Beaded jewelry has been a perennial favorite since antiquity: Think talismans, boho-hippie looks, even the candy-colored wooden pieces that children string together.
But recently established houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels to independent studios like Patcharavipa have been tapping into the look, elevating the style in expertly crafted gold pieces.
This summer, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced new pieces to Perlée, its gold bead collection (from $2,480) first introduced in 2008, which features rows of gold beads individually handworked to create their uniform round shape and high polish.
Beads have a long history at the jewelry house, first appearing in the 1920s as subtle highlights, like as a border around a gemstone. By the 1950s they had taken a prominent role in its designs, including, in 1951, the Bagatelle bracelet of rubies, sapphires and diamonds set within myriad gold beads.
For 2022, the house injected a Swinging Sixties vibe into Perlée rings, with vibrant coral, turquoise and malachite panels framed by double rows of tiny gold beads and highlighted with diamonds.
The Sixties look was continued with Perlée sautoir pendant necklaces of colored stones encircled by gold beads, which match what the brand called its couleurs bracelets, a kind of open cuff design. They were crafted of fully articulated gold beads and topped with a cluster of diamonds at one end of the bracelet and either coral or lapis lazuli cabochons at the other. There also were matching dome stud earrings with a total of 74 round diamonds ringed in gold beads.
The demand for strands of gold beads has been linked to the recent fashion for chain jewelry, said the London-based designer Jessica McCormack, whose best-selling Ball n Chain collection (from $23,810) exemplified the high-end element of the trend.
Eighteen-karat gold balls were strung together with blackened platinum links, a mix that made the resulting pieces not only “reassuringly heavy,” said Ms. McCormack, but “the links separate all the balls so they’re not all smudged together. They move — backwards and forwards, and side to side — almost like a snake.”
Ms. McCormack said that the necklaces look both masculine and feminine, and some clients use them to hang everything from a five-carat diamond to a smiley face pendant. And, unlike a typical chain necklace, the gold-bead style “feels more important and thought through,” she said.
The vintage feel of gold ball jewelry has been embodied in Essaouira, a Moroccan-themed collection by the Parisian jeweler Goossens that reimagined traditional Berber gems.
Rows of gold-plated brass beads accented the collection’s broad cuffs and rings, while five rows of beads or beads clustered into diamond-shaped motifs accented the interlocked stone-set panels of a statement-making necklace ($1,275).
African art — as well as her grandfather’s Thai ceramic bead collection — inspired the Bangkok-based jeweler Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura, who playfully used gold beads for irreverent designs like a vintage Rolex Orchid watch mounted as a ring (price on application). And for her pair of Escargot hoop earrings ($5,840), the beads have a funky scalloped shape.
Gold beads also have been used recently by a Scandinavian brand best known for its silver work.
In 1918, the Danish designer Georg Jensen created an Art Nouveau pedestal bowl accented with clusters of grapes that, in 2013, inspired his brand’s signature Moonlight Grapes collection (the name refers to how its hammered silver finish “shines as moonlight in a Danish summer,” said Ragnar Hjartarson, the brand’s creative director).
In recent years, Mr. Hjartarson has moved the collection in a more abstract direction, introducing gold balls in 2020.
“The beads represent movement — they represent nature and freedom,” he said, adding that the sentiment somewhat echoes history too, as the original grape bowl was created after an intense period of industrialization.
“It was a time when people wanted more beauty and ornamentation,” he said. “I think the same is happening a little bit now — that people want more beauty and freedom coming out of Covid.”
This fall, the designer embedded diamonds in the gold beads — in the past they just were tucked alongside — with the latest introductions including a single long ear cuff ($1,325) and a pendant necklace (also $1,325).
The idea is to play with how the pieces are worn on the body, while adding something unexpected, Mr. Hjartarson said. “We’re not a diamond brand — we more sculpt jewelry — and here we use diamonds to add accents,” he said. “It’s a sort of splash. It’s like we’re painting the gold beads, adding a little accent and surprise.”