PARIS — As theater, shopping and cafes here gradually emerge from a long hiatus, the high jewelry presentations that traditionally accompany the season’s couture shows are back. Sort of.
Some houses, including Boucheron, Pomellato and Chaumet, scheduled by-appointment or virtual presentations. But several others chose dates over the last month and unveiled collections in destinations far from Place Vendôme, the heart of haute joaillerie. Prices for such one-of-a-kind pieces generally start at around 50,000 euros (about $60,000) and can run into many millions.
Chanel and Dior, for example, went to Asia, and Cartier hosted a major event along Italy’s Lake Como to showcase 560 pieces.
“I think brands want to waste no time in connecting with consumers racing to go back to normal — in what appears like a V-shaped, postwar euphoria frenzy,” Luca Solca, managing director of luxury goods at Sanford C. Bernstein in Geneva, wrote in an email, referring to a rapid economic recovery. “As nobody knows how long these positive conditions will last, no brand wants to waste a second.”
He noted that, in contrast to many past postwar recoveries, “consumers have plenty of savings accumulated during the pandemic, while asset markets are at a peak.”
On the road
Chanel’s 123-piece No. 5 collection, which debuted in Hong Kong in early June, is a tribute to the 100th anniversary of Chanel No. 5 perfume. The collection now will travel to Shanghai in August, return to Paris on Oct. 1, then move on to New York in November.
Chengdu, a city of more than 16 million in southwestern China, was the venue for Dior’s 116-piece Dior Rose collection, presented in June in a fashion show format with dresses specially created by Maria Grazia Chiuri, its creative director of women’s collections. The jewels now are in Beijing.
And, in a stealth move for its spring 2022 men’s wear show, Dior also unveiled Cactus, a high jewelry necklace designed by Victoire de Castellane in collaboration with Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior men’s collections. That piece, in white and yellow gold with diamonds, emeralds, cultured pearls and lacquer, marked the first time the house paired high jewelry with men’s wear, a spokeswoman said.
Cartier’s extensive presentation in Italy included 90 pieces from the latest Sixième Sens collection. Among them were the Phaan ring, crowned by an 8.2-carat ruby superimposed, step-like, over a four-carat diamond set in an openwork mount along with small spherical rubies and triangle-cut diamonds. (A kind of second-wave presentation of about 30 pieces was planned this week at its Place Vendôme boutique, adding some freshly completed designs — although the house was not saying how many.)
Bulgari also chose early June to present 122 pieces from its Magnifica collection in Milan, part of a 350-piece tribute to the brand’s home in Rome and its 137-year history.
Why would a Roman brand choose Milan?
A spokeswoman said it was meant to be a show of solidarity for the European city hit hardest by Covid, as well as “a sign of hope and determination for the future.”
The brand said that among the most important pieces was the Imperial Spinel, featuring a 131-carat stone, the world’s fourth-largest spinel (the larger ones are mounted in the British and Russian crowns). Lucia Silvestri, the brand’s jewelry creative director, acquired the stone after a gem collector reached out to her over Instagram, a spokeswoman said.
Louis Vuitton traveled, too, presenting a 90-piece collection, its largest to date, on July 2 in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo in Monaco. Titled Bravery, the collection was meant to evoke the character of Louis Vuitton, who made his way on foot to Paris from the Jura region of eastern France at age 14, eventually becoming an apprentice trunk packer.
About 60 of approximately 90 pieces designed by Francesca Amfitheatrof, artistic director for watches and jewelry, revisit the founder’s life story chronologically. It opened with a grouping called Constellation of Hercules — a configuration found in Vuitton’s birth chart — and culminated with another called Tumbler, a reference to the house’s patented lock mechanisms.
This season also marks some changes for two Richemont-owned brands.
Buccellati, in its first full presentation as a part of the group, showed a garden-themed collection called Il Giardino di Buccellati, a collection of house classics like the rigato bracelet, but now revisited in pink sapphires, diamonds and a 20-carat pale green tourmaline.
