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Why We’re Raiding Grandma’s Jewellery Box This Winter

Meet “Grand-Millennial’ chic – an accessories trend that feels lifted from another era. Think big brooches, chunky gold chains, gobstopper pearl earrings.

Hannah-Rose Yee

There was a time in the not so distant past when jewellery was so fine you could barely see it. Little whispers of gold chains around necks and wrists, tiny diamonds tucked away in the recesses of the ear. Small and discreet. Simple. Understated.

Which is all well and good, but it just feels a bit defeatist, especially as we emerge, blinking bleary-eyed into our new reality of post-Covid normal. (Whatever that means.)

Don’t we deserve to have a little fun with fashion? Don’t you want to put all your monochromatic neutrals on the highest shelf of your wardrobe, out of sight and out of mind, and dig up the brightest colours, the wildest prints, and the most joy-bringing accessories you own?

Photos by Georgina Egan

Jewellery pictured includes chain necklace by Reliquia; gold bangle by Meujri, earrings by Valere, link necklaces by Rylan Studio; twist collar by Mineraleir; pearl necklace by Meadowlark; earrings by Mineraleir; necklace by Valere; earrings by Reliquia.

By which we mean: big, crystal-embellished brooches, gobstopper pearl earrings and thick necklaces, brassy and bold. Plain, ultra-fine jewellery is elegant, but these cheeky pieces are much more enjoyable to wear. They don’t just make a statement, they hold a press conference.

There’s something in the fact that the vibe is pure grandma: these are pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in your nan’s jewellery box. “Everyone has been loving gold chain necklaces and hoops,” says stylist Lucy Wood. “This trend stems from that.”

The difference this time is that this latest offering sees each piece become a statement “in their own right,” she adds. “Gold necklaces are getting larger, or they’re getting double links, or they’re a choker.”

Gold necklaces are getting larger, or they’re getting double links, or they’re a choker.

In the design world, the trend is known as “Grandmillennial”. It encompasses not only fashion, but homewares and interiors, too, referring to any trend where something classic and retro – chintzy sofas, floral-patterned crockery, the very notion of wallpaper – has been updated for a modern consumer.

In fashion, the trend started with cardigans and knee socks and Mary Jane slippers, before taking a turn into the world of jewellery. In the hands of designers such as Meadowlark, Mejuri and Camilla & Marc, whose latest campaign features a model wearing an enormous floral-shaped brooch, it’s cool – not stuffy.

Camilla and Marc's latest campaign features models wearing brooches and chunky jewellery

Pick any Gucci or Miu Miu collection from the past few years and you’ll see what we mean. Both of these designers tap into the romance of past eras without veering into the realm of costume. That’s why grandma jewellery works so well: dressing head-to-toe in an outfit that looks lifted from a back issue of a fashion magazine can sometimes feel like a step too far. But adopting a few accessories into your everyday roster is just right.

The secret is in the way you wear it. With finer jewellery pieces, Wood says there was a tendency to “layer them up”, but when it comes to these more substantial styles, she advises keeping “them as a standalone piece”.

“Let them speak for themselves,” says Wood. “Wear the larger, chunky chain with just a T-shirt and a blazer.”

Treat them as you would any other kind of statement jewellery, and stick to one showstopper at a time: earrings, necklace, bracelet or brooch. “If you’re wearing them during the day, remember they are bolder and heavier in weight, so I would keep your outfit fairly casual,” says Wood. In the evenings, she suggests keeping your outfit “a little bit more pared back”, so that “the focus is on the jewellery piece.”

Chunky chains and pearls are beginner’s level Nan jewellery and easily adaptable into your existing wardrobe. The real hurdle when it comes to this trend is the brooch. Pinned to the lapel of a jacket, or resting just underneath the buttoned-up collar of a crisp shirt, a brooch feels like the height of unnecessary adornment. Showy. Fussy, too.

And yet, did you see Lady Gaga wearing one in the shape of a bird at President Biden’s Inauguration? Or Bridgerton star Rege-Jean Page with three pearls pinned onto his suit jacket while hosting Saturday Night Live?

Bridgerton's Rege-Jean Page wearing a pearl brooch

Eye-catching and unforgettable, those brooches were all about being seen. Which was exactly the point. Leave the barely-there jewellery at home. Right now, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Styling by Lucy Wood.

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BY Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah is a Sydney writer

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