Soulful Storytellers: Assael Presents Memorable Jewels at Couture 2024

A visit to the Couture show in Las Vegas is always the ideal opportunity to see Assael and its beautiful array of natural conch pearls, precious coral, cultured Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, and Fijian pearls. Last year, I wrote about the brand’s new NatureScapes collection, which blends unusual materials like dendritic agate and petrified wood with rare pearls. At this most recent edition of Couture, Assael wowed once again with new NatureScapes additions, exceedingly large conch pearls, and some sensational coloured gemstones that demonstrate an adeptness at combining hues, textures, saturations, and shapes. But what’s most exciting to me is the intent behind these creations… forget about fading into the background! These are storytelling gems destined to start conversations and transport their wearer to exotic climes and fantastical lands. Here’s all the evidence you need…

Have you ever gone to combine two things together, perhaps a dress and a pair of shoes, and asked yourself, ‘Do these go together?’ Those with an innate sense of style can swiftly combine colours, clash patterns, and build upon textures to create an overall cohesive look. In the world of jewellery art, this ability to mix and match raw materials to create a beautifully synergistic final piece is perhaps not as common as you might think. Everyone knows that sapphires sit neatly alongside sapphires, but who’s as confident combining slices of boulder opal, caramelly brown Fijian pearls, purple tanzanites, and yellow gold? For this level of creative nuance, I always make a beeline for Peggy Grosz, Senior Vice President and Creative Director at Assael, who presents the brand’s latest novelties at Couture Las Vegas each year. 

Assael’s 2024 showing was all about colour and how memorable jewels emerge from playful combinations of undertones, patterns, and inclusions. Many of its pieces stand out because of the way they interact with light, such as the shimmering lustre of pearls, the flaming intensity of conch pearls, the sheen of polished precious coral, and the sparkle of brilliant-cut minerals, often working in tandem in a single creation. “We have been exploring colour in our designs for several years now, celebrating the vast array of colourful undertones in the magnificent and deep Assael pearl inventory,” Grosz says. She continues: “Our latest designs go beyond colour, really capturing the storytelling quality of some of the patterns we find in natural gems. It is exciting, and more importantly, it feels very personal – each customer will react to these one-of-a-kind gems in their own unique way.”

NatureScapes Newness

This storytelling element is especially notable in the brand’s NatureScapes collection, which has been expanded for 2024. The latest pieces look like they’ve been plucked from a fantastical realm or a fantasy television series, especially a pair of earrings with rectangular lengths of sunrise jasper, paired with Sardinian coral rounds and electric lagoon tourmalines (total 1.52 carats), set in 18k yellow gold. Grosz has a knack for reinforcing the colour of her most out-of-the-box material, in this case, sunrise jasper, with complementary coral and faceted gemstones to double down on what most of us already see in our mind’s eye… a volcanic landscape, a rocky coastal beachscape, or an eccentric sea creature. 

Assael earrings with Sardinian coral, 1.52 carats of lagoon tourmaline and two columns of sunrise jasper set in 18k yellow gold

Elsewhere, we find a pair of teardrop-shaped Indonesian Maligano jaspers that evoke traditional Japanese landscape paintings, ‘Golden Oak’ petrified wood that hugs a South Sea pearl like a prehistoric fossil, and ‘Willow Creek’ jasper that is reminiscent of wind blowing across a dusty, barren landscape at sunset. Assael asks us to imagine a “mahogany panelled stateroom aboard a Caribbean cruise” when contemplating its sliced boulder opal earrings, both with ‘portholes’ of inky blue combined with purple tanzanites to reflect the deep brown hues in the opal and a pair of baroque Fijian pearls with similar undertones. The blue portholes show a natural ‘view’ of sky, sea, and even an island floating in the middle. Next, there’s ‘sunset’ or ‘candlelight’ carnelian chalcedony with stripes of desert pink, peach, orange, tan and brown. Two perfectly polished cabochons of rare Angel Skin coral match the beautiful hues in the carnelian chalcedony, and the pair are joined by peach, champagne, and white diamonds, all set in 18k rose gold. 

