At the height of his so-called “Blue Period,” artist Pablo Picasso painted essentially monochromatic works of art in various shades of blue. Though now many of those paintings are among his most popular works, Picasso found them a tough sell in the early 1900s.
There was a similar monochromatic vein that ran through the latest fine jewelry halls at this year’s BaselWorld as jewelry designers and brands placed their bets on blue. And given that blue gems are the most popular in jewelry, that’s a pretty safe bet.
When most jewelry lovers think of blue gems, blue sapphire comes to mind. As one of the most popular gemstones in the world, blue sapphire at its best boasts one of the deepest, truest royal blues found in gemstones. There were plenty of blue sapphires—from palest icy blues to the deep midnight blues found in top quality Burmese and Kashmir sapphires.
While blue sapphires often seem to personify blue in gemstones, what was really intriguing about the blue gems used this year is the variety of blue gems being used, a veritable monochromatic rainbow if you will. Picasso would have been proud. Among the various shades of blue gems sparkling were sapphires, blue topaz (including a renewed interest in London Blue colorations), aquamarine, blue tourmalines, blue jade, blue chalcedony, blue moonstone, blue spinel, even some example of the infrequently seen blue zircon and apatite.
The bliss for blue continued with opaque stones, too, such as turquoise and lapis lazuli. Other blue options were man-made, such as blue enamel and dyed mother of pearl. A few experimented with titanium settings colored blue.
Coincidentally there’s been a blast of blue going on in popular culture—from the famed “Heart of the Ocean” necklace that’s become part of the lore surrounding the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic tragedy to the blue locks on hit songstress Katy Perry. Blues have been named the top colors of the year at major paint brands, too. At Pantone, a leading color authority, Sodalite Blue (Pantone 19-3953) and Olympic Blue (Pantone 19-4056) are two blues that have been cited as being popular among fashion designers this year. And of course, denim, or blue jeans, is a perennial favorite, ranging from deep indigos to the lightest faded blue.
What’s interesting is that this year, blue is so prevalent that few jewelry collections have pink concentrated jewelry collections, which have predominated jewelry in the last 10 years. For years, design motifs were fashioned in all white (white diamonds in white gold), blues (usually in white gold) and pinks (usually in rose gold or yellow gold). Not this year, designs are in all white or in blue. What’s more, along with the range of blue gems used, there’s an equally vast range of metals and materials used with them: 18K white gold, 18K rose gold, black-, or even blue-rhodium plated white gold, polished or oxidized sterling silver, or platinum.
While many of the blues are used alone or with black or white diamonds, there is some mixing with other colors, sometimes purples, such as amethysts, and, in a more directional combination, bright blues with crisp greens, such as peridot.
Perhaps one reasons there’s such a variety of blue gems may largely be due to the continued high price of precious metals, especially gold and platinum. As prices rise, jewelers may become more adept at settings that minimalize the metal and emphasize the stone. The objective is to create a design using the least amount of metal possible yet still hold and protect the gemstone. As a result, gemstones are getting more of the focus in the design—and more of the stone is actually visible. A win- win for colored gem lovers.
In high jewelry looks, sapphires have always been the blue gem of choice. That tradition remains but now there are smatterings of other blue gems in red carpet looks. Italian jeweler Damiani used amethysts and aquamarines in a spectacular, peacock feather inspired necklace that had its premiere on actress Sharon Stone’s neck. At Dior, aquamarine baguette cuts decorate bezels of limited edition watches.
Thanks to some dazzling blue gem examples featured on this page, you can better understand the meaning behind the old song: “I’d rather be blue, thinking of you, than be happy with somebody else.”