The ongoing pandemic may have put a tiny chill on the recent high jewelry presentations in Paris, but the luxury jewelers that did hold private appointments—including Boucheron, Cindy Chao, Chopard, De Beers and Louis Vuitton—brought more than enough fire (or should we say ice?) to set the City of Light ablaze, metaphorically speaking. We’ve cherrypicked the highlights below.
How do you revive the magnificent jewels of the Maharajas for the modern era? Go monochromatic. Boucheron creative director, Claire Choisne, has a knack for turning the simplicity of airy-looking jewels and stones into splendor. For the recent collection high-jewelry collection in January, a season when the house typically revisits its archives, Choisne was inspired by a legendary event in the maison’s history when, in 1928, the Maharaja of Patiala arrived on Boucheron’s doorstep to place the largest special order in history in Paris’ jewelry mecca, the Place Vendôme. Nothing about the occasion was discrete. He arrived with 40 servants in tow, booked 35 rooms at the Ritz and was escorted to the company’s boutique by Sikh guards carrying iron safes filled to the brim with jewels. Already a physical titan at a towering 6 foot 7, he intended to accentuate his royal presence to the ultimate heights in 149 unique designs. Unfortunately, while the sketches survived, the jeweled creations did not. Their whereabouts are unknown and the pieces have never been seen past his generation, save for one photo of his son wearing a necklace. So, it was a heavy task for Choisne to reinterpret the designs for modern royalty.
“This commission by the Maharajah of Patiala seemed like a fairytale, it is the stuff of dreams, says Choisne in a press statement. “In our archives, we have kept the 149 original designs from which I got my inspiration for this collection. I wanted to transpose these designs into the 21st century and to reinvent them for today’s Maharanis and Maharajahs. For these women and these men who want to express their personality and their own style.”
To do so, she opted for the lightness of white and transparent stones in white diamonds and rock crystal which transforms the opulence of the traditional Far East jewels into surprisingly refined and sleek designs without sacrificing the wow factor. The only piece in the collection to feature any colored gems is an extravagant parure set with 9 Colombian emeralds totaling 40 carats which can transform into a collar necklace lined with baguette-cut emeralds or be worn as a brooch. The original emerald gems that hung from the bottom have been replaced with diamonds encapsulated in rock crystal to magnify their sparkle.
But if you are really looking to flex your power status and show up any fellow high-jewelry collectors, the pinnacle is the Maharani set executed entirely in white gold, diamonds, cultured pearls and rock crystal. It is comprised of three necklaces: a stunning choker collar with a 4.05-carat cushion-cut diamond highlighting the center, a slightly longer necklace featuring five strands of diamonds, each set with cushion-cut diamonds at the center weighing a total of 7.35-carats, that can be converted to a tassel necklace or worn as a choker and an extra-long necklace that drops to the navel with a cascade of diamonds and A 5 178 Japanese pearls culminating in a tassel with a Lotus-flower motif. The latter can be worn a multitude of ways transforming from its full-length into a shorter version or as a choker, while two pearl bracelets can be extracted from the full piece and a the tassel can be separated and worn as a brooch.
While the original jewels may never resurface, Choisne’s homage pieces, which serve a minimalist approach to the Maharaja’s maximalist style, are certainly worthy of being seen, worn and possibly even enshrined.
Cindy Chao The Art Jewel
The Taiwanese high jeweler Cindy Chao, who was recently appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (a knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) in Paris, used the occasion of couture week to present a seven-piece collection that reflects an evolving style, one she describes as having “turned towards ‘essentialism.’”
“Instead of making complicated designs, I now spend much more time contemplating how to reduce the unnecessary,” she says, citing Michelangelo’s work with marble as an inspiration.
That ethos is apparent in a spectacular feather brooch set with 39 cushion-cut diamonds and a smattering of colorful side stones totaling 83 carats, including more than 1,300 stones fully paved along the shaft of the titanium quill. Another highlight is a pair of earrings set in titanium that’s been sculpted into two delicate pieces of ocean coral. Centered on a couple of 2.2-carat pear-shaped stones—a fancy brown-orange diamond and a blue sapphire — set in contrasting light-activated resin, the earrings combine unconventional and precious materials, in service of Chao’s mission “to break the boundaries between high jewelry and art.”
