Although it’s typical for gold jewelry to reign supreme, 2022 continues to eschew the status quo. Following the DIY-inspired beaded jewelry fad (that’s still going strong) and hot off the heels of Y2K’s cybercore trend, the rise of artsy, futuristic jewelry has arrived in masses. Silver, spiky, handmade baubles are adorning our social feeds more and more, while the avant-garde-meets-vintage jewelry trend grows fonder among celebs by the day, with sightings on Kylie Jenner, Olivia Rodrigo, Emma Chamberlain, Billie Eilish, Kali Uchis, and even Beyoncé. Described as edgy, punk, witchy, gritty, and sci-fi-esque, cybercore fans and creators alike are adding these one-of-a-kind creations to their jewelry collections.
At the root of this experimental trend are a handful of independent female jewelry designers learning how to silversmith alone in their bedrooms, most of which began out of much-needed escapism during lockdown. Alas, many of the pandemic’s passion projects have come to fruition, and with a heightened emphasis on sustainability and prioritizing shopping small, this new wave of gothic-meets-ethereal adornments is here to stay. Meet the 10 designers building their own suits of protective silver armor with their handmade jewelry, ahead.
Hailing from Ohio, Los Angeles-based designer Jing Feng began her brand by chance during quarantine over the summer and launching an Instagram profile — and an impulsive name idea — in October. “I’ve always been enamored with the word ‘harlot’ and how it can be reinterpreted to feel empowered by things that traditionally enforce demeaning or negative connotations,” Feng tells NYLON.
Harlot Hands’ ethos is about strength, femininity, extravagance, and Feng’s preoccupation with renaissance and medieval time periods. “I’m very drawn to this idea of the warrior, so I’m very interested in artillery and weaponry. A lot of my items are very sharp and potentially dangerous,” says the designer about her jewelry’s practicality. “Sometimes I use my rings to open boxes and mail; it’s kind of this human-becoming-cyborg type thing when you put it on.” For Feng, jewelry is a medium for transcending reality. “During the time of quarantine, a lot of people felt attracted to themes of whimsicalness, fantasy, and magic, because our attitude towards reality was skewed by how tumultuous the time was.”
Feng works with a local L.A. foundry to create Harlot Hands’ spiky jewelry, making sure to focus on ethical and responsible production. A made-to-order process reduces waste, while vintage or Swarovski lab-grown gems found on eBay and Etsy are used to accent each piece. “It only makes them more special,” adds Feng. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
New York native Jaclyn Fleurant transplanted to L.A. in 2016 to pursue a wardrobe styling career, which serendipitously led to the birth of her brand Letra. “I work with a lot of musicians and over time, I started doing custom jewelry for my clients,” says Fleurant. Within the brand’s meteoric rise since the end of 2020, Letra has accumulated an impressive clientele, including Kylie Jenner, Kali Uchis, and Beyoncé. The latter was a full-circle moment, as she once worked a stylist assignment on one of the pop icon’s previous tours.
Beloved for her one-of-one crosses and molten relics, Fleurant sources her upcycled pieces from vintage jewelry. “I can go out and make so many different crosses, but there are some beautiful pieces already out there; you just have to have an eye for it,” says the designer on her ethical sourcing, which she then produces into small batches of jewelry in New York.
Fleurant praises her customers for steering away from mass-produced trends. “People are so burnt-out from fast fashion. Now they’re looking for individuality and uniqueness, one-of-one pieces,” says the 29-year-old. “There’s a huge wave right now where people are appreciating [made-to-order] jewelry, which is great because there’s not an impatience with customers. They’re willing to wait for it.”
Elza White created her eponymous London-based label while struggling with a health condition. “I had some health problems with my eyes last summer, and that triggered some underlying sensory problems I had to intensify,” says the 25-year-old. She began making very small sculptures to make sense of what she was feeling and as something therapeutic to do with her hands. “I never intended to make jewelry,” adds White, having taught herself silversmithing from YouTube and books.
White translates her interpretation of sensory information, such as sound, light, and texture, through her designs and expresses the importance of her family history on her namesake label. “I come from ten generations of fisherman from the North Coast of Scotland, so I started with a lot of references to seaweed and starfish,” she notes, which can be seen in the slippery textures and fluid-like movement of her repurposed pieces made from recycled metals and pre-mined or lab-grown gemstones.
In the nine months that White has been melting metal, she’s found a community with fellow creators and enjoys collaborating. “The jewelry industry can be quite isolating at times, so it’s nice working with other artists,” she says, as she recently collaborated with Swedish designer Matilda Sundkler on a corset that was later worn by Olivia Rodrigo. For now, White only makes commissioned pieces to avoid excess. “My customer would be anyone who wants to wear something special and unique to them.”
