Gender Fluid Jewellery: Biju’s Inclusive Jewellery

Gender fluid jewellery is gaining popularity, yet there remains a significant gap in comfort levels between men and women wearing these pieces. Determined to rewrite this narrative, Joanna Boyen of the stunning fine jewellery brand biiju shares the historical and cultural importance of fluid gender jewellery and explains why inclusive jewellery is no passing trend.

I had been working in the luxury hotel industry in different places – Moscow, Peru, Les Grandes Comores & Bora Bora amongst others, and was fascinated with the way each culture expressed itself in jewellery in very differing ways. The reasons why people choose to make or wear jewellery however is the same the world over – to symbolise a sentiment, capture a memory, to impart joy or express oneself – all powerful stuff, and when I finally came back to London and was able to put down some roots, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

And I knew it would be about Nature – I want to celebrate those ephemeral moments which make you catch your breath at their beauty – sunlight sparkling across water, a bolt of lightning, shifting shadows, a rainbow, or any one of a myriad exquisite moments which occur in Nature, and which hopefully inspire us to protect it. In keeping with this theme, I try to work as sustainably as possible.

All biiju pieces are handmade in London. I work from Hatton Garden with a carefully curated team of craftsmen, all experts in their fields and with a genuine love for what they do.

The first collection I designed was the Careless Rhythm collection inspired by my native African sand dunes. It’s a familiar and nostalgic landscape to me. Among the world’s great natural wonders, sand dunes were formed thousands, sometimes millions of years ago and play an irreplaceable part in protecting inland areas from swells, tides and winds and they need us to protect them like the treasures they are. We are the most common threats to them, through construction and farming.

Rock crystal is the stone featured in the collection. Fascinating as well as beautiful, it’s the predominant component of sand and therefore the perfect gemstone for this collection. The trillions of minute shards of rock crystal are the reason why sand sparkles brilliantly in the sunshine. Bespoke-cut to showcase their icy-white inclusions (imperfections), no two pieces of rock crystal in the collection are identical.

The Careless Rhythm collection was designed with women in mind, but I was delighted when men also wanted to wear some of the pieces.

At the same time, my son James was growing up and started to take an interest in wearing jewellery.  It was a joy to watch him and prompted me to think about focusing more on men, which led to the Camouflage Collections. The Camo 925 and Desert Camo Collections take a classic, nature-inspired, fashion motif and interpret it in fine jewellery. Feature pieces are hand painted in shades of gold and rhodium and each pattern is unique, as it would be in nature. Dappled silhouettes complement the hand painted pieces.


Whilst designed for men, there are pieces which women are drawn to, and naturally I’m thrilled at this broad appeal. A clear example are the signet rings. Traditionally worn by men (usually on the little finger) signet rings were a symbol of wealth and lineage and usually featured a coat of arms. Today, women are wearing them more and more, and styling them in their own way, worn on any finger and engraved with anything they like. Chunkier, statement rings are very much a part of many womens’ wardrobes these days, and signet rings are perfect for this. The organically-shaped indentation which wraps around the signet rings in the Camo Collections is popular, perhaps because it softens the silhouette.

Likewise, the men’s Frost Necklace, a heavy link, chunky necklace in frosted sterling silver is popular with women too, usually worn as a statement piece. biiju’s signature style is contemporary jewellery with a particular emphasis on special finishes. I love texture and try to create it in different ways, for example through brushed satin finishes or sandblasting of varying degrees or the use of ceramic coating. These processes can entirely transform the look of a piece and I find that men, used to the intricacies of watches, notice and appreciate this attention to detail.

Creating the two camouflage collections took me on a journey of discovery. Ideally men should feel the same freedom to express themselves through jewellery that women absolutely take for granted, yet even today, the majority of men are hesitant about wearing jewellery at all, let alone feeling free to wear it with abandon.

Historically, across most societies in the world, men wore jewellery as much or more than women. The belief that men should not wear jewellery is a relatively modern cultural stigma, reflected only in some cultures including ours. Although this is now slowly changing, the echoes of it are still reflected even in my own family – my son will still ask if this/that piece of jewellery is appropriate for him to wear, whereas the idea that she might be judged in this regard would never occur to my daughter.

When it comes to what’s important in selecting a piece of jewellery, I find that both genders attach value to the story and sentiment of the piece, and the meanings of gemstones. Rock crystal, used in the Careless Rhythm collection, is one of the oldest materials known to man and has more beliefs and legends surrounding it than any other stone on the planet and I’ve found this to be equally appealing to both men and women.

I think it’s fair to say that the creative industries have embraced fluid gender wholeheartedly for a while now. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term gender fluid was in 1993, while Wikipedia puts it at 1994 with the publication of gender theorist Kate Bornstein’s book “Gender Outlaw: on Men, Women & the Rest of Us.’

However, it’s not a new concept. Many cultures have had forms of gender fluidity throughout history, for as long as 3000 years or more.

And today there are certainly people who embody it in their fashion choices – Harry Styles for example, but they are still outliers.

It’s clear that we’re headed in the right direction, one of inclusive design and freedom and that gender fluid jewellery will eventually become mainstream, but in order to facilitate it further, my experiences and research indicate that there’s still a need to create men-centric retail places or collections specifically for the many men who are still hesitant about wearing jewellery in the first place. I’m excited about finding ways to make them feel comfortable wearing jewellery. It’s part of the reason why I chose camouflage as a theme – camouflage has universal appeal, of course, but it’s a definite comfort zone for men, particularly because of the inherent connection to the military. I started with the Camo 925 Collection, where all the pieces are in silver, and then pushed the boundaries a bit more, for example with the introduction of rose gold and pavé pink sapphire details in the Desert Camo Collection, and am delighted with the positive response.

An article in the Fashion & Law Journal earlier this year highlighted the responsibility of brands in supporting and promoting inclusivity not only in their designs but also in their ethics and work environment, along with the need for genuine representation and not just for the sake of following the trends. I’m mindful of this and excited to be a part of the journey and momentum in this direction, along with the drive for sustainable fashion being championed by La Maison Couture.

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Words: Joanna Boyen