Tiny dancers: how mini jewels became huge news
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
“There’s something heartfelt and enduring about tiny, delicate and deeply personal jewels,” says Mini Mini Jewels founder Tracey Kahn of today’s crush for intricate, bijou-bijoux adornments. They are endlessly versatile – ideal for layering, mixing, matching or mismatching. But, says Kahn, this love for miniature is more than a fad. “People find miniaturisation fascinating and appealing. They love the scaled-down intricacy – like dolls’ houses. And while mini-jewels are on trend, there’s still something old-fashioned, timeless and treasure-like about them. You can feel the preciousness in the tiny details.”
Kahn launched Mini Mini Jewels two years ago and says that the response, particularly this year, has been huge. The Duchess of Sussex, Emma Stone, Amanda Hearst and Mila Kunis are all fans. Kahn’s current bestseller is a fingernail-tiny 14-carat gold dog-tag pendant that comes with the choice of an engraved calligraphy initial, birthstone or diamond frame. Also popular are Kahn’s oval diamond-set initial pendants, diminutive daisy earrings and minuscule single ear-studs formed as stars, elephants, spiders or clover leaves.
While a desire for collecting miniature jewels signals a communal search for identity, the tiny trend might also have something to do with the way our worlds have shrunk this year, forcing a heightened sense of introspection. Elsa Peretti’s Diamonds By The Yard, first launched with Tiffany in 1974, was aimed at a new generation of working women who would buy diamonds for their own pleasure – a sentiment that feels particularly apt for today. The barely there gold chain dotted with single or several diamonds has become one of the most iconic designs of modern times. There’s also Color By The Yard, sprinkled with rubies and other coloured gemstones as well as diamonds.
Dior’s Victoire de Castellane was also thinking of the intimacy of the jewel when she created her Mimioui collection of thread-fine chains and tiny bezel-set diamonds, intended to be worn like lingerie, even under other jewels, like a secret. The house’s new offering takes the same minuscule chain and sets both tiny diamonds and coloured gems in the rice-grain setting of the Rose des Vents medallion charms, adding the subtlest talismanic seasoning. Meanwhile, Diane Kordas has fringed fine chain necklaces with miniature versions of her shield-shaped charm, as well as tiny gold dog tags hung on delicate coloured glass beads.
Online-only fine-jewellery platform Once has also seen an uptick in demand for smaller pieces. “Tiny earrings are particularly popular now because people are more creative with their piercings, which means you can have fun ‘stacking’ single earrings and multiple designs,” says senior personal shopper Ruth Gebru. “Tiny jewellery is often created around playful motifs, like Ileana Makri’s Little Snake earrings that twist delicately along the ear. And the bold coloured stones in small jewels add a tiny touch of glamour.”
Downsizing also lends itself to the new mood for modular jewels, a throwback from the ’80s with the all-important element of personalisation. This kind of DIY demi-couture is the concept behind Viltier, a boutique brand created by childhood friends Thomas Montier Leboucher and Iris de La Villardière. “We love the richness of jewellery, its warmth, generosity, beauty – we practically lick jewellers’ shop windows,” say the founders. “But we had a more contemporary vision, to create a brand that would be more inclusive.”
Magnetic, Viltier’s signature collection, is built around a small geometric oval motif designed as two “U” shapes joined together and sealed by two tiny diamond studs. There’s a ’70s energy to the choice of materials – malachite, mother-of-pearl and bull’s eye, a warm and rust-hued variation on tiger’s eye. “It’s retro – the colour of suntans and boat decks,” explains Montier Leboucher. The Magnetic motif is presented singly or several at a time in various permutations, for bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings, and mixed with cognac diamonds, Imperial topaz, Colombian emeralds or pink tourmalines. Clique, meanwhile, is a collection of arrangements of single diamonds in deep, fluted gold settings, while Rayon, a more linear take on Magnetic, is also designed to mix, match and stack.
The mighty mini trend is all part of an ongoing drive to revolutionise diamonds, making them younger and more fashion-forward: smaller stones are less expensive, more plentiful, more wearable and more open to innovation. “Smaller pieces of jewellery lend style and light to the personality of a woman rather than taking over,” says Valérie Messika, the founder and creative director of the eponymous jewellery company that, as a response to the demand for more discreet pieces, has added the miniature Baby Move to its bestselling Move line.
Idyl, a brand founded by Antwerp diamond-industry veterans, is also taking the modular route to simplify and make diamond jewellery more accessible. Working with lab-grown diamonds and traceable “green gold”, it offers the simplest, most classic of diamond studs and a choice of add-ons: a diamond halo, an eye- or drop-shaped gold surround, a hoop, a chain, an ear-climber. Idyl co-founder Kevin Lewy links the shift towards small, delicate diamond jewels to a desire for lasting quality, for a more discreet sparkle and for jewels that can be worn day and night.
When London-based, Paris-born designer Raphaele Canot launched her business in 2014 after years designing for Cartier and De Beers, smaller stones offered her the opportunity to “set diamonds free” – both from serious formality and from prohibitive cost. She wanted to bring a light-hearted spirit to diamond jewellery, to add flair, fun and vitality as well as ease and effortlessness. Canot freed diamonds from their restrictive settings, laser-piercing a hole and hanging each small, slender stone on an earring or ring so that it can swing loose to move with the wearer. The Set Free Diamonds collection, now in a multitude of variations, is joined by similarly inventive contemporary lines including Confetti, which pairs miniature white diamonds with black diamonds, rubies or tsavorites, and Happy Deco, which includes mini-hoops with flower-like silhouettes and Canot’s favourite colourful enamel.
Like Viltier, Canot injects a ’70s flavour into her pieces with her use of white agate, black onyx and tiger’s eye, but she’s also driven by a desire to reinvent the classics without compromising craftsmanship. “It’s the very essence of delicacy that there should be no compromise on quality, on diamond-setting or level of finish.” Today, she feels that small, delicate jewellery blends perfectly with maximalism. “I love the idea of a jewel that’s on-trend, but also made to last.”