This article was originally published on November 20, 2015. Actively seeking out new jewelry brands never seems to make it to the top of our priority lists. Often, we rely on the tried-and-true brands our grandmothers have educated us on, or we resort to buying up trendy pieces filtered down from this season's runway looks. This usually leaves us with pieces too difficult to incorporate into our everyday wardrobe, or increases the chances of our fingers turning a sickly shade of green. But the jewelry world is actually erupting with modern and affordable collections as both young and experienced designers are finding an audience that's much more receptive to their experimental designs. In a day and age where everyone seems to be searching for "alternative engagement rings," the rise of personal, unique jewelry that deviates from gold and diamonds has become clear. So, we've chosen an array of new and under-the-radar brands to direct your attention to. Ahead are snapshots of eight different brands, with a look at each of their backstories and a few key pieces worth falling in love with. It also doesn't hurt that this gang of passionate jewelry creators is all about handcrafting and researching as much as possible to continue the fight towards using conflict-free stones and gems. Click through for the inside scoop on who we're calling the next big thing. These eight designers have made their mark on our radar — now it's time to make one on yours.
The Unique Treasure Trove: Cold Picnic Phoebe Sung and Peter Buer have proven the age-old adage: You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. From the get-go, the duo, who had no previous formal training, improvised their process of jewelry crafting, which paid off remarkably well. Their early experimental methods gave them an unexpected edge and direction that has resulted in the beautifully misshapen pieces now featured on their site. Nearing it's fifth year, they jewelry line has spawned signature creations from mismatched earring sets to cutout rings that speak to the designer pair's seemingly never-ending supply of creativity (they later went on to release a killer handbag line amongst other tchotchke and furniture collections). Predominantly crafted from clay and enamel, each piece of Cold Picnic jewelry has a custom feel thanks to the small details of dented metal and melded stones. Plus, their jewelry is either cast by a family-run company in Manhattan, or finished in their own studio. Price Range: $50-$300 Cold Picnic Triangle Cutout Earrings, $110, available at Cold Picnic; Cold Picnic Cube Ring, $100, available at Cold Picnic; Cold Picnic Karst Studs, from $100, available at Cold Picnic. Shop similar ring here. Shop similar earring here.
The Sculpturally-Inspired: Faris If taking stylistic leaps is up your alley, Faris is the brand for you. Designer Faris Du Graf originally began her moniker jewelry line as an experiment from her basement just three years ago. Thankfully, with some encouragement from early testers (i.e., her mother and sisters), she's made her unique, geometric designs more widely available. Sticking to her spot-on intuition of bold-but-balanced shapes, each design has a unifying feel while standing out in its own right — from fringed metal earrings to floating rings sculptured in a way that wrap perfectly around the wearer's finger. Every piece is handmade in Faris's Seattle-based studio using a range of materials, from gold and silver to pearls and gemstones. Price Range: $30-$700 Cutout Bracelet, $125-$330, available at Faris Faris; Faris Linelashes, $195-$245, available at Faris; Faris Fan Earrings, $155, available at Faris; Faris Stone Choker, $198, available at Faris
The Clay Crafted: Highlow Alternative and unexpected materials are definitely making a splash in jewelry trends, and Sonya Gallardo's post art-school project delivers just that with cool, art-focused jewelry. Having no formal jewelry-making training, Gallardo has evolved her brand from experimentation (seeing a pattern yet?) to a line with enviable attitude. The collections combine high and low art (hence the brand name), often using polymer clays and paints that make a matte statement in a market dominated by diamonds and gems. Here, even the most neutral-toned options draw your eye in. Price Range: $50-$160 Highlow Cali Cuff, $78, available at Highlow; Highlow Gesto Earrings, $55, available at Highlow; Highlow x Dusen Dusen Ardor Necklace, $158, available at Highlow.
