Ms. Choisne said she discovered the region on a French TV documentary. “The old wood was shining like silver,” she said. “I really liked the effect and wanted to translate it into the collection.”
The result included the Rostov medallion in matte aspen wood, which first was given a pale patina, then inlaid into a cutout pattern and ringed with diamonds. Recalling a snow-topped dome as seen from above, the necklace is centered on a 4.14-carat round diamond and can be worn as a sautoir, either in a double strand or choker, or as a brooch.
The aspen wood and diamond mix of the Rostov grouping also appeared in a pair of elongated earrings and a carved cocktail ring.
Boucheron is no stranger to wood, having first used acacia wood for pillboxes and cigarette cases in the ’70s, but Ms. Choisne said she was not interested in rehashing the past.
“It looked too much like wood,” said the designer, who is known for taking on esoteric materials (marble and sand have featured in past collections). “The Rostov pieces don’t have the appearance of wood — I love how you wonder what it is.”
Russia was also an inspiration for the British jeweler Annoushka Ducas, whose new Touch Wood collection evokes times both past and present. As a young girl, Ms. Ducas accompanied her mother, who was born in Russia, on a trip to the countryside there to buy quarter horses.
“It was the 1970s, and she was a single woman traveling on her own with me as a child,” Ms. Ducas recalled. “It was pretty brave. She always wore this wooden ring that she’d instinctively touch in moments of uncertainty. It’s one of those childhood things I always remember.”
Although she had toyed with a wood-themed collection for two decades, Ms. Ducas did not introduce the line until September. One factor that spurred her to finally introduce it this year was the centenary of the abdication of Nicholas II, ending the 300-year-long Romanov dynasty. But she also felt it fit in today’s increasingly unsettling times.
“I’ve always been very superstitious and said ‘touch wood’ when things are going well,” Ms. Ducas said. “And now is an especially poignant time where the world is quite scary — it seemed like absolutely the right moment for the collection.”
Like Ms. Choisne’s designs, her inspiration was the region’s domed architecture but Ms. Ducas was drawn to darker, more traditional ebony, here semipolished and used in contrast to glossy yellow gold. A pair of dome earrings, for example, recalled church spires, with the gold first given a high sheen before it was textured with a fine wire brush. “That’s what gives it the shine when the light hits it,” the jeweler said, “and I love the combination with the dark ebony — it’s warm, feminine and feels incredibly modern.”
Onion-shaped forms are the main motif, such as in a limited-edition ring with three diamond pavé domes, or a gold pendant with ebony, aquamarine and prehnite charms and a diamond cross in edgy black rhodium-plated gold. But while the 12-piece collection is called Touch Wood, the wood isn’t always obvious: Some of the more bejeweled designs feature only a hint of ebony on the gem’s underside, which is in constant contact with the wearer’s skin.
The ebony was all sustainably sourced from Madagascar, Ms. Ducas said, and conservation is another draw for some designers.
The Hong Kong jewelry brand Niin is grounded in the concept of upcycling, and its founder, Jeanine Hsu, obtains discarded wood from furniture manufacturers and driftwood collected by fishermen’s wives in the Philippines (portions of Niin’s sale proceeds have gone to environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund-Hong Kong and the HK Shark Foundation). As a result, the company’s designs have an organic feel, like the Zayah pendant’s luxe mosaic of recycled dark alder wood, brass, white mactan stone and seashells, or the Sienna cuff with brass encircling a piece of petrified wood.
Pippa Small, a British jeweler who stresses her ethical values, used petrified wood from the Upper Irradwaddy River area of Myanmar in her latest collection. The wood, now extinct, dates back around 30 million years, and in its petrified form it has a pale mottled pattern that Ms. Small has set with gold into pendant discs and suspended in earrings. The pieces were made as part of the Turquoise Mountain Myanmar project, a charity that employs local artisans and helps to promote traditional crafts and techniques.
In India, wood has long been featured in jewelry but mostly set in silver, said Tarang Arora, the creative director of Amrapali.
The Indian jewelry house recently transferred its skills in carving gemstones to creating wooden bangles in a high jewelry style, inlaying them with diamonds and emeralds in floral or animal motifs.
But Amrapali’s creations with rudraksha beads, the seeds from the tree of the same name, is the most pioneering: they are known as the tears of the Hindu god Shiva and traditionally worn for their protective powers. Recently, Mr. Arora created a special rudraksha necklace for a client, encasing the bead in a web of gold and diamonds from which hangs a diamond briolette.
“This is a material which can do so much more,” said Mr. Arora, who praises wood for its ability to look bold while still being lightweight. “People want something different — more edgy, cool and innovative.” (He added that he himself has worn a dark rosewood earring for the last 15 years.)
As a natural material that can be somewhat fragile (“it moves and is quite temperamental,” said Ms. Hsu of Niin), wood is notoriously hard to work with. But that has not stopped watchmakers from using miniature pieces of it in their creations, too.
For Piaget’s Infinite Waves watch, an eight-piece limited edition in the Sunlight Journey collection presented in July, the “fascinating and emotional” was the aim, said Jean-Bernard Forot, the company’s watch and jewelry marketing director. The house teamed with the cabinetmaker Rose Saneuil, who spent about 25 hours on each dial, inlaying 224 pieces of sycamore, parchment, speckled maple, hornbeam, tulip wood, beech and other woods as well as mother-of-pearl.
During the summer, Patek Philippe showcased its latest venture into wood marquetry at an exhibition in New York, the most recent iteration of the pop-up museum that has visited Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Munich; and London.
A special collection of new watches commemorated milestones in American history, such as the First Steps on the Moon pocket watch, where a 3D-like lunar landscape was painstakingly rendered on the cover in 483 pieces of wood from 15 different species and 60 inlays. More minutiae were painted in, down to the reflection on Buzz Aldrin’s helmet visor of Neil Armstrong capturing the moment with a camera.
Wood marquetry also lent an aptly rugged feel to the Portrait of an American Indian pocket watch, where the subject, in full fur and feather finery, came to life through 304 wood pieces from 20 species of tree. To the untrained eye, the design looks like the work of miniature painting — and a craft that may see increasing competition from an ever-more popular decorative art.