Rainbow revolution: my year in coloured gems

From electric-blue Paraiba tourmalines to soft pink sapphires, get set to be dazzled as we look back at the brightest jewels from 2016.

Piaget Sunny Side of Life feather cuff

Diamonds may be the most valuable gem, but the rise of coloured stones seems to be unstoppable. Beyond the traditional trio of rubies, emeralds and sapphires, we are witnessing a rainbow revolution in which previously overlooked stones are now in the limelight. And it is not just gemstones that are brightening jewellery shops around the world, but more unusual materials such as titanium and feathers, too. Here is our selection of the jewels that shone the brightest in 2016.

Neither of the two stones in this Boghossian ring, above, is new but what is novel is putting together an opal and a ruby in this way. The result is a mesmerising sweet-and-sour effect featuring an outsize 27.24 carat opal and a 4.43 carat ruby. The deep red of the ruby amplifies the play of colour of the opal and the two together create a sumptuous effect, far greater than the sum of its parts.

Lightning Ridge opal cocktail ring
Margot McKinney wears her Lightning Ridge opal ring while holding some of the many baroque pearl necklaces she has created from the 2016 harvest at Gove in Australia (POA). 

I have chosen this picture of Margot McKinney as I love the unharnessed opulence and fabulous colours of her jewels, which radiate joy, generosity and optimism. Here, Margot is snapped wearing one of her Australian Lightning Ridge opal rings – and believe me she dresses like this everyday – clutching ropes of baroque pearls, also from Australia.

This picture says so much about Margot’s own way with jewels that is confident and original, a fact not lost on Americans, who just can’t get enough of her “let’s have fun” approach to cocktail-hour jewels.

Mermaid Paraiba tourmaline ring with diamonds
Doris Hangartner sets an outsize 37.84 carat Mozambique Paraiba-like tourmaline with smaller Brazilian Paraibas. 

Paraiba tourmalines have become one of the most sought-after coloured gems since they were discovered in the 1980s in the Brazilian region that gave the stone its name. Since then, tourmalines of a similar electric-blue hue have been found in Nigeria and Mozambique.

These jewels by Doris Hangartner are outstanding not just for their swimming-pool blue but the sheer size of the stones.  The top ring is a magnificent example of a 37.84 carat Mozambique tourmaline, surrounded by smaller Brazilian Paraiba tourmalines. The second ring is set with a 34.94 carat Brazilian Paraiba set in yellow gold while the earrings, one of which is shown here, feature two round and two oval Paraiba tourmaline cabochons totalling a whopping 61.36 carats.

Queen of Tiye Mexican fire opal bracelet
Paula Crevoshay's one-of-a-kind Queen of Tiye Mexican fire opal bracelet with tsavorites and blue zircon (POA).

American jeweller Paula Crevoshay’s Queen of Tiye bracelet, above, represents pure and undiluted colour sorcery. Who but Paula would be able to tame the burning power of Mexican fire opals, which ooze writhing molten energy, in a jewel so unique? In Paula’s hands the opals are framed by ripples of tsavorites and cooled by pools of blue zircon, creating a strangely harmonious whole.

Pom Pom London pink tourmaline and diamond ring
White gold Pomellato Pom Pom London ring with a pink tourmaline of 13.93 carats surrounded by a further four and seven rose-cut diamonds. 733 brilliant-cut diamonds entirely cover the underside of the ring (£88,000).

Pomellato’s one-of-a-kind Pom Pom jewels are the haute couture creations of this Italian jeweller, which is known for its playful ways with colour.

Blushing pink tourmalines create a delicate graduation of colour, sweetened by the presence of seven rose-cut diamonds. As if dusted in sugar, the underside of this delightful jewellery confection is entirely set with diamonds. 

Piaget’s Sunny Side of Life collection, launched during Couture Week in Paris last summer, offers us a jet airliner straight back to the carefree 1960s in California. The exotic plumage of feathers and sunshine-bright yellow sapphires on this cuff, top of page, embody a happy-go-lucky approach to life and I can imagine it being worn at a Palm Springs pool party, the clink of martini glasses punctuating the laughter. A jewel that can use colour to transport us in this way easily earns its ticket into the colour sensations of 2016.

Bulgari, the Italian king of colour, excels in creating fabulous chromatic combinations that celebrate the expressive power of colours. Like musical notes, each jewel is a composition with its own melody and rhythm.

A mesh of ripe, deep red and purple berries of amethyst, pink tourmaline and rubellite are punctuated by drops of diamonds linked by smooth bars of mother of pearl. The construction of the piece is so flexible that it drapes around the wrist like silk for a very opulent take on coloured gemstone jewels.

Pink sapphire necklace and earring set
Pink sapphires and diamonds make up this delicate Avakian necklace and earring set (POA). 

The intensity of the pink in these sapphires is spectacular, particularly so as Avakian has cleverly surrounded each one with frills of diamonds to create a necklace fit for a princess. Light-hearted yet precious, this is a very contemporary take on a classic jewellery suite and a celebration of the pink sapphire.

And finally, perhaps the most innovative exercise in colour comes from Vhernier in this simple but dramatic Blue Velvet necklace, below. Folds of blue titanium are tipped with diamonds to create a precious ruff of dark and light ­­that may be simple in its conception but devilishly complex in its creation.

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