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How to choose jewellery: Why good design matters

July 08, 2021 3 min read

“Layers of womanhood” Collar, Repetition Project, Advanced Diploma of Jewellery & Object Design, crafted by Stephanie Sieber from aluminium foil, 2015.

Image: “Layers of womanhood” Collar, Repetition Project, Advanced Diploma of Jewellery & Object Design, crafted by Stephanie Sieber from aluminium foil, 2015.

Why good design matters

Jewellery choices are often at two ends of the spectrum - highly personal or highly fashionable. But whether your choice is driven by personal taste or by fashion, you should always look for jewellery that is well-designed. Well-designed jewellery looks and feels better no matter the style, because it simply hangs better, moves with you better and complements clothes better.

Here are some tips for choosing jewellery that not only looks good, but also feels great.

Is the jewellery well balanced?

There are two elements to balance – visual balance and physical balance. Visual balance makes the jewellery easier for the eye to follow and is determined by how well elements of the jewellery are spaced and how various sizes and colours are offset. Good visual balance means that your jewellery will be more versatile and work much better with your clothes. An easy way to check if your jewellery is visually well balanced, is to ask yourself if you feel like you need to rearrange it for it to sit right. If you do, then it’s probably out of balance.

However, it is important to look beyond just aesthetics. In fact, more important than visual balance is physical balance. When looking at jewellery, consider whether the elements look to be counter-balanced from a weight perspective. For example, a heavy stud earring will be uncomfortable if the earring back is too small. A large hook earring will also sit better if it has a longer hook to balance the front. Similarly, a heavier pendant will always be more comfortable on a heavier chain; if a chain is too fine for the weight of a pendant the chain will drag on your neck. Even in the case of more dramatic asymmetrical pieces, singular large design elements should be balanced by equivalent smaller elements.

Is the jewellery designed for movement?

Like balance – movement is both visual and physical. Jewellery with strong visual movement often has repetitive or related elements that create a rhythm. This makes the piece more enjoyable to look at as the piece’s rhythm guides the eye. For example, the eye will travel along a flow of lines, edges, graduation of sizes, repeated shapes, darker to lighter elements etc. The flow can be on-going or can stop at different elements within the piece, such as a focal point like a pendant on a chain or stone in an earring.

Movement can also be created by action, which brings life and activity to a piece of jewellery. Given humans are naturally active, jewellery that embraces movement is often more comfortable and enjoyable to wear. This is because jewellery with several separate elements naturally adapts to the body. Alternatively, if jewellery is made from a singular piece, it is more comfortable when its lines have been carefully shaped to follow those of the body.

Are all the elements in the piece in harmony?

Harmony is a visual outcome of good design. When a piece is in harmony, the individual elements are in harmony:
  • each element is in proportion to other elements
  • there is sufficient differentiation (size, shape, colour or texture) between elements to create interest
  • all elements relate well to one another so that none seem out of place and nor are any fighting for dominance and overall,
  • the elements are organised to create a sense of unity.

A simple way to check if a piece is in harmony is to ask yourself whether there is anything niggling at your eye or that seems “out of place”. If it passes this test, you will notice it naturally complements an outfit better because every element looks just right.

There are good reasons why design matters and hopefully if you consider these tips next time you buy some jewellery, you will choose a piece that you will enjoy wearing for years to come.

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