Haute Bijoux and a Gemstone Phone
During the Fall ’13 Couture shows, which wrapped in Paris this weekend, houses debuted their jaw-dropping, and often blinding, haute joaillerie collections. Aside from a prominent seventies vibe, one thing came through loud and clear in the season’s jewelry presentations: a return to the statement stone (or perhaps we should say stones). Tina Isaac rounds up the most brilliant baubles from Dior, Chanel, Boucheron, Versace, and more, below.
CHER DIOR:“I always create families, so I think of these pieces as the babies of Dear Dior,” said Victoire de Castellane during a preview of her new line of high jewelry for the house, which she has dubbed Cher Dior. “I was thinking of specific words—like “fascinating,” “sparkling”—and thinking about how to render those in gems.” True to de Castellane’s style, the resulting 21 pieces are “classic without being classic”—an array of symmetrically designed, smaller, lighter wares with colorful center stones, lacelike settings, and surprising color combinations. Take, for example, the Exquise Emeraude earrings, whose central gemstones mismatch, or the riot of colored sapphires in the Majestueuse Multicolore necklace. The Jardin Avec Fleurs earrings, whose floral design and pastel colors seem lifted straight out of the eighteenth century, were de Castellane’s starting point and remain her favorite. “It’s like a game,” she said. “These are pieces that you can wear without ever getting bored.”
BOUCHERON: This year, Boucheron, the first jeweler to open shop on the Place Vendôme, is celebrating its 120th anniversary at that address. Because the light is particularly beguiling in its south-facing atelier, head jewelry designer Claire Choisne has devised an eight-chapter story—one episode for each of the eight facets of the Place Vendôme—dubbed the Hôtel de la Lumière. One of her masterpieces picks up on a 1948 latticework necklace in sapphire and diamonds, while completely modern rock-crystal pieces are inlaid with pavé diamonds. The Perles d’Eclat necklace, for example, features large rock-crystal beads held together by the diamond slices that the house pioneered; the beads gradually progress from frosted to transparent, and inside the transparent ones sits a 3-D bouquet of diamonds.
CHANEL: Gabrielle Chanel was known to say that she was “a worker bee born under the sign of Leo.” Because the powerful, protective beast is also the symbol of Venice, where the designer traveled to recover from Boy Capel’s death, and because the house recently signed on to sponsor the restoration of the winged lion atop St. Mark’s Basilica, Chanel presented the timely Sous le Signe du Lion, a 58-piece collection inspired by the majestic feline. Pieces ranged from literal (a diamond-covered Lion Céleste which, extrapolated from the Venice city insignia, shows the beast in profile with his paw atop a sizable diamond) to the CGI-worthy (Lion Mosaique features a lion’s head emerging in three-quarter profile from a gemstone background). The Lion San Marco ring, created in tribute to St. Mark’s Basilica, is carved from a piece of lapis lazuli and set in gold and platinum with a center diamond. Only five of these were produced, and they sold out well before couture week began.
BULGARI: The house’s new Diva collection is not for wallflowers: These one-of-a-kind pieces in colored stones were inspired by icons from the sixties and seventies, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Anna Magnani, but have been recast with a lighter touch for modern times. “The colors are so incredible, you can see them even at night,” noted head jewelry designer Lucia Silvestri. One bracelet bearing 240 carats of cabochon emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and spinel had already been snapped up before the Couture collections started.
LOUIS VUITTON: Louis Vuitton continues its Voyage Dans le Temps, this time incorporating stones in unusual colors and exceptional sizes. The Dentelle de Monogram lace theme, for example, now incorporates a range of spinels in shades of gray, violet, and scarlet. Meanwhile, the deep-space inspired Galaxy collection is anchored by a sautoir set with cosmic opals that can also be worn as two bracelets and a necklace, and the Flash Forward ring is set with a neon-blue tourmaline—a museum-worthy piece in its own right. Back on terra firma, the legendary gardener Le Nôtre inspired a dress watch in emeralds and diamonds.
CINDY CHAO: A relative newcomer to the haute-haute jewelry scene, Cindy Chao launched her collection in 2004. Within five years, the Smithsonian had snapped up one of her signature butterflies. For her debut presentation in Paris, Chao showed two collections, White Label and Black Label (loosely, haute jewelry and beyond jewelry, respectively). Her latest inspiration melds a recent foray into snorkeling with a fascination with architecture in general and Gaudí in particular. Take, for example, a sea horse in massive cushion-cut emeralds riding an ocean current, a cuff with emeralds set like barnacles, a pair of diamond-bodied spiders crouched in large webbed earrings, and a breathtaking 360-degree angelfish made of 5,000 subtly graduated stones (diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires) in a design so intricate it took two years to complete.
ALEXANDRE REZA HAUTE COUTURE: Thanks to the arrival of its second generation, Alexandre Reza—which, already known for its incredible stones, is now designed by Reza’s son, Olivier—is experiencing a design youthquake. Stones seem to float freely in the latest collection, hovering in abstract curtains of gold and emeralds rendered as earrings, or on a ring composed of rare 5-carat half-moon Colombian emeralds mounted around a 10-carat diamond solitaire.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS: Major stones and dazzling color combinations inspired by the Arpels brothers’ rare-gem safaris during the sixties and seventies provided the context for Van Cleef & Arpels Pierres de Caractère—Variations presentation at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Exceptional stones (and there were many) included a nearly 28-carat Colombian emerald mounted on a Pongal ring. Among the more elaborate creations was the arabesque flourish of diamonds and rubies on a necklace and detachable clip dubbed the Oriental Princess, and the house’s signature Zip necklace in diamond, onyx, and coral with a pearl tassel.
VERSACE: There are some who remember the moment when Madonna wore a custom Medusa tiara by Gianni Versace. That was twenty years ago. Now the house is picking up where the late, great designer began, spinning his celebrated logo into the much-noted diamond relief necklace that Naomi Campbell wore when she opened the Atelier show last week (that piece sold within 24 hours), and adding assorted house signatures like a chunky chain in diamond pavé. With 685 carats of diamonds, it’s the company’s priciest piece by far.
EUGENIE NIARCHOS: For her much-anticipated debut line of jewelry, Eugenie Niarchos looked to the animal—make that reptilian—world. But rather than go literal, the newly minted designer focused on creating her own primordial, retro-futuristic aesthetic, conjuring up a precious planet all her own that she named Venyx. “I was interested in the detail, patterns, and texture of skins. I’m interested in details you don’t really see in day-to-day life, but I didn’t want to make impossible jewelry. I wanted it to be accessible,” the designer explained as she guided visitors through a collection. Standouts included the Lady Caiman ring, which was inspired by the endangered species, an articulated reptilian necklace that comes fitted with a Laotian clasp, a gold ring in the shape of a tortoiseshell etched in diamonds, and a ‘psychedelic chameleon’ in black gold with colored stones. That last one, along with the Lady Zee bangle, are Niarchos’ two favorites.
SAVELLI: A lot of women out there would point to their phone as their most precious possession—and newcomer Savelli is embracing that point. Offering the first luxury smartphone designed specifically for women (and powered by Android), Savelli fuses technology with precious stones and metal. The first collection, Jardin Secret, includes devices in noble skins, 18-karat gold, and gemstones. Each model comes with a sapphire crystal screen and is crafted in Switzerland using high watch–making and jewelry techniques. The ringtones are courtesy of the Hôtel Costes DJ Stéphane Pompougnac. Savelli bows this month in department stores including Harrods and Printemps.