Nobody saw this surprise jewellery trend coming…
I once dated a guy who wore a shell bracelet he’d picked up on his gap year (obviously) while backpacking around Bali. Its pretentiousness annoyed me almost as much as his ability to solely talk about himself. But, fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m now regretting that I didn’t steal said shell bracelet from his arm: not as a souvenir of our soujorn, but to wear myself.
Why? Because sea shell jewellery is big for summer 2018. Really big. And, while I tried to resist the trend, my jewellery box is now a mismatch of conchs, cockles and cowrie.
The trend was first spotted on the Prada autumn winter 2017, where Ms. Prada layered strings of whelk and tulip shell necklaces over beaded twin-sets and high-necked evening dresses. Then, for spring summer 2018, Rosie Assoulin attached cameo portraits to tiny cockles, creating some seriously unique earrings in the process. Things snowballed from that point onwards: Loewe showed mother-of-pearl shell pendants, Roksanda a single cockle shell hanging on a chain, and Dolce & Gabbana showcased maximalist gold shell earrings.
It comes as little surprise to learn that luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter has seen a huge spike in searches for shell-style jewellery. Indeed, when a series of earrings and necklaces featuring shell and beading details from Isabel Marant launched on the site earlier this year, they sold out within days. (Other bestsellers include a pair of gold-tone brass discs with shell-like ridges from Leigh Miller alongside a pair of hold hoops featuring shell charms from Sarah & Sebastian).
The high street is also awash with plenty of affordable options: everyone from Free People to M&S is stocking the trend. &OtherStories, for example, is selling a Puka shell necklace that looks way more expensive than its retail price of £17 – and Mango’s delicate semi-hoop earrings are going for just £17.99.
Keen to try the trend, but fancy something a little more unique? Then look to WALD Collection, a Berlin-based brand which makes each piece by hand using real natural shells. Their ‘Gin and Juice’ and ‘Drop it like it’s Hot’ necklaces – which feature shells fused with teeny tiny Swarovski stones – have quickly started to crop up on Instagram and on my evergrowing wish list.
Elsewhere, the jewellery designer Brigitta Anderson has begun hand-casting broken shells as part of her ‘Imperfect Collection’, creating delicate earrings, ‘finding beauty in imperfections and making a statement about the unrealistic standards of “perfect” beauty we strive for today.’
At Tohum, meanwhile, founder and designer Verda Alaton is busily gold-plating cowrie shells – which are said to be a symbol of gold luck.
But how should we wear shell jewellery when we couldn’t be further from the seaside? Well, try pairing your chosen piece with jeans and a loosely buttoned white shirt for a relaxed but not backpacker look. Come autumn, get an extra return on your investment by layering them over a knit à la Prada.
Tempted? Then shop our edit below now…
Ophelia shell earrings, £250, Rebecca De Ravenel at Matches Fashion
Baroque pearl shell earrings, £235, Anni Lu
Emerald green merco earring, £83, Aurélie Bidermann
Resin and shell earrings, £250, Loewe at Net-a-Porter
Shell hoop earrings, £17.99, Mango
Waikiki Shell Collar, £24, Free People
Gold tone necklace, £55, Isabel Marant at Net-a-Porter
Main Image: Getty Images