Suzy Menkes looks at the high jewellery collections of 2017
Left: Piaget's Sunlight Journey Sunburst necklace in 18-carat red, pink and yellow gold and platinum set with a pear-shaped red spinel from Tanzania and a yellow diamond, red spinels, yellow diamonds and diamonds; Right: Infinite Waves watch dial made of wood, mother-of-pearl and parchment marquetry and 18-carat pink gold set with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds. It's one of a limited edition of eight pieces.Piaget
Pieces from Chanel's Flying Cloud high jewellery collection. Left: the Sailor Tattoo cuff in white gold set with sapphires and brilliant-cut diamonds; Middle: a pair of sapphire, diamond and pearl drop earrings; Right: the Endless Knot necklace made of 18-carat white gold set with a 1.52-carat pear-cut diamond, a central Indonesian cultured pearl, Japanese cultured pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds; Bottom: the Golden Braid bracelet in yellow gold set with a 4.22-carat cushion-cut diamond and brilliant-cut diamonds.Chanel
Flowerbeds, groves and thickets are detailed by Victoire de Castellane for Dior At Versailles, In The Gardens. Left: Paraiba Tourmaline Queen's Grove earrings in white, yellow and pink gold, diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines, emeralds, pink sapphires and lacquer; Right: L’Enselade Bodice Jewel. Yellow, white and pink gold with an array of stones including pink and yellow sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, chrysoprases, garnets, peridots, and tourmalines.Dior Joaillerie
Inspiration for Mellerio’s latest collection comes from Isola Madre, one of three small islands on Lake Maggiore with magnificent gardens and palaces acquired in the 16th century by a family of bankers who still own them today. Top left: delicate interlaced earrings evoke the style at the beginning of the 19th century and are inspired by a drawing from 1830; Bottom left: around the central emerald, this ring features tourmalines, tsavorites, enamel and delicate guillochage patterns.Mellerio dits Meller
The Louis Vuitton Monogram flower and the V, brought together for the first time in one jewellery collection. Left: a necklace with a 37.07-carat imperial topaz, a demantoid garnet, opals and diamonds set in white gold and platinum; Middle: a bracelet with a 10.76-carat imperial topaz, set in white gold with diamonds; Right: a necklace with a 7.55-carat tsavorite garnet, chrysoprase, pearls, onyx, lacquer and diamonds set in white gold.Louis Vuitton
For the Alta Gioielleria, Dolce & Gabbana chose Palazzo Gangi in Palermo, Sicily, to display their high jewellery collection, as part of their Alta Moda show. An embellished watch is guarded by a sleeping cherub laden with a pearl necklace and another with flowers and leaves is a decorative contrast to intricate pieces such as earrings encrusted in life-like jewels made to look like real raspberries.Dolce & Gabbana
It had seemed that high jewellery could not go much higher. But while the quality of stones and workmanship remains as dazzling and detailed as ever, the inspiration now tends to come from nature and the open air.
The haute joaillerie presentations – in tandem with haute couture – is a chance for high-end jewellers to show their goods to international clients. The fact that some of these pieces sell out on sight proves the importance of these early offerings.
What was the message? Nature was the subject that the jewellery makers were nurturing. But imaginative design can make stones and settings seem much more vivid than the sum of their parts.
Piaget: Sunlight Journey
The words tell the story. When the Swiss house of Piaget presented its new collection at London’s Harrods this week (until 17th August), it celebrated the collection’s spirit in its title: Sunlight Journey.
All the names given to Piaget jewellery expressed openness and light. A Sand Waves ring in pink gold set with a cushion-cut diamond; Blue Marina earrings set with tourmaline; and the same name for a necklace in white gold set with tanzanite. A Sunburst necklace lived up to its name in white gold set with a pear-shaped yellow diamond.
The link that brought the collection together was colour, subtly graded in shades of red spinel and as a cushion-cut yellow diamond set against red, pink and yellow gold. The overall effect, as in the Sunlight Journey ring, is of golden beams pouring over the jewels.
