The “Haute Joaillerie” week and its highlights
Once, jewelry was a modest addition to Haute Couture week in Paris. This July, it began and ended the season
Even on the opening night, when Donatella Versace was staging her couture show in the Bourse de Paris, the jewelry world was celebrating the launch of an important new awards ceremony. One that rather remarkably, managed to fit under the same roof over 40 of the notoriously competitive jewelry brands – from both sides of The Pond. The proof of that was that every single brand walked away with a prize: no losers, only winners.
Coinciding with the Haute Couture season’s aperture of July 5th, The National Jewelry Institute and the Parsons New School for Design celebrated this first annual Fine Art of High Jewelry and Timepieces Awards in Le Bristol. Its goal: to honor creativity and the art of fine jewelry. The Awards recognize the best single example of jewelry and timepieces from each brand. The following night, each of these houses commemorated their distinctions at a soirée in the Musée du Louvre; a dinner prepared by triple Michelin-starred Chef Éric Fréchon.
The Host Committee of the event was certainly star studded: Francesca Amfitheatrof, Design Director of Tiffany & Co.; Solange Azagury-Partridge, London-based jewelry great; Lorenz Baumer, Paris-based designer; Pierre Hardy, Creative Director of Hermès Fine Jewelry division, and Lucia Silvestri, Jewelry Creation and Gems Buying Executive Director of Bulgari.
The Fine Art of High Jewelry and Timepieces Awards represents a challenging initiative achieved by the combined efforts of Judith Price, Founder and President of The National Jewelry Institute, and Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School For Design.
“As you may not need to buy an art work to appreciate it, our aim is to educate people to appreciate the artistry and history of jewelry, which is actually one of the last decorative arts still alive,” declared Price. The two institutions also announced their first courses dedicated to the Fine Art of High Jewelry and Timepieces will be held in Paris and New York in September and October, respectively.
This path-breaking project served as a preamble to the series of Haute Joaillerie presentations, cocktails and dinners staged throughout the week, particularly on the last day of couture season. A reminder that Paris remains the uncontested capital of fine jewelry, and the home of so many outstanding collections in the city’s central jewelry district.
This jewelry season’s collections had a constant. The maisons paid loyal tribute to their roots, their founders, their heritage; the pinnacle of their history. The atmosphère surrounding each one of the distinctive presentations and events confirmed that. Moreover, there is an obvious or subtle reminiscence on the designs and materials to the most prominent period on (French) jewelry design and jewelry making – one the liberated woman of the 20s clearly impacted: Art Deco. A period where the prevalent motifs were from animals, flowers and plants to geometry, the most characteristic one. Inspiration in ancient cultures was also crucial in this movement. Convertible jewelry was significant too. Meanwhile, colored gemstones like the sapphire, emerald and turquoise often combined with diamonds were notable. Ten houses masterfully exemplifies this correspondence:
Boucheron, the first jeweler in Place Vendôme and a house with a very special connection with India – a land where the maison has found continuous inspiration after Louis Boucheron (the son of Boucheron’s founder) visited it for the first time in 1909 – presented Bleu de Jodhpur, an ode to the fascinating city of Jodhpur or “Blue City” located in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The house used sand and marble – exceptional materials in the making of Haute Joaillerie – to add extra soul to some pieces of the collection. In the picture: “Mehndi”, an extraordinary brooch-necklace entirely set with diamonds, evoking an eternal tattoo. According to the house, this light lace-like piece reverences the elegance, delicacy and legendary beauty of the Rajput woman. This collection is part of a collaboration between Boucheron’s Creative Director, Claire Choisne, and the Maharaja of Jodhpur, His Highness Gaj Singh II.
Buccellati presented its “Opera Collection” inspired by the Italian Renaissance and, as the name of the collection suggests, great opera houses, particularly La Scala in Milan, home of this historic jeweler. The collection is composed of pieces in variable dimensions and shades of gold yet following the floritura – emblem of the maison. One could imagine the entire collection on any Verdi’s Prima Donna. Maria Cristina Buccellati, daughter of Gianmaria Buccellati and Worldwide Communications Director of the house, confessed to having her favorite pieces, when she opened one of the store windows in Place Vendôme containing some of the most precious creations – notably a pair of earrings she particularly loved. Peter Lindbergh photographed the advertising campaign starring Elisa Sednaoui, and the maison officially exhibited the collection and images by the German photographer during a cocktail held in the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild.
Buccellati remains under mourning since to the recent loss of Gianmaria Buccellati, credited to have turned the family business into an international luxury brand.
Bulgari introduced “Italian Gardens”, a 100 unique pieces inspired by the art of the garden from the Italian Renaissance period, characterized for following the ideals of order and beauty. Like Michelangelo or Raphael, Bulgari took nature as source of inspiration for its work of applied art. “If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere”, the Roman house – quoting Vincent Van Gogh – expresses next to the description of one of its creations, unveiled during a cocktail party inside the house’s boutique on Avenue George V. Carla Bruni continues as Bulgari’s face on its new advertising campaign: “The Exciting Facets of Italian Beauty”.