Finally, there are three more pieces that must receive special mention. The Assael One-of-a-Kind Clam brooch is a unique piece crafted with a very rare natural orange clam pearl sitting in the middle of an oval of dendritic agate that looks like the open mouth of a clam on the sea floor. This scene is ‘framed’ in Sardinian coral, pale yellow single-cut diamonds, and a trio of natural saltwater pearls, all resting atop a slice of golden South Sea mother of pearl. A matching duo – a cocktail ring and a pair of earrings – showcase the wonderful weirdness of shell blisters, which grow along the lining of the mollusc. They look like bubbles forming in the mother-of-pearl ‘skin’ of the oyster, which gives the impression of a pearl attempting to break free! We can see this phenomenon used advantageously by Assael in two new, 1960s-inspired pieces, coupled with 22k gold, diamonds, and Golden South Sea pearls. However, where it really comes to life is in the Eclipse necklace with Fijian shell blisters, natural colour Fijian cultured pearls, and fancy yellow diamonds, all set in 22k gold, which was a definite crowd-pleaser at Couture Las Vegas!

Conch Pearl Masterpieces

Even when you’re surrounded by eye-catching materials, there’s something about the allure of flame-rippled conch pearls that draws you in. At this year’s Couture show, Assael presented three unique pieces with large natural conch pearls, including a ring set with a 16.64-carat example and 2.05 carats of diamonds in platinum – the finest conch pearl specimen Assael has ever offered! A second platinum ring appears like a table of conch pearl shell (8.26 carats) upon which another conch pearl sits wrapped in diamonds. Finally, there’s a pair of earrings that blend 21.08 carats of conch pearl drops with 45.10 carats of fancy-cut aquamarines and 2.89 carats of diamonds. 

And it wouldn’t be Assael without fine examples of coral jewellery, specifically Angel Skin coral and deep red Sardinian coral. An elegant pair of clip earrings with two Angel Skin coral cabochons, surrounded by petals of diamonds totalling 3.38 carats, stood out, as did a pair of brooches from the Sean Gilson for Assael line that appear like coral starfishes radiating tendrils from a central Tahitian pearl or turquoise.

The Colors Collection

Let’s return to the Assael trademark of combining colours and uplifting undertones with the Colors collection, which has also been updated with some new jewels for summer 2024. Let’s start with the biggest surprise of the bunch… a pair of earrings that don’t feature pearls or coral! Unusually for Assael, the brand presented disc-like clips with 33.60 carats of opals and, covering one-half of their surface, fancy yellow diamonds of 2.87 carats, orange sapphires, and Paraiba tourmalines of 2.50 carats, all set in warm 18k yellow gold.

Assael earrings with 33.60 carats of opal, 2.87 carats of fancy yellow diamonds, orange sapphires, and Paraiba tourmalines in 18k yellow gold

More highlights from this collection include a pair of ‘In Reverse’ earrings with 20.78 carats of fantasy-cut Oregon sunstones with extraterrestrial shades of green and golden brown, combined with Tahitian baroque and Keshi pearls in 18k gold. Another example of fantasy-cut gems comes in the form of half-moon-shaped amethysts anchored in 18k rose gold, from which two Tahitian baroque pearl drops descend to create a vision in lilac around the ears. Finally, something that caught my eye for its unusualness is a contemporary ring with a Tahitian pearl and a 6.09-carat blue sapphire cabochon (an unusual cut for a sapphire), neatly set in 18k yellow gold. 

Sean Gilson for Assael

Last but certainly not least, there are new additions to the Sean Gilson for Assael offering, including the iconic Bubble collection. The pièce de resistance is the Spindrift necklace, featuring a sturdy collar of black woven carbon fibre and a spray of South Sea and Akoya pearls with more than 11 carats of diamonds bursting through a loop in this unbroken line of black like a firework. I especially like a pair of Diamond Wrap earrings with concertinaed 18k yellow gold, round diamonds and South Sea pearls, and new iterations on the Bubble ring with grey and peacock Tahitian pearls and baubles of Sardinian coral. 

So, what stories are brought to your mind when looking at these spectacular new creations? With NatureScapes alone, I feel like I have traversed deserts, scrambled around Antelope Canyon, dived to the bottom of the ocean, and stepped into historic Japan through the medium of jewellery. However, what really captures my imagination is the brand’s mastery of undertones and subtle colour manipulation to intensify some shades and diminish others. By playing with the natural lustre of pearls, Assael can create unmatched colour combinations and truly memorable jewels. I am already intrigued to see what may be in store for us in 2025.


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