Tears And Dears
Turkish artist Gözde Başak Deniz toes the line between pain and beauty with her gothic-glam jewelry brand Tears and Dears. “‘Dears’ is for the beauty and sweet side, and ‘Tears’ for the edgy and rebellious side,” says the 26-year-old — that and “fun fact, my middle name, Başak, means ‘spike’ in English.”
Based in Istanbul, Deniz began making jewelry in January of 2021 as an outlet for self-expression. “I was depressed until I discovered shiny beads and metals. Their beauty inspired me to work and seek more. I’m now happiest when I’m designing.” Every Monday, Tears and Dears’ Etsy page is avidly refreshed by its adoring fans awaiting the week’s drop, which can have anything from its signature Spiked Hearts to colorful Blaire rings. “My designs are mostly based on emotions, and I would describe them as painfully beautiful,” describes Deniz, who characterizes her work as “brutalist, alternative, and abstract.”
Deniz was quickly met with an outpour of support for her unique industrial-meets-organic aesthetic that continues to expand by the day. “Because it is one-of-a-kind and adjustable to the individual’s preferences, the design has no limits. People enjoy being unique and special,” says Deniz, who appreciates her admirers more than they know. “When I’m feeling depressed and unsure about whether people will like new items, I get a DM or a comment from someone who adores my work and encourages me to keep doing it; it inspires me to create new and more things.”
Moira X Mel
Designer Melike Tangerli launched her brand Moira x Mel in February of 2021 with beaded jewelry but felt the medium was limited, so she began to experiment with metal-making. “[My] metal is the cyborg-futuristic part of fashion,” says the architecture and design student, but when it comes to her signature thorned Rooted Heart pendants, she draws inspiration from Harajuku style. “There’s a romantic side of it; it’s vintage at the same time it’s futuristic.”
Tangerli uses the lost wax method to avoid waste and sources recycled silver from a local vintage boutique. “Sustainability is the first reason I gave up on beaded jewelry. Of course, people can make beaded jewelry in an ethical way, but I prefer recycled silver for that,” she notes. “It’s all made to order to keep it sustainable.”
Named after the designer’s online alter ego, Moira, Tangerli creates made-to-order jewelry modestly in her bedroom with carving and dentistry tools but plans to move later this year to Japan, where she hopes to expand her repertoire. “I’m sure the techniques are going to change in Japan because Japanese designers are so talented and they have unique jewelry. When you see any fashion brand, you can understand they’re Japanese because they have a different understanding in this department, so it’ll be good to combine my vision with theirs,” reflects Tangerli.
Moira x Mel has already been seen on a slew of celebs and “It” girls, like Rodrigo and creator Lexie Jay, and, possibly, Bella Hadid. “Bella texted me saying she’d love to buy [my pieces],” says the designer, sharing that she sent the model some necklaces and can’t wait to see her wear them. “It was a great moment to know that she likes my pieces.”
Roughly six months ago, Amy Overby turned the loss of her favorite ring into a business. “I’d worn it every day for years. I was so sad that I immediately tried to find another one and couldn’t find anything even close to it. So I thought, ‘I’m going to learn how to make metal jewelry,’” recalls the 26-year-old.
After a month of teaching herself silversmith techniques off of YouTube at home, Overby found her niche. “At first, it took me a minute to find my people that view it as an art, but once the right people found it, it’s been really great.” Now, she’s noticing cybercore-style jewelry growing in popularity across social media. “It’s in its infancy right now, but it’s going to keep taking off and become a more recognizable jewelry style,” she predicts.
As the third child in her family, the brand’s name Third Born felt organic, and so does Overby’s aesthetic. Quickly, her whimsical silver jewelry earned famous admirers, like Rico Nasty and Grimes. “I feel like my customers are unique people buying unique pieces,” says Overby. “They aren’t shopping for micro trends.” The designer attributes this reasoning to Third Born’s immediate success. “People don’t want to support these horrible big corporations. They would much rather give their money to a small artist and get a one-of-a-kind piece.”
Metal-making isn’t Overby’s first go as an artist, but thus far, it’s been her favorite. “I’ve done so many different mediums of art throughout my entire life, and with most things, I’ve just been OK at it, but I feel like this is the first thing that I have something good going and I’m super confident in it,” notes Overby. She makes sure to source her crystals from Etsy or small businesses on TikTok that can guarantee they are ethically mined and uses completely recyclable packaging when sending off her designs. “My goal is to make pieces that people can keep forever so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill.”
