In what could be jewellery’s “bare-faced make-up” moment, women are seeking out cleaner, lighter, more refined expressions of beauty to wear every day – and everywhere. Forget about looking for a safe place to stash your accessories between that big presentation and Pilates: the “new dainty” is limbering up. These minimal pieces don’t need to be removed before you work out. They are designed to be at one with the body – just the right kind of delicate that they go where you go.

“A quieter style of jewellery has emerged – it’s an intimate, discreet aesthetic that’s for every day, and longer-lasting,” says Mie Ejdrup, co-founder of fine-jewellery platform Finematter. “It perfectly caters to all the women looking for beautiful, life-proof pieces that they can wear almost like a second skin – a uniform that they never take off. 

Cerys wears, from top, Delfina Delettrez responsibly sourced gold, diamond and pearl Unchain My Art single earring, €580, and white-gold and diamond 1987 ear cuff, €1,000. Dior Joaillerie white-gold and diamond Mimirose necklace, £1,830. Mateo gold, turquoise and diamond Dot necklace, $375, and gold and diamond Mini Pavé Square necklace, $450. Repossi white‑gold and diamond Serti sur Vide pendant necklace, £3,830. Tiffany & Co gold T Smile pendant necklace, £1,075
Cerys wears, from top, Delfina Delettrez responsibly sourced gold, diamond and pearl Unchain My Art single earring, €580, and white-gold and diamond 1987 ear cuff, €1,000. Dior Joaillerie white-gold and diamond Mimirose necklace, £1,830. Mateo gold, turquoise and diamond Dot necklace, $375, and gold and diamond Mini Pavé Square necklace, $450. Repossi white‑gold and diamond Serti sur Vide pendant necklace, £3,830. Tiffany & Co gold T Smile pendant necklace, £1,075 © Jennifer Cheng

“Often these delicate pieces have sentimental significance, so they’re something you want to keep on you anyway, but there’s also a styling and convenience factor,” she adds. “Women want something that they can wear at a yoga class, or cycling, or running around the playground with their kids, but then out for dinner with friends too. They’re investing in ‘forever-quality’, minimal pieces, because you can go to the gym in them, then carry on with your day: a bit like a wedding ring, you don’t have to worry about whether the precious metal can take it.”

But nothing is sacrificed in terms of style. “There’s no big statement; these pieces speak softly,” she says. “It’s about a delicate chain that catches the eye in a certain light, a subtle shape or a tiny diamond suspended on the skin – you have to be really close to appreciate the full impact. It’s personal – almost secretive – in the wearing, that’s what makes these pieces special.”

Some of Delfina Delettrez’s barely there jewels hide in plain sight, such as her teeny Two In One small diamond necklace, or the double-pearl Piercing ring, where two pearls frame the bare finger – a beautiful accompaniment to a dance class, perhaps. But the designer also plays with discretion, reserving some magical detail so that a piece slowly reveals its secret. A standout is the ultra-light, back-to-front “flexible hoop” Unchain My Art earring, where a delicate gold chain dangles from a diamond “dot” while the big-ticket item, a bold freshwater pearl, fastens it from behind.

Lizzie Mandler x Fine Matter gold and emerald floating bracelet, £274
Lizzie Mandler x Fine Matter gold and emerald floating bracelet, £274
Delfina Delettrez gold and freshwater pearl piercing ring, €660
Delfina Delettrez gold and freshwater pearl piercing ring, €660
Gaia Repossi pink-gold and diamond bracelet, £2,915
Gaia Repossi pink-gold and diamond bracelet, £2,915

For many, the features that make barely there jewellery enticing – the chic sweep of Tiffany’s large T Smile pendants, or the wispy airiness of the single-emerald micro bracelets and rings from LA-based Lizzie Mandler in collaboration with Fine Matter – also lend themselves to layering in a dressier situation. “The nature of these pieces is so delicate, though, that they still don’t become loud – just more expressive,” says Ejdrup.

Victoire de Castellane’s Mimirose concept, introduced in yellow and pink gold in 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dior Joaillerie, and since updated in white gold, sensed the moment coming. Ultra-fine chains with a tiny trio of diamonds sit at the neck or wrist coupled with the single-stone chain rings framed in the house’s twisted rice-grain setting. De Castellane conceived the collection as “the lingerie of jewellery”, to rest on the skin like lace.

