Over the last year, many women have been juggling the demands of work with home-schooling and housekeeping in the midst of a pandemic. The title Wonder Woman has never been so apt. So, it makes sense that we should be drawn to accessories worthy of a superheroine: in particular, bold and beautiful statement cuffs.
Like any timeless piece of jewellery, cuff bracelets have a history that stretches back thousands of years. They were worn by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, as well as in Mayan civilisations, where they were believed to confer social status. It’s easy to see how their armour-like associations derive from Greek and Roman soldiers who wrapped their wrists in leather and metal, yet they have been a decorative form of adornment across civilisations for centuries.
Modern-day cuffs are proof that natural diamonds aren’t just a symbol of love: they can also be a symbol of strength, power and style. From Gabrielle Chanel in her Verdura Maltese Cross Cuffs to Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy in textured gold by Van Cleef & Arpels, and Elsa Peretti’s iconic Bone Cuff for Tiffany & Co, history’s most stylish women have recognised the power of a striking statement cuff or, even better, two.
The act of putting on a cuff immediately confers an air of toughness and confidence that is very different to the effect of a delicate diamond bracelet or stack of bangles. And yet, by their very nature, statement cuffs emphasise the slender fragility of a woman’s wrists, with the suggestion of shackles and all that represents. It’s this dichotomy that continues to entrance jewellery designers and connoisseurs alike.
“I’ve always loved working with cuffs as they are the embodiment of the statement power jewel, whilst also being very chic. Our clients tend to wear them as a pair with a tuxedo or long-sleeved evening dress, or single cuffs can be worn alone for a more casual look,” says Glenn Spiro, whose Rainbow cuff features an incredible array of multi-coloured, pear-shaped diamonds alongside 5,630 brilliant-cut white diamonds.
Statement cuffs offer ample opportunity for diamond jewellery designers to express their creativity. They can be feminine and opulent, like Tallin Jewels’ supple mesh of natural diamonds, adorned with three-dimensional flowers formed of rose-cut diamond petals.
Dior also takes inspiration from the natural world in its new RoseDior cuff, which sees overlapping diamond petals clasped between a stem of textured rose gold.
Geneva-based high jewellery house Boghossian calls on cutting-edge Swiss craftsmanship to create a fluid, bejewelled fabric that wraps the wrist with the scintillating brilliance of brilliant-cut and rose-cut natural diamonds. Embellished with natural pink, yellow, green, blue and orange diamonds, it calls to mind the house’s record-breaking coloured diamond Manuscript Bracelet, which sold for $4.5 million at an auction in 2018.
Sajjante uses the ancient Florentine technique of ‘Nido di Vespa’ to craft a fine honeycomb mesh from a single sheet of metal. Set with diamonds and a vibrant emerald, it undulates like waves in a one-of-a-kind cuff that fuses age-old craftsmanship with contemporary design.
In contrast to these elaborate and ornate designs are more sculptural, graphic styles that tap into the tough, warrior-like connotations of the cuff bracelet. Varuna D Jani’s avant-garde cuff looks as though strands of pave-set yellow gold have been hastily wrapped around the wrist, and sprinkled haphazardly with diamond cubes.
Narayan Jewellers by Ketan and Jatin Chokshi uses concentric circles of baguette-cut diamonds to create a hypnotising centre to its graphic, asymmetric diamond design. “A diamond cuff is timeless and classic: a staple for every female. Our clients love the finesse and elegance of cuffs which never go out of style, and can embellish any outfit,” says Ketan Chokshi, co-owner of Narayan Jewellers in Vadodara. “They love to style their bold statement cuffs with gowns or saris for cocktail evenings, or a dainty chain diamond cuff with a dress or light lehenga for a relaxed brunch. Imagine a huge solitaire cuff with a white shirt and denim: it elevates the entire look.”
Italian jewellery designer Fabio Salini’s hinged Buckle cuff comprises pavé diamonds and blue sapphires, set with a portrait-cut tanzanite: it looks and feels as solid and indestructible as a natural diamond itself. “My passion for cuffs illustrates my desire to highlight the social and cultural power of women today,” he says. “I have long been influenced by African tribal jewellery and through my cuffs I hope to convey similar messages of strength and power to the wearer in a contemporary and conceptual way.”
Elsewhere, designers cleverly combine the two styles. The Phenomena Glacier cuff by De Beers sees seven lines of natural diamonds totalling 28.66 carats set in a rhythmic, repetitive pattern that’s aesthetically striking, yet feels soft and fluid thanks to the expertly articulated links between each component.
Mumbai-based family-run house A.S. Motiwala Fine Jewellery painstakingly selects brilliant-cut natural diamonds of varying sizes to form a precisely graduating pavé that builds towards the crest of its rose-gold bangle, combining a solid construction with a light and elegant aesthetic.
Finally, Harakh’s Cascade cuff combines a sculptural, pavé-diamond silhouette with cascading curves of rose-cut natural diamonds. Designed to hug the wrist and extend over the back of the hand, its juxtaposition of strength and fragility perfectly encompasses the enduring appeal of cuff bracelets themselves.
As women across the globe once again embrace bold, powerful jewellery that’s designed to be noticed from across the room, the trend for statement cuffs is only set to grow. Because in turbulent times we all derive strength from our personal armour – especially if it happens to be covered in diamonds.