Compared to the whirlwind speed at which fashion trends come and go (are we still doing the Nineties grunge thing? Remind me who’s the new, new-old-Celine again?), the fine jewellery world moves at a more sedate pace. Longer production timescales and more expensive raw materials make it difficult for jewellery designers to keep up with the breakneck fashion calendar. There are gradual shifts in favoured metal colours, and occasionally a marketing push from a high-profile brand sees a particular gemstone thrust into the limelight (hello, Zambian emeralds). But actual fine jewellery trends that, like bucket hats or tiny sunglasses, seem to become ubiquitous overnight are rare. That’s not to say that they don’t exist. Exhibit one: chunky gold chains.
Seen on the autumn/winter 2019 catwalks, most notably at Bottega Veneta and JW Anderson, oversized, yellow-gold chains quickly became the accessory of choice with editors and the street-style contingent. Low-effort and high-impact, the style struck a chord with women craving something tougher than the delicate, diamond-dusted pendants they’ve been layering for so long.
JW Anderson 2019
Tiffany & Co was ahead of the trend when it launched the City Hardwear collection in 2017, an industrial-chic range of 18ct gold chains, inspired by a unisex archive design from the 1970s. Worn by the likes of Zoe Kravitz, Kendall Jenner and Scarlett Johansson, and a favourite of fashion stylists, if you’ve spotted a celebrity wearing a chunky gold chain on the pages of a glossy magazine in the past couple of years, chances are it’s by Tiffany.
Fast forward to 2019, and Net-a-Porter is stocking over 840 chain necklaces for next season. Libby Page, senior fashion market editor, puts the style’s popularity down to fashion’s current penchant for all things Nineties. “For several seasons now, we have seen a return to minimalism; it’s been much more about real, everyday dressing,” she says. “With this in mind, jewellery has returned to a more personal approach, with lockets, signet rings and chain necklaces that feel like heirlooms. Chains have become bigger, better and bolder for the spring season ahead.”
Page lists Laura Lombardi, Loren Stewart and Anita Ko as some of the most popular brands for beautifully crafted, chunky chains - plain or embellished with diamonds - alongside new designer Lauren Rubinski, whose glossy gold-plated link necklaces and bracelets have been worn by Kate Moss and Hailey Bieber.
Kate Moss in Lauren Rubinski
The beauty of this bona fide jewellery trend lies in its democracy: while we’re obviously lusting after solid, 18ct gold chains, you can just as easily dig out some vintage Nineties costume jewellery to embrace your inner Mr T. There are plenty of mid-range options, too: look to unisex Scandinavian label All Blues, or London-based designer Tilly Sveeas, who offers a mind-boggling array of chains - curb-link, T-bar, belcher - in gold, silver or bi-metal, ranging from £55 to £900.
“Like a white shirt or a good pair of jeans, a chunky chain has always been a wardrobe staple,” says Sveeas. “That said, I do think that the current ‘chunk appeal’ stems from a reaction to all the delicate, layered thin chains from previous seasons. It’s an incredibly visual style and in the world of Instagram, eye-catching, bold designs gain traction much faster than fussy, fiddly pieces.”
Endlessly versatile, gold chains can be worn alone or layered, wrapped several times around the wrist, used to toughen up a silk shirt or to add a touch of femininity to a tank top and jeans. And the options are endless. Take time to seek out a gold that works with your colouring: brassy, bright yellow gold complements darker skin tones, while lighter tones might prefer a cooler, silver-hued gold or one with a pink tinge. In an ideal world you’ll curate a wardrobe of different chain lengths and weights: chunky curb-links to wear with cashmere jumpers, and lighter, watch-chain styles to sit against bare skin.
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