Today, the Passage's windows are dressed with summery jewellery that goes beyond the safe. When you want something to wear with everything, go for the exotic. I mean the really exotic, not Novica ethnicy crafty, which can be pleasing but is not wildly original.
Such pieces are often called "fantasie", to signal their imaginative design; I think of them as the leopard print of the jewellery world, so striking they'll go with what many women already own: gold hoops, pearl studs, a passepartout chain.
Seeing audacious fine jewellery encourages us to make more daring choices when it's time to
spend our more modest budgets.
When I was speaking to my longtime Toronto jeweller, she mentioned that they now sell pieces by Holly Dyment, and my ears pricked up, because, I figured, she must be something, if they are giving space to someone else's work.
Dropping Flower ring: champlevé enamel, the detailed setting of diamonds, sapphires, tsavorite garnet, spinels in a riot of colour! Price, $8, 500 at Strand and Stone.
Amadeo, who's taken a family heritage of traditional cameos and utterly transformed that stately and often predictable tradition. Do look at his fine jewellery collection; not all are as eccentric as his Three Monkeys Ring (price, $4, 000); though he will carve a Victorian lady for his silver and crystal HSN line, he'll choose a robot or an elephant in a tiara for the gold-set pieces.
Someone out there is thinking, "But I wouldn't wear leopard, anyway." Fine with me, but if your jewellery box is a mound of 'classic', give yourself a nudge from safe to smokin'. Just one, and remember 'real' does not have to be the high-end gems. 'Real' includes wood, shell, bone and other organic material.
Shagreen et Tortoise's one-of-a-kind rings are made in Paris by Marie-Hélène Labrielle from shells, gold vermeil and gemstones. The White Frost seahorse ring (at left), about $1, 550, puts capricious design (relatively) within reach, and though it's not something you'd wear potting plants, will charm a summer outfit.
My friend Beth Adams, who writes the beautifully-observed The Cassandra Pages, alerted me to the work of Secret Wood, who make magical rings of tiny scenes (gardens, woods, cities) captured under resin, atop exotic woods.
The Underwater Forest (price, $90) is one example; other rings in the made-to-order line feature luminous colour. If you enjoy organic, natural materials, this piece provides mystery, something sadly lacking in a great deal of minimalist wood pieces.
When you develop a taste for avant-garde fine jewellery, and then try to find it in costume, as the saying goes, "You can't get there from here"; you really have to search to find such insouciance with decent quality. But do look, both at the retail and secondhand vendors.
gold flower ring lit by a ladybug and butterflies, for only $180. The ring is not for life, but it's a good way to try out splashier design, and would it ever zhuzh a sundress.
One piece: perhaps you already own one and will tell us about it. But beware, once you choose jewellery beyond the indisputably valid classics, you may be bitten. Fortunately, you'll have company—and if we cross paths, I'll beg you for a photo!