Last week, as part of the summer high jewellery collection previews, on show alongside the Paris Couture schedule, Chanel transformed the Place Vendôme, Paris’ most prestigious octagonal enclave, into a field of gold by way of Gad Weil’s natural wheat installation. It was part celebration of its ‘Les Blés de Chanel’ high jewellery collection, where wheat is the key design motif, and part public art show. As people stopped to simply look or meander through it, it was a magical reminder of nature’s power to inspire. Hence, from Chaumet’s diamond oak leaves to Chanel’s yellow-gold sheaves and Van Cleef & Arpels’ emerald water lilies, the natural world triumphed as the key creative force in everything we saw.
Here’s a further glimpse of what was on view...Writers: Caragh McKay, Katrina Israel
Van Cleef & Arpels: Carved, beaded, precision cut: emeralds in all forms were the focus of the ‘Émeraude en Majesté’ collection by Van Cleef & Arpels. The presentation was held at the house’s new Jouin Manku-designed Place Vendôme boutique, in a room designed specifically for display. Its subtle tone served the purpose well, allowing the creations to speak for themselves. The collection was traditional in feel and the deep green stones central to the designs were as rich, characterful and majestic as the collection name suggests. But it was the metal work, white gold, twisted, turned, looped and merged in unexpected, sculptural forms, that truly mesmerised.Writer: Caragh McKay
Piaget: This year, the Geneva watchmaker-cum-jeweller significantly stepped up its presence at Paris high jewellery week. And rightly so. As the 1970s feel continues to permeate the jewellery mood, you catch glimpses of the Piaget style everywhere. The house created a design language all its own in the heady decade, with its daring use of semi-precious hard stones and an emphasis on unique in-house goldworking techniques, typified by an organic, tree-bark-like look. Today, it is moving forward with those key factors in place but with less reliance on the past and a more glamorous spirit than before. Encapsulated in the atmosphere of a poolside party, à la Palm Springs 1972, the unashamedly named ‘Sunny Side of Life’ collection is made up of a staggering 150 pieces. The handworked white gold cuff bracelets, particularly the pieces with crazy-paving slices of pool blue lapis lazuli and exotic feather marquetry, were outstanding examples of Piaget’s unique take.Writer: Caragh McKay
Dior: Never one to shy away from ostentation, Victoire de Castellane looked to France’s seat of power, prestige and privilege, the Château de Versailles, for Dior’s latest high jewellery collection. Just as Christian Dior designed dresses that drew upon its gilded grandeur, de Castellane was moved by micro details from its lavish interiors. A diamond drop necklace recalled an ornate curtain tassel, chandelier earrings were plucked from the palace’s grand ballrooms, the use of oxidised silver on a bracelet channelled the contents of the silver safe, while towering rings rippling with multi-cut gems resembled sparkling antique mirrors. One especially baroque setting stood an inch above the finger – perhaps a nod to the height of wigs worn at the time. The presentation space itself, lit by flickering light at the creative director’s insistence – ‘I tried to imagine Versailles by night, with its interiors illuminated by candlelight that makes gemstones sparkle’ – also sampled the Hall of Mirror’s density of gilt chandeliers. And as if in awe of the scale of Versailles, with 60 pieces, this is Dior’s largest ever collection.Writer: Katrina Israel
Hermès: To celebrate his 15th anniversary at Hermès, Pierre Hardy looked to the sands of time and the reaches of the solar system for his latest ‘Continuum’ haute bijouterie collection. Of course, everything at this house is built to last, and this tale spanned three temporal concepts at the Paris presentation designed by Didier Faustino (pictured right). ‘Three different sensations, on three different perceptions of time,’ Hardy explained. The first worked with a rose gold outline that formed hourglass shapes set with giant grey and white pearls in gradating hues representing the passage of time like a modern rosary. The second, a more graphic series, followed time via a sundial, while the final traced the dawn hues of a sunrise in brilliant gemstones, which formed radiating lines of colour. This idea came from a photography series that captured the turn of the earth every hour that Hardy had seen on social media. ‘All the same but all different,’ he maintained. ‘This is exactly how I feel about time: always the same, always different.’Photography: François Goizé; Writer: Katrina Israel
