#SuzyCouture: Jewellery With a Story to Tell
Identity is the heart and the art of the high jewellery houses, which draw customers from across the world by creating a signature story line. Often following through an earlier launch with variations on a theme, Chanel’s lions, Dior’s “secrets of Versailles” and Chaumet’s Russian White Nights were just some of the inspirations in the Place Vendôme – and beyond.
Chaumet’s magical Moscow
The set alone was an enchantment: the historic jewellery room became a tangle of trees dusted with snow, silhouetted by the domed roofs of Moscow’s Red Square. But that was just an introduction to the intricate and detailed jewels, where diamond flowers clustered around a stone that might be a sky-blue sapphire, or a rose-orange padparadscha sapphire to give a warm, blush shade to the icy diamonds.
The most dramatic of the Chaumet jewels was inspired by the kokoshnik – the traditional folk headdress worn by the Russian peasantry, but often copied in precious materials for the Imperial Court and aristocracy during the 19th-century revival of Russian national culture.
Responding to jewellery is about emotion, and Chaumet has succeeded in creating a collection that will surely appeal not only to today’s Russian clients, but to an international audience drawn to beauty in craftsmanship and effect.
Dior’s exploration of Versailles
Since her first dramatic exploration of “Versailles by night” two years ago through last year’s play of light in the gardens of the French palace, Victoire de Castellane explored the darker side of the grandiose building. Her jewellery inspiration came from the clandestine areas of the secret passage or boudoir.
The designer described a flicker of light on a ring as recreating the candlelight that illuminates the private corridor where royal mistresses flitted along to the King’s bedchamber. The element of mystery and clandestine behaviour was played through too in colours of the night, with Victoire describing gems “in shades of faded rose and iridescent moonstone”. Has the “Paris of Secrets” revealed all – or will another Versailles chapter appear next year? Dior is not yet revealing if Versailles still has more jewellery space to conquer.
Chanel’s Lion King
Her zodiac sign was Leo, and the lion plays a powerful part in the world of Mademoiselle Chanel. So it is not surprising that the lion symbol, first seen in 2012 in Chanel’s high jewellery, should continue to inspire the collections.
The bronze and wood lions from Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment were both inspiration for a collection of designs taking the wild cat as its theme.
Chain necklaces, chokers and a big cat grasping a yellow diamond in its paws were all part of the 53-piece display. Even the faces of diamond watches were hidden under a swivelling yellow diamond cat. “L’esprit de lion” – the spirit of the lion – fitted neatly with the bold energy of the great Mademoiselle.
Chopard – enlaced in diamonds
What is the alliance between haute couture and high jewellery? Both can be defined as lacework, with Chopard’s gemstones woven with precious metals in the house’s own workshops.
“We have a theme called ‘Chopard precious couture’ – because it is inspired by lace,” said Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s Artistic Director and Co-President, who might mix diamond and tanzanite or a diamond and ruby set, including chandelier earrings and a choker with heart-shaped rubies.
Scheufele explained that the work is done in Geneva – “We melt our own materials, we make the tools, we even cut the stones and have watches and jewellery under one roof.”
Boucheron embraces “the people”
The doors have finally closed on the “Vendôrama” exhibition that brought high jewellery to the public in a celebration of Boucheron’s 160th anniversary. It was almost as exciting to see entertainers bringing jewellery to life for a spellbound audience, as it was to look at the striking pieces in this interactive exhibition.
Away from its noble building on the Place Vendôme, the exhibition was held at the Monnaie de Paris, on the Left Bank of the Seine, and set in the museum’s garden, which Boucheron will subsequently restore.
It is tough to bring the story of jewellery to life, but the historical references and the more modern pieces had a strong identity. The appeal of modernity, carved out in diamond leaves or a peacock feather, was in contrast to the sense of a historic show.
“We didn’t want to put on a straightforward retrospective,” said Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, CEO of Boucheron. “We wanted to open the Maison Boucheron doors, to reveal the vivid world of our jewellery and our forward-looking vision.”