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Our home and native bling: Canadian jewels shine in shop-local movement

Take note, all you local Lorelei Lees. If diamonds – not to mention sapphires and cabochons – are among your best friends, you can now indulge your patriotism as well as your gem lust. Over the past few years, the homegrown fine-jewellery market has vaulted to global standards, attuning those in the know (both here and abroad) to the bling made in our own backyard.

John De Jong, a fine-jewellery designer in Toronto, attributes the growing interest to the Web and social media. They have “changed what the Canadian and global markets are exposed to,” he says. “More product, different product and ultimately more knowledge.” This savvy – including a growing awareness of where materials come from – is key to the appeal of all-Canadian baubles, which, compared to those sourced from other parts of the world, tend to have a uniquely ethical provenance. “There is a growing network of suppliers that we did not have before,” De Jong says. “I now have a better selection of stones and materials that I can purchase locally. This makes designing in Canada more interesting.”

The designer, who launched his line – JDJ Jewellery – at a party hosted by his parents at their cottage on Ontario’s Lake Joseph in 1995, is among the Canadian scene’s stalwarts. Much has changed, he says, since those early days, when clients perusing his catalogue of colourful designs would almost uniformly ask, “Where are the diamonds?”

“There was also a big difference in the scale [between] what someone would wear as ‘daytime’ in Europe – which I was used to – and what was ‘daytime’ in Canada,” adds De Jong, who also has an outpost in Lausanne, Switzerland. “I think the idea [among Canadians] was to save their jewels for going out and wear things sparingly. People [nowadays] don’t seem to be as concerned with that any more – they are mixing jewels for night and day and wearing what makes them happy.” In other words, taste has evolved and a heightened appreciation for quality has developed, requiring a level of skill and responsibility that boutique Canadian lines can offer.

Terry Brenner, a co-founder of !Xam, a Toronto-based brand that launched in 2011, notes that the custom work he offers strikes a chord with the modern jewellery consumer. “They enjoy the custom experience, the ability to be involved in every step of the process if they wish. [And they like the ability] to have projects completed efficiently, because it is local.”

Indeed, customization is prevalent among high-end Canadian jewellery brands. Toronto-based designer Emily Gill credits the fact that “Canadian designers know how to think like they were in someone else’s shoes, allowing them to be super flexible and creative with their designs, from price point to concept,” as a major selling point. Operating in a country without the fabled jewellery-design history of France or Switzerland, moreover, has allowed Canadian designers to think outside the jewellery box, accentuating the custom aspect of their businesses and enticing customers with pieces that are personal and surprising. Gill, for example, incorporates not only unmistakably luxurious materials such as diamonds into her work, but also more unique elements such as enamel. Designer Erin Tracy, meanwhile, has found a receptive audience for her pieces made with concrete.

This heightened desire for jewels with personality – not just a high price tag – is changing the way designers and buyers seek out the best, giving Canada a leg up in the trade. It just may be, in short, the country’s time to shine.

GREAT LENGTHS

Sterling-silver, 14-carat yellow-gold and glass-enamel brooch (in hair), $1,000, 14-carat rose-gold and diamond Cell pendant, $700 through www.emilygill.ca. Swirl multicoloured pastel-sapphire and diamond ear clips, $28,500 at JDJ Jewellery (www.jdj-jewellery.com). Zahira necklace, $1,095, Maria necklace, $495 through www.hillbergandberk.com. Lapis Armour necklace, $280 through www.leahalexandra.com. Sterling-silver and smokey-quartz necklace, $210 through www.erintracy.ca. Freshwater-pearl and black bricolette diamond necklace, $3,750 through www.xamdiamonds.com). Jumpsuit (worn throughout), $1,195 through www.gretaconstantine.com. 18-carat yellow-gold and diamond Geometric earrings, $10,000, 18-carat yellow-gold and diamond Hardware bracelet, $44,000, 18-carat white-gold and diamond Hardware bracelet, $32,000 through www.mindham.com. Nuit En Lumière sterling-silver, rose-gold and pavé pink, yellow and orange sapphire double ring, $2,400 through www.k8jewelry.com. Adore Triangle ring, $790, Stack ring with pink sapphires, $750, Stack ring with citrine, $810, Adore Bezel ring, $790 through www.haathihousejewellery.com. 18-carat yellow-gold and silver bracelet with tourmalines and diamond, $12,000 at Frida.

GOING GREEN

Iman aqua and labradorite earrings, $115 through www.leahalexandra.com. Oval green chrysophase ring, $1,060 at Anne Sportun (www.annesportun.com). 18-carat yellow-gold and silver ring with peridot, pink sapphire and diamonds, $10,000 at Frida (www.frida.ca). Green sapphire and diamond bezel set ring, $8,660 through www.xamdiamonds.com. Chryosphrase cabochon ring, price on request through www.helenebourgetdesigns.com.

SHAPE SHIFTING

Sterling-silver, crystal and raw-diamond earrings, $250 through www.erintracy.ca. Sterling-silver Oval Cell necklace, $885 through www.emilygill.ca. Prism London Blue Topaz necklace, $150, Collins Blue Topaz ring, $115 through www.leahalexandra.com. White-gold and diamond open-work medallion necklace, $7,920, sapphire and diamond bracelet, $27,500 through www.xamdiamonds.com. Solitaire diamond bezel ring, from $1,440 through www.haathihousejewellery.com. Lords and Goddesses of the Rings cabochon gemstone rings, $170 each through www.sonjapicard.com. Raw rosecut-pear ring with diamonds, from $3,500, Little Green Sapphire Halo ring, from $2,200, Green Sapphire Cushion Halo ring, from $3,500 through www.anoukjewelry.com. 14-carat gold ring with blue-pear-shaped tanzanite, $1,620 at Anne Sportun. Milky-blue-sapphire rose-cut Slice ring, $5,900 at JDJ Jewellery (www.jdj-jewellery.com).

RAINBOW HUES

Pear rose-cut ruby earrings, $4,160 at Anne Sportun. 18-carat yellow-gold Genesis necklace, $20,300 through www.mindham.com.

HARD CANDY

18-carat yellow-gold and diamond Geometric earrings, $10,000, 18-carat yellow-gold and diamond Hardware bracelet, $44,000, 18-carat white-gold and diamond Hardware bracelet, $32,000 through www.mindham.com. Nuit En Lumière sterling-silver, rose-gold and pavé pink, yellow and orange sapphire double ring, $2,400 through www.k8jewelry.com. Adore Triangle ring, $790, Stack ring with pink sapphires, $750, Stack ring with citrine, $810, Adore Bezel ring, $790 through www.haathihousejewellery.com. 18-carat yellow-gold and silver bracelet with tourmalines and diamond, $12,000 at Frida.

Photography by Alvaro Goveia. Photo shoot credits: Styling by Odessa Paloma Parker. Hair and makeup by Vanessa Jarman for RIMMEL LONDON /P1M.ca. Manicure by Miyuki Nakatomi TIPS Nail Bar/P1M.ca.

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