Chanel Joaillerie presented “Les Talismans de Chanel”, a collection of precious protectors, conceived by the maison as an expression of power through magnetic and solar jewels. Diamonds, Japanese cultured pearls, sapphires, multi-colored lacquer and enamel complete the series. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel – well known for her many superstitions, launched the first Haute Joaillerie collection of maison Chanel in 1932. This new collection inherited her personality with unique pieces “charged” with magical powers. The presentation took place in a sumptuous mirrored atmosphere at the University Paris Descartes in the 6th arrondissement. René famously declared “I think, therefore I am”, making him a somewhat odd bedfellow for the somewhat credulous Coco.
Chaumet unveiled Joséphine, a romantic collection of 45 extraordinary pieces inspired by Napoléon Bonaparte’s wife Joséphine, remembered for her exquisite taste and interest in gardening and roses. Hence, the set design of the collection’s official images. For this particular collection, the house founded by Marie-Étienne Nitot – official jeweler of Napoléon I in the early 1800s – and owned by LVMH since 1999, took its own archive drawings, projects for necklaces, pendants, tiaras and aigrette head ornaments as a basis for the new collection, prioritizing the delicacy and lightness of the pieces. The originals are preserved in the Chaumet Museum located above its store at Place Vendôme, under the not distant care of the mythical column, topped by a statue of Napoléon I.
De Beers Diamond Jewelers established in 2001 by LVMH and De Beers SA, the world’s premier diamond mining and marketing company, celebrated this year the 10th anniversary of its Talisman collection, a series of colorful pieces combining both rough and polished diamonds. Hollie Bonneville, the Head Designer of the house, talked about how diamonds in their roughest provides an organic feeling of being a gift of nature. The talented young designer also stressed the importance of allowing the client to see the diamonds that will compose a piece before their unification for a truer appreciation. Almost to close the couture – jewelry – week, the house hosted an intimate dinner at Caviar Kaspia.
Dior Joaillerie presented the Soie Dior collection, where Victoire de Castellane, Creative Director of Christian Dior’s fine jeweler division, took ribbons as objects of inspiration in the most delightful way. “When you play with a ribbon, it’s instinctive, ephemeral, and I wanted to keep that notion of freedom,” explains de Castellane. In order to achieve the perfect ribbon’s movement, the most experimented craftsmen in Paris displayed prodigious ingenuity and know-how. Soie Dior is defined by the maison as “the most couture of fabrics, the silk of a taffeta, a pongé, organza or satin; the sumptuous colors of the silk of evening grows”. Therefore, an Haute Joaillerie collection marching in tune with the couture season, since Raf Simons’ couture collection evoked the riotous hues of medieval stain glass and Hieronymus Bosch.
Louis Vuitton allowed us one more time to travel through time with Acte V collection, an unforgettable souvenir from the Art Deco period. The “V” on the collection’s name has a dual and evident symbolization. When it comes to the Roman numeral 5, it refers to the fifth Haute Joaillerie collection by the French house. When it comes to the letter, to the modern version of its emblematic monogram. The period where the impeccable creations find their influence is not a coincidence. In 1925, Paris was the home of the World’s Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, where converged the ultimate international avant-garde ideas in architecture and applied arts, and which epitomizes what later was called “Art Deco”. Gaston-Louis Vuitton, who played a key role during the Art Deco period, chaired the eminent Exhibition.
Piaget launched the Haute Joaillerie and Haute Horlogerie collection “Secrets and Lights, a mythical journey by Piaget” at the new Piaget boutique on rue de la Paix – its largest boutique in the world. The new collection pays tribute to the history of the silk route and the cultures that embraced it. Marco Polo’s legendary cities, Venice and Samarkand, served as inspiration for the 93 jewelry and 38 watchmaking creations. Venice – the perpetual Republic of splendors – gave birth to a mysterious and magical collection entitled “Secrets of Venice”, while the historical city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan influenced “Lights of Samarkand.” The last day of presentation coincided with the opening of the first Italian store of the brand in Milan fashion’s district, as proudly bragged the house CEO, Philippe Léopold-Metzger.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels introduced Seven Seas, a collection inspired by the spectacle of waves and the fascination for the flora and fauna of the sea, as well as the legends related to them. The French jeweler fascinated us this time with creations from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Sea; each one carefully made with unique materials and gems. A notable characteristic was the undulation or movement effect on the designs when representing the waves or the sea. The maison chose L’École Van Cleef & Arpels to present the collection. L’École constitutes a remarkable project tending to share the art of jewelry, or, in words of its President, Marie Vallanet-Delhom, “an original experience to develop a discerning eye, elevate one’s level of personal taste, discover an art, explore a culture…” An (decorative) art, just as we were invited by The National Jewelry Institute to appreciate jewelry.