The Not-Your-Mom's Delicate Jewelry: HortenseStarted by a Parisian expat, Hortense, the namesake brand of the designer, was born eight years ago in San Francisco. Having an extensive background of jewelry making in Paris, she came in with expertise at creating timeless pieces that fluidly meld with the wearer. The designs may look dainty, but Hortense manages to inject so much fun and detail into each piece, immediately modernizing the classic mediums they're made from. With flirty wink rings to celestial-inspired studs to paper clip earrings, Hortense's jewelry is the perfect answer to the modern gal's wardrobe. Price Range: $100-$1,800 Hortense Kiss Necklace, $275, available at Hortense; Hortense Pom Pom Girls Opal and Diamonds, $580, available at Hortense; Hortense Herkimer Ring, $299, available at Hortense.
The Brand You Found On Instagram: J. Hannah You'd be hard-pressed to not know fashion blogger Jess Hannah by now, but we're letting you in on her handcrafted jewelry line that frequently has us envying her #OOTD game. The L.A.-based jeweler originally attempted to delve into graphic design while selling a few pieces of jewelry on Etsy. Though she gave up her design career to chase her passion, she definitely brings her design background to her pieces. Inspired by vintage jewelry and timeless hand-me-downs from her grandmother, Jess's J. Hannah label has a very classic feel with its dominant use of solid gold, but carries the same minimalistic and artistic mind she has towards fashion styling. Each piece seems to know exactly where to sit on a knuckle, collarbone, or wrist to best mold to the wearer. Price Range: $68-$700 J. Hannah Pavé Open Ring, from $537, available at J. Hannah; J. Hannah Simplicity Cuff, from $175, available at J. Hannah; J. Hannah x Winden Fine Necklace, $290, available at J. Hannah.
The Mood Ring For Grown-Ups: Olivia Kane Since we're all riding the '70s resurgence, mood rings seem like the perfect trend piece to add to our collection of flares and bell-sleeved tops. But you've never seen mood rings like this. Launched this past August, Olivia Fleming (Kane is her middle name) was inspired to create her own line of refined mood rings that touch on our nostalgia while also melding into our matured wardrobe. Though the collection is small, it manages to perfectly marry a diverse range of settings for the heat-sensitive stones we've come to covet. All of the rings are handcrafted in Brooklyn, too, and sell for affordable prices depending on metal and sizing. Price Range: $160-$300 Olivia Kane Arch Mood Ring, from $185, available at Olivia Kane; Olivia Kane Opal Double Mood Ring, from $245, available at Olivia Kane; Olivia Kane Serpent Mood Ring, from $245, available at Olivia Kane.
The New Minimalist: Still House Still House has always been a favorite for sourcing the best new jewelry designers. A few years after its launch, the site's founder, Urte Tylaite, decided to jump back into the studio to start her own creations. Boasting the same simple and linear feel of popular minimalist jewelry, Still House's in-house line uses subtle geometric shapes and cuts that help its pieces stand out from the crowd. The collection has made a name of its own by adding small details to their designs, like black and white diamonds at the end of a spherical bar or a chain earring meant to be worn with two piercings. By doing this, it has come full circle by grabbing the attention of other curated sites (think Steven Alan and Of A Kind), who now carry the brand. Price Range: $65-$925 Still House Elli Necklace, $400, available at Still House; Still House Notus Ring, $440, available at Still House; Still House Lana Earrings, $350, available at Still House.
The Designers You Didn't Know You Already Knew: Siwa Bakim Married duo Soung Il Baeck and Wooa Kim have an extensive background of clients: Alexis Bittar, Harry Winston, Tory Burch, De Beers, and Tiffany & Co., just to name a few. A couple of years ago, they teamed up and began creating ultra-modern pieces that are reminiscent of kinetic art and toys. Each item has a mechanic, futuristic feel and goes through a 2D to 3D process with unique hinging systems. This allows pieces like the featured earrings to have mobile spheres, even after setting. As fun as the collections are, there's no question that Siwa Bakim is still sleek and carries over the modern, eye-catching appearances from the pair's past collaborative efforts. Price Range: $45-$375 Siwa Bakim Luna Ring, $120, available at Siwa Bakim; Siwa Bakim Small Puzzle Necklace, $120, available at Siwa Bakim; Siwa Bakim Mixed Metal Cross Setting Earring, $210, available at Siwa Bakim.