 18K white, yellow or pink gold," says Designer Jessica Fong, who uses her own name as the brand. "We use black and white diamonds, fancy-coloured diamonds and higher-end semiprecious stones."

She says Unicorn's style is classy, modern, and more delicate and feminine. "We concentrate on concepts from Nature, such as floral designs, dragonflies, birds and butterflies, and use different types of cuts, like rose and princess cuts, in our jewellery."

Unicorn's US$3,000-7,000 pendants used to feature an Art Deco look, but lately designs have shifted more toward natural themes. "People want very realistic-looking designs from Nature," Ms Fong maintains. "Pendants that are curvy, lacey, very feminine and big are what people want most."

Another trend has been toward multifunctional brooches-cum-pendants or brooches that can be detached from necklaces and worn separately.

For example, the upper part of one of the firm's new US$25,000 floral 17-cm brooches, which features both black and white diamonds and black South Sea pearls set in 18K white gold, can be detached and worn as a pendant.

Ms Fong likes to mix-and-match brooches, often by wearing two at a time, and closely follows international fashion and jewellery design trends to get ideas. "I'll create designs where the idea may be the same as a brand name but the execution will be different," she says.

Eastern and Western influences both play a prominent role in her design ethic. "I might add European elements to Chinese flowers or dragonflies," Ms Fong explains. "I try not to make my designs too traditional, too Eastern."

An emphasis on movement has also been a strong design direction at The First Water Ltd, where Director and Chief Designer Heather Wong says brooches are moving away from stiff, bulky designs to those with more dangling parts. "It's like fashion," she insists. "Clothing used to have big shoulders, but that has calmed down a lot and the look is much more casual."

Jewellery and fashion are related so jewellery has become more understated, Ms Wong explains. "Fabrics have become more flowing and soft and that applies to brooches as well."

Free style

Brilliantly illustrating this concept is a HK$35,000 FOB Hong Kong brooch she designed with green jade circles and diamonds set in flexible strands of 18K white gold. "It's very free and the design allows it to be worn in different ways," she says. "You can wear it close together or further apart and both ways look quite different."

The same trend is true of pendants, with a HK$30,000 rose-cut diamond pendant in 18K white gold described by Ms Wong as being "soft, articulated and abstract".

Trained as a goldsmith and designer in London, Ms Wong concentrates on handmade jewellery for career women who are 35 years of age and up. "Our style is a mix of Western and Oriental," she explains. "The Oriental part is the detailing and the texture, while the Western is the overall shape and the way it is set."

There's clearly no doubt that the same elements that have made brooches and pendants so desirable through the ages continue to win converts today.

Flattering and eminently wearable, both tend to add a finishing touch to an ensemble rather than overwhelming it -while also exemplifying a rich history and mystique that help enhance appreciation for these unique works of jewellery craftsmanship.