As sources of design inspiration go, it’s tough to beat the sea. From its vast ecosystem of creatures to its depths of meaning, the aquatic world is rife with opportunities for creative inspiration. And fine jewelers have long fallen under its sway.
Look to the legacy of Tiffany & Co. designer Jean Schlumberger, whose love for the ocean’s mystery and majesty was a defining current of his career. In 1967, for example, he created his famed La Méduse brooch for Bunny Mellon after she was stung by a jellyfish while swimming in Antiqua.
That brooch and the menagerie of sea creatures that accompanied it inspired this year’s Tiffany’s Blue Book collection, “Out of the Blue,” designed by Nathalie Verdeille, the jeweler’s chief artistic officer. But the Blue Box retailer is hardly the only high-end jeweler beguiled by the life aquatic. Below, we’ve gathered some of our favorite sea-inspired fine jewels. Time to dive in!
Tiffany & Co.
The New York jeweler’s Blue Book 2023 collection is a love letter to the sea and the creatures that call it home. Take the oversized Pisces brooch. Laden with a suite of oval unenhanced padparadscha sapphires totaling more than 12 carats and round brilliant diamonds totaling nearly 30 carats, the fish appears to be mid-swim thanks to the gentle curve of its body and tail. Meanwhile, the Starfish necklace is an orgy of gemstones crafted in 18k gold, including more than 42 carats of black opals as well as aquamarines, tourmalines, beryls, and diamonds.
Last but not least, Nathalie Verdeille’s Jellyfish earrings, are an ode to Schlumberger set in 18k gold and dripping in sapphires, tanzanite, moonstones, and diamonds. The late designer would, no doubt, approve. Prices on request; tiffany.com
Los Angeles-based Villegas has never met a critter she didn’t like—or so it would seem based on her charming collection of bejeweled insects, lizards, and all manner of winged and webbed creatures. In this 18k gold Mi Ojo Crab ring, the designer combines tourmalines and sapphires in burgundy shades with pink sapphires to depict a red-bodied crab hoisting a 3-carat tricolor tourmaline. Catch it if you can! $13,000; brokenenglish.com
For her new Make a Wish collection, the Italian designer imagined a series of unexpected meetings between creatures. “A leopard makes a wish to meet new friends and accompanies a seahorse to a party on the beach,” says Villa. “A zebra is celebrating its birthday and a little crab and cockatoo appear to help mark the occasion.” Featuring hand-painted rock crystal intaglios made by two female master jewelers in Germany, the collection is heavy on earrings, including these gem-set pairs, dubbed “Hello My Little Crab” and “Beach Time.” Crab earrings, $8,450 and seahorse earrings, $10,560; francescavilla.it
The L.A.-based designer’s brand is anchored in maritime themes, from her Nautical and Mariner collections of link jewels to a series of one-of-a-kind shells that Blake has strung on silk cords and accented with diamonds — as in this 18k yellow gold, diamond, and natural shell charm on a silk cord with snake clasp. Charm, $4,800 and silk cord with snake clasp, $2,300; jennablake.com
More than 70 carats of diamonds are threaded throughout this dramatic 18k white gold and orange titanium cuff bracelet from Lugano Diamonds, a chain of high-end jewelry salons headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif. Featuring a diamond-encrusted seahorse that looks as if it’s embedded in a thicket of coral, the piece is resort wear at its most deluxe. Price on request; luganodiamonds.com
Wear a pair of stylized sea anemones on your ears with these 20k rose gold earrings from Austin, Texas-based Armstrong. Loaded with 9.67 carats of emeralds in a range of cuts, the earrings also feature dashes of multicolor Ethiopian opals as well as a sprinkling of diamonds. $42,000; nakarmstrong.com
At the height of this heritage brand’s mid-century heyday, a client brought Schepps, then known as “America’s court jeweler,” a necklace of turbo shells from the Indian Ocean, and asked the designer to set them into earrings. The resulting design, featuring cabochon turquoise and coral set on the points and mounted with gold wire, became a signature for the brand, which continues the aquatic jewelry tradition with these charming 18k gold koi fish jewels studded with coral, turquoise, pearls and diamonds. Koi fish brooch, $19,450 and koi fish earrings, $11,950; seamanschepps.com
When the Istanbul-based Bıçakçı was first starting out, he gained a reputation as the problem-solver of the Grand Bazaar. His technical mastery is on full display in this elaborate 24k yellow gold, sterling silver, and moonstone ring featuring a pair of clownfish created using a micromosaic technique. On the band, 2.38 carats of diamonds lend the piece its unmistakable glam factor. $16,850; brokenenglish.com
She sells seashells. From her base in São Paulo, Furmanovich has lavished her attention to detail and expertise in artisanal craftsmanship on a collection of natural shells paired with 18k gold, diamonds, and gemstones. For the earrings featured here, the designer collaborated with Native American artists who work with shell and stone inlay, while the shell in the necklace came from a Brazilian dealer who specializes in sourcing impressive shells from around the world. Necklace, $14,740; brokenenglish.com