Style Snapshot: Nailing the Nail Art Trend

by Greg, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Nail art has swept the world as another way to accessorize. From glittering gel to sparkling rhinestones in intricate patterns, nails are pulling entire outfits together as with purses, earrings, and shoes. Painted nails and manicures have always been a tried and true way to feel pretty, pampered, and stylish.

Origins of Nail Art

Nails have been decorated for centuries, but it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century did it find traction with some very fashion-forward thinking women of the African American community.

Nails have been painted as a sign of wealth for thousands of years. In ancient Babylon, men of the upper classes painted their nails with black kohl. In ancient Egypt, Queen Nefertiti and Queen Cleopatra favored vibrant reds for their nails, the latter using undertones of gold. Ancient Chinese were said to mix natural products like beeswax and egg whites with vegetable dyes to create varnishes and lacquers for their nails. It is believed that warriors of the Incan empire created the first recorded nail art in the 13th century by adorning their nails with imagery of harpy eagles.

With the invention of acrylic nails in the 1950s, nail art took on a whole new life for a subset of women--African Americans. In 1966 Twen magazine featured model Donyale Luna with pale pink acrylic nails. She would later become the first African American cover model for Vogue. With her smiling face framed by long red nails on the cover of her 1979 album A Moment's Pleasure, Millie Jackson joined other artists of the disco era, such as Donna Summer and Diana Ross, to favor red nails.

The art of nail adornment came sprinting to the front pages of newspapers across the country at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, by Olympian Florence "Flo Jo" Griffith-Joyner. Florence left South Korean having set back-to-back world records in the women's 100- and 200-meter dashes. Already known for her bold-style running suits, "one-leggers" that she designed herself, her manicured nails drew attention as much as her world records. Adorned in stripes, multiple colors, dots, and other visualizing striking styles, they were every bit a statement of individuality as Flo Jo herself.

Nail art gained further traction in the 1990s with emerging hip-hop artists Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott, and long seen adorning the fingers of La Toya Jackson. A new way for cultural and personal expression arose among women of color. Today, these same styles are favored and promoted by athletes like Venus and Serena Williams and singer and songwriter Rihanna.

Style Snapshot: Nailing the Nail Art Trend

But Why Nail Art?

However, as with all things that start on the edges, fashion has pushed nail art into the mainstream. Just what is it about nail art that seems to have such a universal appeal now?

  1. Part of what draws so many men and women is the feel of it. There is something that is just enjoyable about having your hands pampered, by a professional or yourself, an almost meditative aspect. Sitting down and painting nails, thinking about the design or techniques you are going to use next as you work is called mindful meditation. It centers you in the moment and blocks out all other stimuli.
  2. Another reason this form of art is gaining popularity among DIYers is because it takes up very little space. A couple bottles, or thirty, of nail polish take up barely any room in comparison to a canvas, easel, paints, brushes, pencils, palettes ... phew. That's a lot of stuff.
  3. Then, there is the community of support for nail artists. From online video tutorials, group chats, in-person classes, and professional salons, there are a collection of artists from around the world with tips and tricks.
  4. Glamorous nails stay without much maintenance required. No polish chipping away that needs constant upkeep . Just a quick fill every two to three weeks and you're done.
  5. But the most important part about nail art is the expression of individuality. Nail art gives you colorful, conversation-starting claws. It gives your outfit just a little more flair. It makes your wedding day that much more special.

Supplies for Nail Art

Make your nails shimmer with the fire of opalescence to match opal earrings or a necklace. Combine mica powder with your gel nail polish to create a metallic coating for your nails. Or ICE Resin® glitter or ICE Resin enamel powder to give your nail polish a dichroic or enameled look in eye-catching colors.

One of the most visually striking features of nail art is the inclusion of glamorous and stunning Swarovski® crystals. This can be seen in all its glorious beauty by nail technicians such as @jewelz_nailart and @nail_junqee on Instagram. You've seen their art throughout this article (with their permission), be sure to visit their Instagram pages to see more inspiration. These are only a few of the talented artists that use Swarovski rhinestone flatbacks. One tool that is often used to precisely place these tiny little rhinestones is a Crystal Katana.

Using micro round beads can be used for more texture. Combine them with flat backs to decorate with favorite colors and themes or celebrate seasonal motifs like snowflakes, angels, holidays, etc.

Take your creativity even further with charms dangling from petite-sized jump rings on longer nails. Carefully pierce long nails with a nail drill, loop a jump ring through the hole, add the desired design element then close the jump ring. Voila! Pierced nails are nothing new for pioneering artists, but like all good trends they're catching on in popularity.

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