And for its Dance Reflections collection, Van Cleef & Arpels produced four ballerina brooches that illustrate a broad cultural project several years in the making. The jewelry house granted its first €50,000 Fedora-Van Cleef & Arpels dance prize this year, and will sponsor a performance debut in London in February.
Some brands, though, have chosen to present in Paris and elsewhere in France. Now in her 10th year as Boucheron’s creative director, Claire Choisne has worked out her own process for expanding the house’s legacy. In January each year she presents Histoire de Style, an extrapolation of house archives, while in July she focuses on innovative techniques and unconventional materials.
This week, at the Boucheron flagship store on the Place Vendôme, by appointment only, Ms. Choisne is to present Holographique, a 25-piece collection that she said explores the relationship between light and color, as perceived through a prism or perhaps on the surface of a soap bubble. “I’m always looking for a specificity in high jewelry that is radically different from what’s found elsewhere,” she said.
She decided that opals were right, and used them to create Opalescence, a figurative necklace of a betta fish in plique à jour, an enamel technique, with two Ethiopian cabochon opals of 72 and 47 carats, and 1,500 carats of opal beads. There also is a companion mono-earring.
Other pieces, including a rock crystal and diamond iteration of the popular Jack design, were finished with coatings of a molten titanium and silver oxide powder developed by the French manufacturing company Saint Gobain. That compound, typically used on sunglasses and airport runway lights, renders color in varying intensities depending on the amount of titanium in the mix or the number of coats.
Statement pieces with the finish, like the Holographique necklace in slices of rock crystal edged in diamonds anchored by a 21-carat yellow sapphire, offered her a lesson as a designer. “The hardest part was not knowing what a piece will look like before the final result,” Ms. Choisne said. “It was like therapy — a lesson in letting go.”
In an email, the Taiwanese jeweler Cindy Chao echoed that sentiment. Among her latest pieces, to be presented virtually during couture, is the Titanium Feather Brooch, set with more than 1,000 diamonds, garnets and tsavorites, from her White Label collection.
Pomellato’s creative director, Vincenzo Castaldo, said a conversation with the American artist Sheva Fruitman led him to recast vintage pieces into new one-of-a-kind creations for the second La Gioia collection, being presented this week at the Hôtel Crillon in Paris.
“You can be inspired by your past, but it’s a new idea to actually create new jewels from something you already have,” he said. “It was challenging, but what surprised me was that it became very spontaneous.”
The neo-baroque Bavarole Trittico necklace, for example, incorporates upcycled elements from collections spanning 20 years. Its crosses, from the Bisanzio collection of 1993 and the Victoria collections of 2003 and 2013, were mounted alongside rock crystal pendants from 2007 on rose gold oval-link bracelet chains from the Sabbia collection of 2004. It is €110,000.
Other presentations in Paris include Chaumet’s Torsade collection, named for the friezes curling around the Vendôme column and rendered in airy structures like a tiara looped in streamers of diamonds, and De Beers’ 1888 Master Diamonds collection. Its five cocktail rings and loose diamonds are the first to feature Tracr, a proprietary platform it unveiled in 2018 that uses blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to trace provenance and other information to the finished jewel. De Beers has said it will be used for all its diamonds by 2030.
Another pandemic calendar change moved the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival to July 6 (from its usual May dates), a kind of flourish following the shows.
Chopard, an official sponsor of the festival, has said it will use it to reveal Paradise, a 74-piece collection inspired by nature, both real and mythological. It includes a leaf-shaped tsavorite necklace and a double necklace crowned with a fancy vivid yellow diamond weighing 30.68 carats. Most designs will be seen on the Croisette, the Cannes promenade usually choked with stars and events, but a handful of pieces will be featured at the brand’s Paris boutique.
Just one more hybrid presentation in a somewhat chaotic season.