Jewel in the crowd

Looking for last-minute gift inspiration? Add sparkle with these unique designs, says Carola Long

When it comes to choosing jewellery, it pays to think outside the box. Modern luxury is about individuality, so finding unique, conversation-starting accessories where the label can't be immediately identified is more desirable than acquiring the latest It bag and/or hunk of bling. Jewellery doesn't have to be figure flattering, age appropriate or practical, so it's a chance to indulge in pure aestheticism.

For some, dazzlingly lit stores staffed by assistants with eyes like security cameras suggests exclusivity, but for others it's intimidating. Whether your definition of wallet-strain is 102 on a pair of delicate Alex Monroe earrings or 9,460 on a yellow gold and diamond ring by Loree Rodkin (left, no 1), it's important to feel comfortable.

Jacqueline Rabun, who designs for Georg Jensen and who has just opened her own-label shop in a discreet mews near London's Knightsbridge believes that, "jewellery is so personal that you need an inviting, comfortable environment, with space to soak up the atmosphere". Rabun specialises in organic, contemporary forms, such as the globular "Mercy" ring which evolved from a distorted hourglass, and her boutique feels as much like a gallery as a shop.

Many independent jewellers have noticed an increase in clients looking for special designs. The boutique Browns has also just opened a fine jewellery concession in response to the demand for unusual pieces for designers such as Loree Rodkin, Muriel Grateau and Mark Davis. Davis is a New York-based jewellery designer, who found a disused factory in France full of vintage Bakelite bangles, snapped up the lot, and now customises them by drilling tiny holes and inserting semi-precious stones.

Stacked bangles featured strongly in the spring/summer collections and at Marni and Pucci in particular; the eclectic look recalls fashion mavericks such as the New York interior designer Iris Apfel and former US Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Apfel was known for wearing pairs or stacks of giant bangles, often in Bakelite, while Vreeland famously also wore multiple bracelets. Thick gold bangles are similarly popular, according to the Browns buyer Franoise Tessier, along with cocktail rings, long chain necklaces and striking, oversized pieces in general.

Should more wistful not to mention unashamedly romantic pieces appeal, they come in brushed yellow and rose golds, featuring soft pink stones, and three-dimensional florals. A purely playful mood, meanwhile, comes to the fore, via a pop-luxe feel, where cartoonishly bright colours, Eighties and Nineties clubwear influences and precious materials and plastics are combined. Like Mark Davis, Alexis Bittar mixes man-made and precious materials, seen in the gold-studded Lucite ring from Kabiri.

Hannah Martin's darkly glamorous ruby- encrusted cocktail ring may more readily be described as power jewellery these are the accessories that would complement shoulder-padded jackets, body-conscious dresses and fetish-inspired shoes. After graduating in 2005, Martin consulted for Givenchy and Cartier, but she has now started her own label. She knows where, how, and by whom every piece was made which is key now that consumers are more aware of ethics and sustainability. The ring shown here features rubies on the inside, subverting the idea that gems are always for display. Martin herself describes the piece as, "having a decadent secret known only to the wearer; a piece of hidden luxury". It is hard to imagine a more personal viewpoint than that.

Left: 1 Ring, 9,460, by Loree Rodkin from Browns, 2 Ring, made to order, by David Valle from Garden Studios, 3 Rings, 370 each, by Lucy Jade Sylvester, from Jess James, 4 Earrings, 102, by Alex Monroe, from EC One, 5 Necklace, 75, by Sam Ubi, from Liberty, 6 Charm, 270, by Tomoko Furusawa, from Manjoh, 7 Ring, 1,600, by Anaconda, from Browns 8 Pav beetle, 9,210, by Loree Rodkin, from Browns 9 Ring, 2,180, by Anaconda, from Browns 10 Bangle, 1,480, by Carolina Bucci from Browns 11 Studs, 1,173, by Jess James 12 Earrings, 237, by Jana Reinhardt, from Jess James 13 Ring, 5,160, by Lydia Courteille, from Browns.

Right: 1 Ring, 900, by Jacqueline Rabun, 020-7245 0524 2 Bracelet, 95, by CC Skype, from Kabiri, 3 Necklace, 375, by Lulu Frost, from Kabiri 4 Bangles, 110 each, by Alexis Bittar, from Kabiri 5 Bear charm, 2,955, by Qeelin, from Browns 6 Bangle, 3,075, by Mark Davis from Browns 7 Ring, 58, by Noir, from Kabiri 8 Ring, 1,280, by Amrapali of Jaipir, from Kabiri 9 Ring, 115, by Alexis Bittar, from Kabiri 10 Bangle, 490, by Mark Davis 11 Ring, 6,570, by Kara Ross, from Browns 12 Bangle, 670, by Mark Davis 13 Earrings, 125, by Scott Wilson from Liberty 14 Earring, 80 per pair, by Vibe Harslof from Manjoh