Capri, Jodhpur, Florence, Monaco — top jewelers had clients and editors racking up the air miles this season by showing their collections in an array of exotic locales.
This story first appeared in the July 22, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The unusually high number of events ahead of Paris Couture Week, when new creations are traditionally unveiled, reflects a quickening pace for high jewelry that is set to gather momentum, following the decision by the National Union of Antique Dealers to turn the Biennale des Antiquaires — the industry’s premier showcase, now held every other year — into an annual event starting in 2016.
Van Cleef & Arpels set the ball rolling last year when it opted out of the Paris couture calendar and staged an early launch at the Château de Chambord. This year, it unveiled its Seven Seas collection at a gala dinner in June at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco in the presence of Prince Albert.
Nicolas Bos, chief executive officer of Van Cleef & Arpels, said the decision made sense, given that the 120-piece collection was inspired by the Océan necklace that Prince Albert gave Princess Charlene for their 2011 wedding.
“This idea of narration is very important for the house,” he said. “It’s not just about organizing a nice trip or dinner, but really prolonging the inspiration with the experience, which means a different location each time, but without necessarily being in a process of one-upmanship in terms of destinations. Rather, it is always dictated by the theme.”
Boucheron presented its Bleu de Jodhpur collection under the patronage of Gaj Singh, the last Maharaja of Jodhpur, who hosted a presentation at his Umaid Bhawan Palace in India and attended a press breakfast in Paris during couture week.
The alliance was designed to highlight the house’s longstanding ties to India, which culminated with the Maharaja of Patiala placing a now-legendary order for 149 pieces in 1928.
The highlight was the Jodhpur reversible necklace, which took 1,700 hours to make and costs 1.37 million euros, or $1.53 million at current exchange. One side is made of marble from the Makrana quarries that supplied the Taj Mahal, and diamonds including a 6.01-carat centerpiece; the other of rock crystal set with stylized flowers in sapphires and diamonds.
“It was really important to me to create a collection that was not clichéd,” said Claire Choisne, creative director of the house, which announced separately that Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, formerly with Cartier, would take over as ceo on Sept. 28.
Louis Vuitton chose Casa Malaparte, set on a clifftop in Capri, to unveil its Acte V – The Escape collection of 50 pieces with price tags of up to 1.38 million euros, or $1.54 million.
The Art Moderne-inspired creations include multistrand pearl necklaces, some dangling a tasselled pendant inspired by the cloche clés found on the house’s travel bags, and diamond earrings set with opals in the vivid green and blue hues of the Mediterranean Sea.
“These places are the stuff of dreams,” Hamdi Chatti, vice president of fine jewelry and watches at Louis Vuitton, said of the trend for remarkable venues. “The jewelry universe is the stuff of dreams, by definition. But what our clients really enjoy is not only discovering exceptional locations, but having a good time. That is key for us, as they will want to come back next year because they know they can see exceptional pieces, but also live an exceptional moment.”
Chaumet flew visitors by helicopter from Paris to Fontainebleau castle for a tour including the recently restored Turkish boudoir used by Empress Josephine, setting the scene for its 45-piece Josephine collection, which builds on the line first introduced in 2010.
Highlights include the Aigrette Impériale ring, featuring a 5.53-carat pear-cut diamond, priced 970,000 euros, or $1.08 million. Jean-Marc Mansvelt, who took over as ceo of Chaumet on Jan. 1, noted the brand was legitimate in staging an event at Fontainebleau, since it was the official jeweler to Napoleon and Josephine.
“The word ‘storytelling’ has become a bit of a catch-all, because it is used to describe a lot of things. So you can say that this is storytelling, but in reality, when we say what we say and we go to Fontainebleau, it is not storytelling in the sense of inventing something. We are simply telling our story,” he noted.
Chopard showed several additions to the Red Carpet collection it unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in May, including a diamond necklace with a pendant featuring a show-stopping 70-carat pear-shaped fancy deep brown-yellow diamond.
Meanwhile, Bulgari invited celebrities including Amber Heard to its flagship on Avenue George V to watch models parade items from the Giardini Italiani collection it presented in Florence in June.
However, not everyone succumbed to the lure of distant lands.