An alternative vision of watery blue colour, using sapphires and white gold, were for jewels poetically named Sea Dance or Under the Sea, while yet another group was named after the Italian Amalfi coast region that was the overall inspiration for Piaget. The watch to remember? A face with waves of the sea swelling in blue and gold.
Chanel: Flying Cloud
A yacht named Flying Cloud, a restless woman, a search for new and distant shores. Who but Chanel would absorb the meld of sky and sea, as ocean spilled onto beach and fleeting clouds momentarily cast shadows over the sun?
Coco’s imaginary world – and especially the life on the ocean she was introduced to by the Duke of Westminster, the English aristocrat who became her lover – was the inspiration for the Chanel jewellery.
The Flying Cloud collection mastered its theme like ducks to water. The setting included a projection of blue sea-shore waves, the better to provide a backcloth for an Endless Knot necklace in 18-carat white gold set with a pear-cut diamond and Indonesian cultured pearls. A bracelet with knots of yellow gold braiding or another with a sailor tattoo in diamonds underscored the originality of this jewellery with the imaginary tang of salty spray on ultra-sophisticated pieces. Let’s call it a ‘Cruise’ collection with an exceptional sparkle.
Dior: Gardens of Versailles
Up the mansion’s stairs, the hand rails draped with flowers, even in the grand setting, the Dior high jewellery message was clear: say it with flowers.
Creative Director Victoire de Castellane displayed her passion for colour as a violet opal gleaming at the centre of a ring that fanned out into leaf green emeralds and sapphire flowers, garlanded with swirling leaves and water drops of diamonds.
“With each jewel, I wanted to rediscover the combining of nature and culture, so characteristic of Le Nôtre’s work and the park of Versailles,” said the designer, referring to the French landscape architect André Le Nôtre at the service of Louis XIV.
Most regal were the mix-and-match Bosquet de la Reine earrings, paired by the effect of a wrought-iron gate, to which clung roses or other colourful flowers; or a Hameau de la Reine ring with a flowerbed of coloured stones clustered around a tourmaline ‘pond’.
De Castellane has always excelled at world-within-world designs in her collections for Dior high jewellery. This season, she scored not only with the painterly mix of colours, but also with the effect of a secret garden in which, as in a wild flower meadow, a cornucopia of flowers and leaves enveloped the space.
Chaumet: All the fun of the fair
A vintage fun fair – like a structure of a child’s amusement park from a century ago – was the unexpected background for Chaumet to bring out its sparkling jewels. In contrast to the ageing wooden figures of circus animals and rabbits, and a top hatted ringmaster greeting guests, the performance inside the arena was modern and sophisticated.
The jewels were worn by models who walked in and out of high tech ‘curtains’ inside a central, digitalised ‘circus tent’. Even Elie Saab’s dresses glinting and glimmering in the half light could not challenge the glitter and glamour of the classic jewellery.
Diamonds played a major role and the conjunction of ultra-modern technology with the deliberately old-fashioned circus setting and a ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ projection of the Chaumet jewellery, made for a striking combination.
Van Cleef & Arpels: Automata
The mystery of jewels in motion was unveiled in a fascinating book, Automata, at London’s Masterpiece Fair. Nick Foulkes, its author, and Nicolas Bos, Van Cleef’s President and CEO, revealed the exceptional mechanical skills, often held up as the secrets of workers in a mountain studio.
By the time that I saw the Paris collection Le Secret, I understood a little more about the mysteries and games that turned an apparently white lacey bracelet to black, or made a labyrinth out of an onyx and diamond ring that changed according to its angle.
Nicolas Bos showed me the metamorphosis of a swan into a princess – a piece inspired by a poem by Alexander Pushkin. As the back of the swan with its wings of feathers is rotated, a young woman in a lace ball dress appears, as if by magic.
In lyrical words, Van Cleef suggests this poem to its clients:
“I am unique and diverse,
I am hidden and revealed,
I am the riddle and the answer.”
It would be difficult to find a more imaginative set of jewellery.
Cartier: Precious stones set the tone
Mixing diamonds and pearls is hardly new in jewellery which has, for centuries, melded the smooth round stones with the sharply cut, translucent sparkles.