The resin also appears in the resplendent Foliage earrings that belong to Chao’s steadily-evolving Black Label Masterpiece collection, lending an “organic sensation” to the metal and gemstones. “I was inspired by the crinkles one observes in the autumn leaves,” she says, “and created this pair of earrings to showcase the undulations, curves and romance that can only be found in nature.”
The star of Chopard’s high jewelry presentation wasn’t a jewel, but an emerald, and not just any emerald, but the Chopard Insofu Emerald, a 6,225-carat rough gem mined in Zambia and recently acquired by co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele. The fully traceable stone is expected to yield a number of high-quality cut gems, to be used in future Chopard collections (“the promise of marvels to come,” as the brand stated in an Instagram post).
The other notable pieces in the Geneva jeweler’s small but mighty showing included a Fairmined-certified ethical gold ring set with a 10.88-ct. radiant-cut fancy intense pink diamond and a Toi & Moi two-stone ring that features an exceptional 4.10-ct. fancy intense blue diamond and a top-quality white diamond. Megan Fox, eat your heart out!
Working with the De Beers design studio, Céline Assimon, the CEO of De Beers Jewellers, looked to the transformative power of light to create the maison’s The Alchemist of Light high jewelry collection, an assortment of seven sets totaling 45 one-of-a-kind pieces (some were shown this week while the rest will be unveiled during Paris Couture in July).
The two sets that De Beers just presented, Atomique and Light Rays, share the theme of light—“the way it interacts with the world and can change the way we perceive it and even more so how it brings to life the beauty of diamonds,” says Assimon—yet boast very different vibes.
In Atomique, the team used negative space to imagine a diamond “at a molecular level,” says Assimon. “This is depicted by the geometric patterns and abstract motifs of the jewelry, which features exclusive white round brilliant diamonds set on white gold.”
Her favorite piece from the set is a double ring featuring white space between the central diamond and “a quartet of diamonds with articulated settings that appear to float like satellites,” Assimon says.
Light Rays, on the other hand, incorporates titanium, a De Beers’ first, and represents a daring new direction for the house. The talking piece is a transformable collar necklace with a striking fringe effect (“reminiscent of fanning light rays,” says Assimon) designed to evoke “the moment when sunlight radiates across the sky from behind mountains and clouds.”
“It pays tribute to the high jewelry craft with its complex construction, yet it is fluid and sensual because of the use of titanium, which makes the necklace feel like silk,” says Assimon. “The beauty of this necklace is that it is also transformable: The titanium fringe can be detached to provide the wearer with a very different statement look to suit different occasions and moods.”
A follow-up to the first chapter of Louis Vuitton’s Bravery high jewelry collection, introduced in July to honor the bicentenary of the founder’s birth, this second installment focuses on the man’s most iconic creation, the trunk. Locks, studs and clasps connect the 20 pieces that make up the mostly polychromatic line, which is structured around four themes: Le Multipin, Le Magnétisme, La Mini Malle and Cocktail Rings.
Francesca Amfitheatrof, the house’s artistic director for watches and jewelry, has outdone herself with the Le Multipin necklace. Studded with more than 100 colored stones—pink and green tourmalines, citrines, aquamarines, tanzanites—set in three rows, the necklace comes together on a rare 42.42-carat lagoon blue tourmaline, designed to resemble the Louis Vuitton trunk closure.
Meanwhile, diamond aficionados are bound to fall in love with the house’s monochromatic La Mini Malle set—including a choker, a bracelet, a jewelry watch and a long necklace that transforms into a choker and two bracelets—which interprets the geometric shape of its “Petite Malle” shoulder bag, introduced in 2014, as a miniaturized extravaganza of white gold and diamonds. All in all, Bravery Chapter II serves as a dazzling ode to the most famous piece of luggage ever invented.