Chanel used its trump card, the fact that it also stages a couture show, as a powerful incentive to draw clients to the French capital. This season, the show came with an added bonus: Celebrity models including Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart and Rita Ora appeared in replicas of the Bijoux de Diamants collection created by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1932.
At the same time, the house showed its Les Talismans de Chanel collection, featuring 50 pieces incorporating unusual materials like rock crystal and enamel, in an elaborate presentation that will travel subsequently to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Monaco and Dubai.
The highlight of the collection was the Envoûtante necklace in white gold set with an 8-carat briolette-cut diamond, a 3-carat oval-cut diamond, 203 fancy-cut diamonds and 426 brilliant-cut diamonds. The 2.1-million-euro, or $2.34-million, stunner weighs just 80 grams, or 2.8 ounces, on account of its almost invisible “fil-couteau” setting.
“Big rings, stackable bracelets — there is an evolution in the way jewelry is worn, and I think that is contributing a lot to the energy of the sector,” noted Benjamin Comar, international director of Chanel Fine Jewelry.
Victoire de Castellane seemed to nod to this growing informality with her Tresse bangles at Dior, which recalled woven bracelets with their irregular layers of diamonds and colored stones in ribbon-inspired settings. However, she maintained wearability was not a key concern.
“I don’t really work that way, because a trend will inevitably go out of fashion. I need the jewels to look like they can stand the test of time,” she said. “For high jewelry, I think you also need statement pieces, because people want things that are magnificent, and to be magnificent, you need volume and that ‘wow’ effect.”
The designer worked the ribbon theme in her Soie Dior collection, which featured 53 pieces priced from 170,000 euros to 2.8 million euros, or $189,500 to $3.1 million.
Piaget showcased its Secrets & Lights line, inspired by Venice and Samarkand, at the brand’s new flagship on Rue de la Paix, its largest store worldwide, ahead of a presentation to clients in Dubai in November.
“It sends a message about the strength of the brand,” said Piaget ceo Philippe Leopold-Metzger, who aims to grow its high-jewelry business to match its strength in watches.
Comprising 93 pieces of high jewelry and 38 watches, the new collection highlights the skill of exceptional craftspeople like feather artist Nelly Saunier, who worked with Piaget on pieces including the Serenissima cuff, made of white gold set with emeralds, blue sapphires and diamonds surrounded by a halo of feathers and priced at 329,000 euros, or $366,750.
De Beers celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Talisman collection with a high-jewelry set mixing rough and polished colored diamonds, including a necklace with two pendants costing $550,000. Ceo François Delage said its customers were increasingly looking for unique gems, and that implied a personalized experience.
“What they want is something that is precious, so they would probably not appreciate being part of a grand tour with a lot of folklore around. What we create for them is a one-to-one presentation and experience based upon what they truly enjoy and like,” he said, noting that De Beers had organized visits to the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris for some clients.
“It’s of course about storytelling, but it all depends what sort of story you want to tell and how you tell the story,” he said.
For some high jewelry brands, couture week was an opportunity to reach out to a new generation of clients.
Buccellati’s Opera collection included both one-of-a kind items — standouts included pendant earrings in honeycomb yellow gold with curls in white gold set with 392 diamonds — and a wider collection with prices starting at 1,500 euros, or $1,675, set to go on sale in September, backed by an ad campaign featuring Elisa Sednaoui.
To accompany this move, Buccellati, which is controlled by private equity fund Clessidra SGR, recently opened a corner at the Galeries Lafayette flagship in Paris.
“Place Vendôme is always a destination, of course, and it’s very important for the image, but sometimes certain types of clients are a little bit intimidated to walk inside this kind of shop. So I think it’s very important to diversify,” said Andrea Buccellati, president and creative director of Buccellati.
Meanwhile, 402-year-old house Mellerio dits Meller challenged convention by enlisting couturier Alexandre Vauthier to design a capsule collection. His four-piece Art Deco-inspired high-jewelry line featured a chain link that formed an M for Mellerio and a V for Vauthier.
“I didn’t want an ornamental kind of high jewelry,” he explained. “I wanted something that would be fluid and hug the shape of the body. Everything is mobile.”