Based in Sydney, Australia, designer Nadia Ridiandries began making beaded jewelry with her sister at a young age, but upon studying fashion and textiles in college, the 26-year-old started sculpting wearable jewelry. “From this, I was keen to expand my jewelry techniques, so I took a beginner’s silversmithing course after I completed my degree,” says Ridiandries. Today, the artist is revered online for her naturalist shapes, delicate beading, and precious gemstones encapsulated in sterling silver.
As she’s a full-time men’s undergarments designer, jewelry-making is a side job for Ridiandries, who is motivated by the support of her customers to keep creating. “I purely design pieces what I would wear,” she says. “Although, now that my followers on Instagram are growing, I like to listen to them to create special one-of-a-kind pieces for my customers.”
Working alone in her bedroom allows Ridiandries to keep her business as eco-conscious as possible by recycling metal and only producing small quantities. “I am mostly working on a made-to-order basis, which allows me to make exactly what customers want and not have a jewelry piece go to waste,” she adds.
After an unfulfilling advertising career, Megan Baker moved from Melbourne to Sydney with hopes of a fresh start. Following in her mom’s footsteps, she took a jewelry course, and her brand fell into place thereafter. Fast-forward three years and MGN is stocked on SSENSE, has been worn by Dua Lipa, and has earned a slew of editorial recognition.
MGN — inspired by the designer’s MSN screen name as a teen — began experimentally in 2018 and has organically matured with Baker, who now creates fine jewelry and even engagement rings. “I’d say my designs have been kind of naive [and] girly [with] symbolism of butterflies, hearts, and flowers,” she says. “But it’s becoming more refined and mature. I’m trying hard to make my pieces more timeless so that people can wear them forever.”
One scroll through the MGN’s Instagram feed shows the Baker’s meticulous yet free-flowing approach to jewelry design that sets her brand apart from the rest. “It feels like everyone is screaming for attention online, and it’s easy to compete for a piece of that attention, but I’m craving something more contemplative moving forward,” she says.
“I’m tired of Instagram’s culture of aestheticizing everything so quickly and speeding up the trend cycle. It’s more sustainable to buy things that speak to you in a way that’s timeless,” notes Baker, who only uses recycled sterling silver, lab-created stones or ethically-mined stones, and “keepsake packaging” to store MGN pieces when they’re not being worn.
“The motto of Bold Studio is ‘jewelry for people who don’t wear jewelry,’” says its founder Marketa Kratochvilova, who boasts a background in graphic design and has been creating edgy body embellishments since 2017.
With a studio in the countryside outside of Prague, the jewelry maker attributes the nostalgia of her hometown as an influence on her work. “As I’m getting older I’m very inspired by childhood memories,” says Kratochvilova. “I strive to bring those emotional and formative moments back through my work.” She calls her aesthetic a “smart fairy tale” and seeks to connect with people through their inner child.
The artist also uses recycled silver to create one-of-one jewels. “It’s necessary to use ethically sourced materials only and be deeply kind to the environment. I am human first,” says Kratochvilova, while also expressing gratitude to her eco-conscious shoppers. “It really gives me hope for a better future that ethical, unique work is resonating at the moment. Unique ideas are the most valuable things an artist can give, and precious metals are something you will never throw away.”
One of Bold Studio’s viral bestsellers is the five-piece Elfo set of face cuffs. “It’s smart, functional, unique, and magical; it has that future attitude,” says Kratochvilova, who has earned the attention of such artists as Justine Skye and Grimes. “I design for life and all of its pages. It’s a circle of love, I love to create and people love my creations. I give and I get back.”
Miss My Metal
Shayla created her brand Miss My Metal after moving across the country from L.A. to Florida during the pandemic in June 2020. “I started making shrinky-dink charms hunched over on my floor,” says the 20-year-old. Just eight months into living in L.A., Shayla gradually worked up to using metals upon seeing the work of her friend, Feng of Harlot Hands, whom she thinks is one of the original leaders of the spiky silver trend. “She introduced a big part of the style to the community when she started making rings, and I think it will continue to be in style because it is so versatile and unique.”
While technique and medium appear the same, Shayla’s pieces are completely personal to Miss My Metal. “My designs are playful, yet dark, inspired by a distressed grunge look with girly elements and desaturated color. I love cyber tribal tattoos and recognizable characters,” she notes, referencing her Tramp Stamp Waist Chains and Skull & Bone pendants. Early ’90s robotic futurism is also an inspiration, which can be seen in the brand’s pierced elf ears.