But Cartier has stirred the two different stones together using a watery lightness as a cascade of freshness.
This jewellery story is all about a third dimension: setting stones so that diamonds swirl over clumps of sapphires or undulate in rhythmic waves.
More conventional, but still beautiful, are cushion-shaped sapphires from Kashmir, set against square-cut diamonds. This idea of mixing – but not matching – includes cushion-shaped aquamarines facing off emerald ‘eyes’.
The overall effect is a play on nature, mixing leaves and buds or Cartier’s signature panther sitting on a grass-green base – made from a bank of aquamarines.
Repossi: Modern Woman
When Gaia Repossi started to work in the family jewellery company, there was an almost deliberate stand-off: hyper-modern designs aimed at an independent woman versus classical sparkle in a style traditionally presented to women by men.
But after making her vision as clear and clean as the metallic curves only lightly garlanded with small stones, the designer took a new direction that she described as “blending opulence with modernity”.
Under the influence of Picasso and referring to abstract shapes from Fauvism and Cubism, Gaia Repossi took that idea of opulence forward, especially in her Ode collection, where narrow bands of gold are speckled with diamonds. A ring came with intertwined circles, some of them metallic, others decorated with stones. They came under the overall name of a ‘technical Berbere’ referring to the spice mixture used in north African cuisine.
Tear drops of emerald attached to thin strips of gold or a nest of diamonds underscored the message that the designer, although fervently attached to her architectural aesthetic, is now prepared to embrace a decorative modernity.
Who are likely clients? Judging by the dinner co-hosted with powerful French actress Isabelle Huppert and with the presence of steely elegant Delphine Arnault, Gaia Repossi is finding women who share her independent spirit.
Mellerio: An island on the lake
From Como to Lugano, Italy is not short of lakes and islands. But for the Mellerio family, Isola Madre, along with the other Borromean islets in the Italian part of Lake Maggiore, has long been a source of inspiration. Its botanical gardens contrast lush greenery with the intense blue water.
Translated into jewellery at the 400 year-old house, the paradise island was reflected in deep green tsavorite stones mixed with opaque green enamel inspired by Italian cypress trees.
Nuances of colour in Mallerio’s traditionally subtle use of stones included the crystalline blue-washed chalcedony and pink-tinged rose gold. Each showcased the delicate skills gleaned from fourteen generations of the now Paris-based jewellery family.
Louis Vuitton: The monogram flower
Naming a collection Conquest suggests a self-assured attitude to jewellery design. And for its new haute joaillerie collection, Louis Vuitton seized on two of its signature symbols. That meant its monogram and a V for Vuitton – or maybe victory?
The result? A bold and colourful collection with gleaming gemstones as a symbol of power. Heraldic patterns, giving a hint of the Middle Ages suggest a mediaeval talisman.
What did the bold gem stones and deep V shapes add up to? Strong women summed up by Vuitton in the French word ‘Conquete’. No, not ‘coquette’ meaning a saucy woman, but rather ‘conquete’ which is French for ‘conquest’. Power women, by any other name.
Dolce & Gabbana: The Leopard
A lush, plush Italian beauty played by a young Claudia Cardinale, dancing under giant chandeliers with her princely lover – all the drama and tragedy of Il Gattopardo or The Leopard was in this Sicilian mansion.
Dolce & Gabbana took the location of the 1963 Luchino Visconti movie – and used it as the intensely decorative backdrop to their high jewellery collection – which they make for both women and for men.
The setting was so spectacular, would anything be able to compete with golden doors, patterned with pink flowers edged with gilded frills? Or with chandeliers so brightly lit that they illuminated the painted ceiling? Or floor tiles decorated with big cats?
But, of course! No problem for the design duo to whom rocking the baroque is a way of life.
Jewels in gold with stones set as raspberries or pineapples managed to include a luminous pearl balanced like a crown and table-cut emeralds set in a swirl of gold.
Like the elaborate Italian food once laid out for dinner at the ball, Dolce & Gabbana made their collection of jewels as juicy and succulent as ripe fruit.