Chanel: Owing to its status as a symbol of regeneration, it was fitting for Chanel to launch its latest high jewellery collection, entirely dedicated to the wheat sheaf, within the newly refurbished Coco Chanel suite of the Ritz Paris. Every inch of the apartment was planted with the grain that has long been a emblem of good luck for Gabrielle Chanel. Keeping with the theme, a gold wheat-legged Goossens coffee table, a replica of a similar piece from Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment, was joined by a new addition for the presentation: an unframed Salvador Dalí painting of a sheaf that was a gift to his friend and still lives in Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment. With its bucolic colour palette following the wheat cycle, ‘Les Blés de Chanel’s’ peridots, green tourmalines and aquamarines joined white and yellow diamonds in the spring, before yellow sapphires completed the harvest. Marquise-cuts defined each stalk, arranged in numerous variations. But the queen of this crop was easily the ‘Fête des Moissons’ necklace featuring a 25 carat diamond, cut in the shape of Place Vendôme, along with sprigs of braided wheat, the beauty of which dulled the need for antihistamines.Writer: Katrina Israel
Boucheron: The jewellery star of our July 2016 issue, Boucheron’s golden cape, also proved to be one of the big hits of the collections. The entire ‘Porté Couture’ collection, one of three presented, reflected the fact that founder Frédéric Boucheron’s parents were drapers by trade. The second, ‘Architecture Inspirée’, turned to the geometrical make up of the Place Vendôme as inspiration. The third collection, ‘Nature Triomphante’, underlined the house tradition of using nature as a creative driver, and included wheat motifs and a magnificent feather brooch in two pieces. The presentation, on the light-filled top floor of Boucheron’s 26 Place Vendôme home, set a new precedent for high jewellery exhibitions. It showed the jewels, catwalk style, in a performance art piece devised by Olivier Saillard, director of the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of Paris.Writer: Caragh McKay
Bulgari: The Italian jeweller’s contemporary design boom continues unabated, powered by its ‘unapologetically bold’ vision for jewellery design and the driving force that is its uniquely energetic CEO, Jean Christophe Babin. He has done much to augment the Roman house’s naturally ebullient style in design terms – big, sensual stones in juicy colours, framed by strong architectural lines, often inspired by Italian garden designs, and a core belief in the talents of his design team – on both the watch and jewellery sides. As such, the ‘Magnificent Inspirations’ collection brims with that Bulgari glamour – uniquely, brilliantly Roman. The ‘Extravaganza’ necklace, a voluptuous cascade of amethysts, emeralds, rubellites, pearls and diamonds, embodies the sultry mood beautifully.Writer: Caragh McKay
Chaumet: ‘La Nature de Chaumet’ constituted a jewelled herbarium in four distinct strands – oak, laurel, wheat and lilies. It proved not just a standout collection of the week, it also marked a significant shift in Chaumet’s contemporary identity. Though the collection was driven by four heritage pieces, created in the period 1885–1938, the resulting designs – a diamond encrusted oak-leaf ring, a whisper-light wheat sheaf tiara, laurel leaf earrings designed to move gently along the ear – were highly wearable. The designs were just the right side of classic, in terms of execution and style, while the decision to veer from an all-too-fashionable touch, such as a high jewellery ear cuff, was a smart one. A heartening reminder that, while craftsmanship reigns supreme in the Place Vendôme, the fine jeweller’s skill need not be mired in the weight of history.Writer: Caragh McKay
Tiffany & Co: For Tiffany & Co’s 2016 ’Masterpieces’ collection, design director Francesca Amfitheatrof dipped into the brand’s rich archives for three arresting new series. ‘Prism’ was inspired by the house’s first design director Louis Comfort Tiffany’s penchant for plique-à-jour (French for letting in light), which resulted in pendant necklaces and rings that resemble jewelled disco balls in myriad sparkling hues. The second, ‘Ribbons’ picked up from Audrey Hepburn’s couture connections with megawatt round and square cut white diamonds set in contoured platinum strands that felt remarkably minimal. However, what really caught our eye was a new grouping manifested from unrealised sketches by Parisian designer and Elsa Schiaparelli collaborator Jean Schlumberger who joined Tiffany in 1956. Schlumberger may have been largely inspired by nature – see starfish brooches, butterfly cuffs and botanical necklaces – but we were entranced by a baguette diamond and yellow gold cage ring that also tapped into the plique-à-jour technique.Writer: Katrina Israel
Louis Vuitton: Louis Vuitton continues to augment the traditional house flower monogram as the key design motif for its precious jewellery designs. But then its geometric shape, a naturally abstract expression of nature, offers powerful potential for a more contemporary take on high jewellery design. It also fits seamlessly with the bold lines of the Art Deco period, a perennially reliable reference for high jewellery designers looking to combine bright, precious hues and a melange of fabrics with continuity and flair. That, of course, allows for a classic take if preferred, and so it is with the ’Blossom’ collection. But when classic and modern combine – as in the graphic formations of the earrings and rings – the repeated forms prove a perfect balance for some wonderfully voluptuous stones – 12.5ct spinels and 6.5ct opals, among them.Writer: Caragh McKay
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