“Women want things to fall in love with and relate to – but also what really works in their life,” says designer Gaia Repossi, a devoted yoga practitioner in her downtime. “Historically, every adornment – from tribal feathers to ornate high-society jewels – reflected something about the lifestyle and status of the person wearing it. Now women don’t need heavy decoration to show strength. We don’t necessarily want to look very embellished and adorned as we go about our day. A lot of us are finding ourselves attracted to the simplest design in every category. It doesn’t hide the person underneath, it emphasises it.

Cerys wears Dior Joaillerie white-gold and diamond Mimirose single earring, £1,290, matching bracelet (just seen), £1,690, gold and diamond Mimirose ring, £670, and matching bracelet (just seen), £1,600. Cassandra Goad white-gold and diamond Isla chain, £4,975. Mateo gold, turquoise and diamond Dot necklace, $375, gold and diamond Mini Pavé Square necklace, $450, and gold and diamond La Barre Pavé necklace, $375 (both held up). Repossi white-gold and diamond Serti Sur Vide pendant necklace, £3,830. Tiffany & Co gold T Smile pendant necklace, £1,075. Sophie Bille Brahe gold and diamond Grand L’Ocean double ring, £2,400
Cerys wears Dior Joaillerie white-gold and diamond Mimirose single earring, £1,290, matching bracelet (just seen), £1,690, gold and diamond Mimirose ring, £670, and matching bracelet (just seen), £1,600. Cassandra Goad white-gold and diamond Isla chain, £4,975. Mateo gold, turquoise and diamond Dot necklace, $375, gold and diamond Mini Pavé Square necklace, $450, and gold and diamond La Barre Pavé necklace, $375 (both held up). Repossi white-gold and diamond Serti Sur Vide pendant necklace, £3,830. Tiffany & Co gold T Smile pendant necklace, £1,075. Sophie Bille Brahe gold and diamond Grand L’Ocean double ring, £2,400 © Jennifer Cheng

“Today, like the woman, everything is active,” she continues. “Think of all the beautiful sportswear designed to be worn all day long – you can wear your leggings for your yoga practice right through the day, as I am today, in a khaki shade for work. Modern jewellery has to have a similar functionality. It has to be light and practical and move with you.” Feeling a need to “democratise the virtues of high jewellery, and create small, simple items” that work in pretty much every context – “just maybe not when you reach the secondary series of Ashtanga and, like me, you’ve regularly got your feet behind your ears,” she jokes – Repossi has revisited her famous Serti Sur Vide (“set on the void”) diamonds, originally conceived as a reinvention of the classic solitaire with a hidden setting so the stone “floats” on the skin.

The new chain bracelets and pendants feature a graphic, curved pink- or white-gold bar, with a tiny pear-shaped diamond winking at the end like a drop of dew, “placed just beyond the wrist bone to elongate it, and at the neck to emphasise the beauty of the bone structure beneath,” Repossi explains. “The skin flirts with the stone and the gold. When it’s de-mounted and bare, the stone is not suffocated; it’s right there for you to stare at, but it’s very discreet. It feels as if it belongs to you alone.”

Copenhagen-based jeweller Sophie Bille Brahe finds sheer joy in the minimal piece that “becomes part of your body, something you wear so much that you feel naked without it,” she says. “I always wear my jewellery, even when walking my dog in sweatpants on a Sunday morning.” Her designs push the limits of how little material can be used around stones, and “point out places on the body that are themselves really delicate”. Her tiniest gold necklaces – from the Diamant Simple to the mini Gouette de Diamant – are irresistible, as is the new celestial-themed Cloudy gold necklace, exclusive to MatchesFashion, with its ultra-lightweight cable-link chain and dainty diamond pendant. “The collarbone is the most beautiful place on a woman,” she says. “For me, a diamond there, with nothing else, is perfection.”

Gerbase recycled nylon/polyester Ela top, £162. Model, Cerys Davies at Elite London. Casting, Keva Legault. Hair, Mayuko Nakae using Digi and Wella products. Make-up, Nicola Brittin at Saint Luke using Nars Cosmetics. Manicure, Sasha Goddard at Saint Luke. Photographer’s assistant, Keir Laird. Digital operator, Joe Hart. Stylist’s assistant, Kris Bergfeldt. Production, Diane Vincent at Saint Luke

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article