At the beginning of the year, plastic fantastic jewellery was all the rage. Ring designers such as celeb-favourites La Manso, Blobb and Bea Bongiasca dominated our Instagram feeds with their fun, upcycled trinkets, resin finger bling and irreverent designs — a trend which gave way to summer camp jewellery mania and saw us all regressing to our teenage selves.
In the middle of the pandemic, we romanticised our past and lived vicariously through statement pieces rather than, well, living our actual lives… in lockdown. And while playful teeny-bopper jewellery is still firmly on our radar, the trend has evolved and washed up on the beach. See: seashell earrings, colourful beads, freshwater pearls and jellyfish anklets.
Designed by sustainably-minded independent designers, the trend is bringing us right back to the early ’00s holidaying with mum and dad and returning to school with a single braid, sunburn and a fake tattoo. Yeah, the Great British weather might have pulled a fast one on us this year, but there’s no reason why we can’t channel the spirit of beach-going, sunbathing and seaside frollocking through the accessories we wear instead.
Take a deep dive and sea for yourself: here’s our selection of the top DIY designers bringing Costa Del Jewel to our rain-sodden doorstep.
New York City-based Anna Santangelo crafts all her pieces by hand using pearls, shells, glass beads, precious metals and stones. Self-described as a brand born out of summer, it evokes “the smell of wild hair, late nights and warm skin” and takes inspiration from hedonism, club culture, surf movies and Santangelo’s childhood spent between Sydney and California. We’re sold.
This Spanish label, founded by sisters Lucía and Helena Cuesta in 2014, takes the concept of beach-themed jewellery literally, by experimenting with fish-shaped earrings, lobster pendants and necklaces dripping in real-life seashells.
When Layla Alter launched Alterita in 2018, it was a means for her to channel memories of summers spent on Fire Island, a beach town off the coast of New York, with her family. Intricately beaded, Alter’s chokers, dainty belly chains and ocean-inspired charms are full of life.
Originally trained in studio art and photography, Brooklyn-based Nell launched her custom jewellery label last October. While it’s pissing it down outside (in August), manifest a long, hot summer while wearing a pair of her seahorse dangly earrings, hand-drawn sea creatures cast in resin or jellyfish charm necklace.
If you didn’t know you needed a pair of mermaid’s toenail earrings in your life, you do now. Launched in 2015 and helmed by Kat Stankewicz, Soft Blonde has been operating out of Baltimore, Maryland. Since then, Stankewicz has developed a design signature of pierced seashell earrings – with custom keychains to match.
The perfect accessories for a seaside soak, Janky Jewels was founded in 2018 by native New Yorker Carol Li. Inspired by trips to the dollar store and her father’s own work as a jeweller, Li’s kitschy designs and use of freshwater pearls are heavenly.
Nixie’s founder, Londoner Poppy Malby, makes her vibrant necklaces and bracelets from seashells she gathers from beaches in Norfolk, the Isle of Wight, Whitstable and other beaches around the UK. All materials are sustainably sourced and a £1 from each necklace sold is donated to Surfers Against Sewage.