Dangly earrings set the latest style trend: Baroque bling
The fashionable look of spring/summer 2012, if you hadn't already noticed, is all about wearing the sort of bejewelled and gem-laden Baroque-like jewellery the Imperial Romanov family wore before the Russian Revolution.
As well as being lavish and chandelier-like, particularly on the earring front, it can also appear rather surreal, such as Prada's 1950s-inspired paste and crafted coral "rose" earrings, Miu Miu's supersized cameos and Dolce & Gabbana's resin peppers and pasta shells.
This fusion of unexpected-meets-iconic has got a lot to do with the style of one highly influential jewellery designer in particular.
One of my first jobs fresh out of college was assisting a fashion editor who had recently been whisked from American Mademoiselle to British Vogue by Anna Wintour, its editor at the time. Besides being beautiful and whippet-thin – as is customary for Voguettes – this fashion editor had several distinguishable "signatures".
One was her ability to mash up designer with high street (a radical new concept). The other was her dazzling and very dangly earrings.
These were not just big, often falling well past her shoulders; they were like ones you had never seen before, made mostly by a young Irish jeweller, Tom Binns.
Before any photographic shoot it became my job to call Binns and get him to create something special.
As well as precious gems and metals, he'd incorporate just about anything into his pieces. It could be driftwood or rubies. I remember once he made rings from pale blue glass shards he'd collected from the banks of the River Thames. Like all of his creations, the end result resembled precious artworks.
Tom Binns now has a megastore in New York, a loyal following of celebrities including Beyoncé, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, and pretty much sets the trend when it comes to jewellery.
Over the years, along with contemporaries including Solange Azagury-Partridge, Stephen Webster, Shaun Leane and Jade Jagger in her work for Garrard – he has ensured high jewellery has a voice within fashion, even in lean times of minimalism.
Like so many so-called "jewellers to the stars", Binns and co are now truly coming into their own, embraced by super-rich customers from emerging nations such as Brazil, India and, of course, the Middle East, who love their jewels almost as much as their fashion.
I was not surprised to hear Tiffany's profits have surged a whopping 25 per cent, with its most expensive items among its bestsellers. When it comes to investment in a global recession, nothing beats jewellery. An Hermès Birkin will eventually wear out. Diamonds won't. And we all know what's happening to the price of gold.
Let's just say if you are Elton John and you want to have a bespoke diamond ring, you now have a far greater choice.
The rest of us can meanwhile enjoy the "trickle down" effect creative thinkers such as Binns have on jewellery within Topshop or Zara. John can relax knowing nothing in his jewellery box will ever be quite like the "real thing".
Twas ever thus. Great jewellers from Peter Carl Fabergé and Charles Lewis Tiffany to Louis-François Cartier all made their mark by challenging traditional methods and coming up with the extraordinary.
Mary Katrantzou and most recently Olivier Rousteing, the designer at Balmain, both even used the iconic Fabergé egg as inspiration for recent collections where jewellery actually morphed into clothes. Watch this space. There is a shift away from fast disposable fashion towards keepsake pieces. This could entirely change the landscape of fashion as we know it.
While owning a Fabergé piece remains to most about as likely as marrying a prince, a pair of Binns' Swarovski crystal chandelier-style dangly earrings – which feature fluorescent-hued stones the colour of highlighter pens priced at Dh909 – are 21st-century fashion icons.
Julia Robson is a London-based fashion journalist, broadcaster and stylist.
Updated: April 1, 2012 04:00 AM