PARIS — Fashion shows may still have been tentative in their return during Paris Couture Week, but for jewelry houses, the message was “go big or go home,” as they brought out fabulous stones to show in the French capital.
While this first rendezvous of the year is traditionally a more quiet one, houses big and small came out with gusto, going bold in color, size and designs — even with diamonds, no longer limited to icy transparency.
Even Chanel — which opted out of the week after revealing the “Allure Céleste” necklace, the highlight of its upcoming “1932” anniversary collection marking 90 years since its very first high-jewelry collection — had a sizable sapphire on show.
While all eyes were on Chopard’s uncut Insofu emerald and its 6,225 carats, which took pride of place in a room of its Paris boutique turned into a black box to better bring out the electric green of the record-breaking stone, the “Exceptional Gemstones” offered up by the house held their own.
Inspired by nature, copresident and artistic director Caroline Scheufele brought together rare stones found around the world — responsibly, of course.
The pieces included the “Rose of Caroline” ring and its 70-carat facetted, radiant-cut, fancy intense pink diamond, flanked by two heart-shaped rubies given further sparkle by the micro-pavé band in white and rose gold; a pair of pears — one an internally flawless D, the other a fancy intense blue — coming together on a “toi et moi” ring, and a showstopper necklace of 200-plus carats of octagonal emeralds and diamonds.
In “Bravery II,” the second chapter dedicated to house founder Louis Vuitton, Francesca Amfitheatrof continued to explore his life, this time considering his legacy — the trunk — in a three-fold collection that took cues from the luggage’s salient features, in a rainbow of tones. “I love this idea of painting with gems. My designs aren’t about a central stone with diamonds,” said the house’s artistic director of watches and jewelry.
That’s exactly what she did with the 100-plus stones of the Multipin necklace, not only setting the 42.42-carat lagoon-blue tourmaline on the side but also as part of the functional clasp inspired by one of the trunkmaker’s patented lock mechanisms, said to be so secure that Harry Houdini himself didn’t want to try his luck with it, she noted.
The Magnétisme necklace and its removable central cushion-cut yellow sapphire, nodding to the corners and metallic elements of the famous luggage, followed the same ideas. As for the Mini Malle set, it went for a more unisex vibe of pavé chain links connecting three LV Monogram Star diamonds — Amfitheatrof imagined the set could be shared between a woman and a man — and offered the luxury house’s first high-jewelry watch design.
“Three different kinds, so jewels but at the same time you can see they are Bulgari,” said the Italian brand’s jewelry creation and gem buying director Lucia Silvestri of the three sets she showcased in the form of a masterclass, as a way to share her passion but also “the fact that there is a lot of work behind [each] beautiful piece of art.”
Indeed, beyond the 20-something carats of emeralds of the Le Magnifiche necklace or the graphic swoop of a torque featuring a Sri Lankan sapphire cabochon, it was the metal work on the rose gold and ruby Serpenti necklace that struck the most.
“It’s a very old and sophisticated technique that calls for handcraft and also the help of a machine,” Silvestri explained of the beading effect, which required a fair share of the 800 hours of work needed to bring to life the entwined serpents that glide against the contour of the neck.
Chaumet turned its Place Vendôme headquarters into a slice of crashing surf to highlight its “Déferlante” (or “breaking wave”) collection.
“Water in all its states and movement is something that really interests Chaumet, even in the time of Joseph Chaumet, because the house loves movement, a moment captured,” said the jeweler’s chief executive officer Jean-Marc Mansvelt, pointing out a 1905 design drawn from the archives and shown next to its modern-day descendants.
Epitomizing the theme was the 1,600-diamond tiara figuring a wave cresting on the forehead, a tumble of stones figuring seafoam and drops of water. The mix of brilliant and various tiered cuts, as well as the profusion of setting techniques, was a way to “make light vibrate differently,” according to Mansvelt.
Also on display were a transformable ring figuring a 6-carat emerald-cut diamond falling into water that could be worn with or without its spray of glittering water; various options to wear a curl of water around fingers, ears or the neck, and a secret watch with a face hidden under a scattering of precious water drops.
While its Rue de la Paix home is under renovation, Cartier moved into the Ritz hotel to showcase the final chapter of its Sixième Sens high-jewelry collection, with its striking and sometimes mind-teasing designs that beckoned for a second — at the very least — glance.
Pieces on view included new variations on the famed Tutti Frutti designs with their profusion of juicy gems; the Black Eurythmie cuff that showed black onyx or rows of glittering diamonds, depending on which way the scale design was placed, and a diamond-and-sapphire bracelet watch, its functional side cunningly hidden in plain sight under a diamond. A geometric necklace figured a snake’s head with carved emeralds, while another showed a playfully fierce snow tiger guarding its sapphire treasure.
In scientific terms, light can be described as both a wave and a particle. At De Beers, it certainly came in those two shapes. On the one hand, the Atomique set took cues from its name to offer structures of interconnected round diamonds, including an 18.57-carat internally flawless F diamond as centerpiece for a necklace.
On the other, waves of titanium, rose gold and black-rhodium-coated white gold played with fancy-hued diamonds in orange, brown and yellow to figure sunlight. Among the standouts were the Light Rays earrings, bringing maximum wow effect with minimal weight, and the matching necklace, with its detachable central motif that could be used as a bag charm.
As is customary, Boucheron turned to its archive for this January offering titled “New Maharajahs” that saw creative director Claire Choisne retell the story of the house’s most legendary client — Bhupindar Singh, Maharaja of Patiala — in a 14-piece reinterpretation.
Original gouache sketches were turned on their heads in terms of scale and colors, while keeping to the original shapes and ancestral Indian techniques, in particular carved glyptic gems. Among the highlights were the many options offered by Choisne’s transformable designs as well as the earpieces that added a touch of highly contemporary pizzazz.
With its 81 pieces, “Galon Dior” offered a profusion worthy of the house’s couture atelier’s resources, as artistic director Victoire de Castellane looked to the refinement of trimmings for her designs. Asymmetry ruled, as did unusual placements that saw stones set askew as if they had been scattered in, to better translate the idea of a cutting table strewn with precious snippets.
These ranged from the simplicity of a row of marigolds as a choker necklace and creole earrings to the nine-row necklace mixing deceptively simple floral and geometric rows of diamonds into an adroitly assembled jumble of platinum, rose and yellow gold strands. And for the first time in a high-jewelry offering, cufflinks were designed for men — although clients of any gender could be tempted.
Also true to its couture heritage were details such as the layer of matching lacquer applied to the claws holding a sapphire or an emerald in place, to avoid distracting from the stone’s bold hues.
For Fawaz Gruosi, too, the idea of having metal imposing itself visually over gemstones was a distasteful idea, but he chose to place minute matching gems into the surfaces in need of hiding. Cue the kind of intricacies that only the wearer can discover.
Pieces included a reptilian-looking ring featuring a velvety square-cut Colombian emerald set on a swirl of rubies; a necklace that looked like a sculptural collar with a river of 44 Zambian emeralds layered over it, and a bangle carved out of amber inlaid with nine pear-cut diamonds.
But what got tongues wagging fervently in the Ritz salon where he was showing was a stunner of a bracelet, featuring two blue sapphires totaling more than 120 carats — if the 150-plus carats of pink ones paired with large emerald baguettes hadn’t been enough.
“What clients are expecting is to be surprised and to fall in love [with a design],” the veteran jeweler said.