SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but for those buying jewelry at a time of record gold prices, a new trend for lightweight pieces using semi-precious stones and organic materials might be a welcome ally.
Jewelry trends in recent years have been dominated by chunky pieces worn around the neck and clunky gold bangles around the arms and ankles.
But while these heavy-weight pieces may still be favored by the rich and famous, jewelry-lovers with more limited means are being targeted by a new trend for slinky jewelry, hollowed out pieces and jewelry made from non-traditional materials.
Sophisticated simplicity is the buzzword used by European fashionistas, while the trend in Asia is for street-chic and rustic pieces made of semi-precious stones and non-traditional materials including titanium and wood.
"It's no longer about the bling, about the gold. The days of the big heavy gold chain are probably over, and if they are still around, they will be a lot lighter," Desmond Lim, fashion editor at Prestige and August Man, two Singapore lifestyle magazines.
"It's about smart fashion and this casual-chic style is probably a reflection of both fashion and economics. There is a definite balance between the art and the commerce, resulting in this street chic look."
The prices of gold and platinum have both rocketed to record highs, with spot gold trading just short of $1,000 an ounce and platinum above $2,000, prompting some jewelry makers to opt for light weight and hollow pieces.
"In fashion jewelry, the designers are offering us lighter weight designs. Interestingly, this means more inventive and innovative design and the craftsmanship is still there," said David Hinds, managing director of F. Hinds, a family-owned jewelry chain in the United Kingdom.
Retailers in London's Hatton Garden jewelry district are seeing a similar trend and a shift in favor of hollow jewelry which consumes less precious metals and are being sold for more or less the same prices that heavier items sold for a year or two ago before gold prices really began to soar.
"A lot of chains are being made hollow and the reduction in weight is compensating for the rise in gold prices," said Roy Lynch, director of Strictly Gold.
He added that his company had launched a new range of lighter weight products to complement their traditional heavier lines.
JeweJewelerslrs the world over have complained that they need to review prices of their pieces on a daily basis due to the swings in gold prices in recent weeks. Customers are being told prices are only valid for the duration of that day.
The trend for light-weight jewelry has not extended to high-end diamond rings, where most of the value is from the stone. Buyers are still prepared to hand over the cash for items such as engagement rings.
"People aren't going to skimp on things like that," said Lisa Argenton, an Australian jewelry designer.
"People are still happy to spend money on jewelry with meaning, although some clients who really want platinum find they can't afford it and go for white gold instead. Generally, platinum pieces are two to three times dearer than 18 carat white gold."
Record gold and platinum prices are never likely to deter high net-worth individuals from indulging themselves.
"One of the biggest things in fashion right now are gold cuffs -- big, chunky yellow gold bracelets," Carol Woolton, jewelry editor at Vogue magazine in the United Kingdom.
But she added some designers were also opting to make cuffs in wood, set with semi-precious stones. Although she admitted that none of the trends for less opulent jewelry were on display at the Academy Awards in February.
"Interestingly, there was more jewelry on the red carpet at the Oscars this year than ever before. A lot of actresses are wearing big gold necklaces," she said.
"Nicole Kidman wore a sautoir necklace in white metal -- gold or platinum -- studded with 7,000 diamonds totaling 1,400 carats."
The jewelry display at the Oscars underscored the view from high-end jewelers that the rich are not deterred by gold prices.
Stanislas de Quercize, president of Paris-based fine jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels, told Reuters recently that all-time high precious metals prices would not alter the raw material content of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry as his clients wanted only the best.
"We have high-demanding clients who want the best art (in jewelry)," De Quercize said.
"We have to fulfill the mission to offer the best. The appetite for rare stones is growing and growing."
Additional reporting by David Brough in London; editing by Megan Goldin