Beyond the Cord: Leather Jewelry Trending in Handmade Jewelry

When most people think of high-end art jewelry, they think of stones and metal. You know, the hard stuff. But more and more jewelry artists are getting in touch with their softer sides, adding materials like fabric to their designs. And the trendiest jewelry “softwear” today is leather.

In the past, leather was used primarily in place of chains for necklaces. A lovely leather cord can make a delightful finding on which to hang a pendant. But now, more designers are using leather as in integral part of the jewelry designs themselves.

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, leather jewelry trends.

Oh, you can still hang a pendant from a leather cord. But using leather AND chain together — possibly nicely entwined — as a pendant’s backdrop gives the piece an entirely new feel and look.

Leather Jewelry Using Tried and True Faves

The hottest trend in leather jewelry is making the leather the main focus and centerpiece rather than just an accent or a cool finding. Leather cuffs, pendants, neckpieces, and even earrings and rings are some of the most sought-after pieces on the market today. Many designers are supplementing or replacing traditional metals with leather, giving their jewelry a new and unique look. Adding stones to the mix can provide a “hard-and-soft” feel to the pieces. Think of a wide leather cuff studded with diamonds and embellished with gold chains. A great combination of elegance and toughness!

Jewelry artist Catherine Zadeh of New York (who uses lots of leather in her work) says, “Leather is to be used as a new medium in your material palette. For example, leather and diamonds used in tandem exude a confident approach to designing jewelry. It will be more wearable and will take away the intimidating feeling of wearing a diamond on a chain.”

Artist Vincent Peach of Nashville adds, “Don’t limit the types of elements you incorporate with leather. My palette runs the gamut from pearls, diamond pavé, and other gems like turquoise, coral, and tiger’s-eye to chain, coins, sea glass, and wood.”

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, leather jewelry trends. Vincent Peach: Boho Tassel Bracelet Freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls, premium leather

Boho Tassel Bracelet,
Freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls, premium leather by Vincent Peach
PHOTO: COURTESY VINCENT PEACH

Stretch the Boundaries

Don’t forget that leather doesn’t only come in black — although that’s the first color most people think of when they think of leather. Browns, tans, whites, and yellows are all naturally occurring leather colors. And leather can also be dyed whatever color you’d like.

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, leather jewelry trends. Sanna Svedestedt Carboo Building Blocks Neckpiece Naturally tanned reindeer leather, magnets, lacquer

Building Blocks Neckpiece:
Naturally tanned reindeer leather, magnets, lacquer by Sanna Svedestedt Carboo

If being “green” is important to you (and it is to me), don’t fret. These days, there are many “non-traditional” ways of curing and dying leather. According to Peach, “It’s very important to me to work with the highest quality leather, which I get from Wickett & Craig. They are a premiere vegetable tannery in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. Veg-tanning is a natural, eco-friendly, labor intense process that produces durable, beautiful leathers known for their deep colors and rich patinas. The company is recognized for making leathers ‘that work for you,’ offering different options of weights and customization.”

Learn more about what these and other jewelry artists are doing with leather, check out the March issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. In her Trends column, “Wrapped in Leather,” jewelry style expert Deborah Yonick discusses leather jewelry. She also shows you some spectacular new designs. Hopefully, they’ll give you some ideas and inspiration for your own “softwear” and leather designs.


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