Color Design Trends: Hot (and Cool) Picks for 2011

Helen Driggs is the managing editor of
Lapidary Journal

Jewelry Artist

Pantone’s regatta and blue curacao would be in this color family. Aqua and turquoise are generally good colors for any skintone. This group of gems includes amazonite, tourmaline, topaz, gaspeite, labradorite, and chrysocolla.

My dear friend from Ecuador once called a neighbor's paint color choice "scandalous." At first, I giggled at him, thinking the word he chose was a charming, lost-in-translation sort of thing from Spanish to English.

But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Scandalous is such a visceral word. It implies a feeling of outrage, or upset, something so out of the norm and unacceptable that it offends the senses. Perhaps it is the perfect way to describe a color that does not please you.

What Is Color?
Color is reflected light. We perceive as a feeling what is essentially a chemical reaction between the eye and the brain. That feeling or sensation is what we learn to name a particular hue by experiencing it again and again as we age. Every person likes something different because of their brain chemistry. It is deeply personal and highly subjective. A fun experiment to play this out is to give an assortment of paints to a group of people and tell them to make the color of spring grass, an eggplant, a blue sky, red roses, or sweet peaches. No two people will mix the same swatches.

Pantone’s honeysuckle would be in the red family. It's a captivating color that always pulls forward and attracts the eye, almost to the exclusion of other colors. This group includes jasper, obsidian, rhodochrosite, and agate.

Color Theory for Jewelry Designers
There are "rules" of color and color theory. Through the judicious use of color, artists and designers can create harmony, calm, energy, excitement, or any other feeling. If you learn color well, you'll be able to predict how—for the most part—people might feel when they see your work.  

One of the rules of color is that certain hues seem to become popular with large numbers of people seemingly all at once. It happened with orange recently, and suddenly there were delicious skirts, towels, dishes, and fabrics everywhere in lovely shades of tangerine, saffron, mango, persimmon, and turmeric. I saw Padparadscha sapphires, carnelian, coral, and red agate, in fine jewelry, too. So, what colors did you see in your mind as you read those names?


Pantone's beswax and russet are in the yellow family. In gems, this includes amber, tiger's-eye, aragonite, rutilated quartz, calcite, and yellow sapphire.

Pantone 2011 Color Trends
Pantone, a famous name to printers, artists, and designers, is a company that creates standard color formulas for ink, paint, dye, etc., because color is such a subjective thing. That way, when you tell the printer you want blue, you pick a specific swatch that corresponds with a formula to mix the ink.

Outside of the world of printing, Pantone releases a semiannual color chart predicting which hues will be popular in women's fashion. This is important to jewelers and jewelry makers because we'd like to create harmonious pieces to go with what women will be wearing, right?  

Here is Pantone's Spring 2011 color-trend chart: 


Red-orange is an aggressive color that pops against metals such as bronze, gold, or oxidized silver. Coral rose, russet, and silver peony fall in this range. Gems in this group include coral, mookaite, fire opal.


2011 Color Trends in Gemstones
What gems would you choose for these colors? For me, it would be rhodochrosite for honeysuckle, Padparadscha sapphire for coral rose, chrysoprase for the peapod, amber for the beeswax, morganite for the silver peony, smoky quartz, epidote or jasper for the russet, apatite for regatta, turquoise for blue curacao, tanzanite for lavender, and gray Tahitian pearls for silver cloud.

Fortunately my personal gemstone stash already has many stones in this color range. If I were creating a line of fashion jewelry, I'd take this color chart with me to Tucson while I shopped for gemstones or beads. Because I wouldn't want to make any scandalous color decisions, now would I?

Visit the Pantone website if you want to learn more about color. If you want to learn more about color and gemstones, check out the Colored Stone 2009-2010 CD collection, featuring the seven great gem-filled issues of Colored Stone magazine from 2009 and 2010, all on one convenient CD.

Have fun choosing your favorite colors, and I'll see you next time!

Post a Comment