The latest high jewellery collections from French luxury maisons Chanel, Hermès and Dior draw upon their heritage and iconography, and are downright stunning.
From Dior’s lace-inspired homage to Hermès’ creative expression and Chanel’s mystical chinoiserie, we share how these maisons articulate their stories of artistry and savoir faire.
Enchaînements Libres, by Hermès.
The collection celebrates the 80th anniversary of Hermès’ famous Chaine d’Ancre. Designed in 1938 by Robert Dumas, a member of the Hermès family, the ovoid link, bisected straight down the middle, was inspired by a ship anchor chain.
Hermès’ creative director Pierre Hardy has taken a free dive into exploring creative possibilities afforded by this sleek, sporty, minimalist icon — the very idea of “Enchaînement Libres” is an oxymoron in itself, a juxtaposition of bondage and freedom.
After all, chains are usually all about uniformity and repetition. What Hardy has done is to reject that very concept in a free-wheeling manner, playing with asymmetry and proportions, while throwing in unexpected shapes and materials. As he said: “When you design an item of clothing, the body gives an absolute, pre-established scale, while with jewellery you are free to move from small to large, from single to multiple elements.”
The Hermès Adage necklace features a combination of white gold and diamond pave oversized links, with its “stick and link” fastening subverted from its original function into the centerpiece; the Voltige necklace features a fluid gold mesh flecked with 8.54 carats of diamond, and is versatile to boot, seeing was it can be worn down the front or draped down the back; the Grand Jeté is an audacious and complex riot of links, diamonds, pink opals, black jade, pearls, orange sapphire and topaz in different shapes and sizes.
The results are no less than stunningly surprising and delightful— akin to taking a humble black string of liquorice, and re-interpreting it as a colourfully wild and wacky box of liquorice allsorts.
Dior, Dior, Dior, by Dior Joaillerie
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since French designer Victoire de Castellane was tasked with establishing the fine jewellery arm of fabled French fashion house Dior, and has helmed it ever since.
To celebrate this milestone, de Castellane delved in the maison’s extensive archives, returning with an ornate, ultra-feminine and candy-liciously colourful 65-piece Dior, Dior, Dior high jewellery collection inspired by the Maison’s origins as an haute couture house, and lace, the delicately beautiful and oh-so-French handcrafted fabric that had featured so prominently in Monsieur Dior’s creations.
“I wanted to capture the sensation of lightness and the haute couture signature of lace which, like ribbons, silk and draping, is essential to the Dior lexicon,” said de Castellane of her creative inspiration. “Each piece led to the next, and I adore the idea of going even further, going where I am least expected.”
The gold used in the rings, necklaces, cuffs and bracelets is handworked to form asymetric lattice-like structures resembling honeycomb, alluding to the lightness and transparency of lace, with gemstones such as blue spinels, diamonds, tanzanites, rubies, tourmalines, and emeralds are formed into floral shapes and scattered across the “lacework”, for a pretty peek-a-boo effect.
Several pairs of ear-rings are delightfully mismatched, while some pieces, like the palm bracelet, which sees a diamond and pink spinel ring linked to a matching bracelet by way of a floral diamond chain, contrast the classic prettiness of high jewellery with the subversiveness of bondage jewellery.
The overall verdict? Beautiful… worthy of millenial millionairess would-be Marie Antoinettes.
The Coromandel Collection, Chanel High Jewellery
One of the things that stands out in Gabrielle Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon apartment in Paris, which is lovingly preserved as a museum open only to a select few, is the beautiful 17th and 18th century Chinese lacquer screens that mask doorways, and that are reflected off the apartment’s mirrored surfaces, creating a labyrinth-like effect that seemingly stretches over oceans and centuries.
Chanel’s love for these black-lacquered Coromandel screens featuring motifs of mountains, streams, trees, flora and fauna, which she discovered in the 1910s and began collecting, provides the inspiration for this 59-piece collection, 24 of which are one-of-a-kind pieces.
The Coromandel collection is divided into three themes: floral, animal, and mineral.
The floral theme sees an assortment of ear-rings, rings, bracelets and necklaces bearing designs inspired by Chanel’s favourite bloom, the camellia flower, with the highlight being a cuff that is entirely reversible (an allusion to how the Coromandel screens are decorated front and back), and even a yellow diamond that pivots, to always remain visible on the wrist.
The mineral theme features gems — tsavorites, emeralds, diamonds, red spinel, onyx, mother-of-pearl — that reflect the rich colours of the lacquered screens.
The animal theme sees the bird, deer and horse motifs transported from the screens, and miniaturised to jewel-sized proportions.
Underlying each piece’s design DNA is a strong art deco influence featuring bold geometrics — and when combined with the allure of Chinoiserie, the effect is graphic and timeless — as all of Chanel’s best creations are.
All images courtesy of Hermès, Dior and Chanel. All rights reserved.