For Jewelry at Couture Week, Challenges Can Lead to Innovation

PARIS — As the fashion world struggles through another pandemic-era couture season, the high jewelry presentations that traditionally accompany it, Jan. 24 to 26, are more restrained than usual.

Some major houses — including Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari and Chanel — have postponed events until the next couture week, in July.

But for others, the feeling seems to be that forging ahead is the best strategy for uncertain times, even if it means adjusting plans right up to the last minute.

Houses such as Cartier, De Beers, Boucheron, Dior and Louis Vuitton have been holding appointment-only viewings for clients and press to see their collections this week. And while some lines are limited to a handful of parures, there are firsts among the debuts as well as several notable transformable jewels, a trend in high jewelry that continues to grow.

There is even a 6,225-carat rough Zambian emerald on show, courtesy of Chopard, which is to be used in future high jewelry collections.

At De Beers, a collection called The Alchemist of Light explores themes of fluidity and reflection. The first collection completed since the arrival of its new chief executive, Céline Assimon, in September 2020, it is also the brand’s first to incorporate titanium, a hardy yet lightweight metal more commonly used in high watchmaking than high jewelry. Of a planned seven parures, two are to be shown this week.

And the Light Rays transformable necklace in one of those parures seems to signal a new direction for the formerly traditional house. A choker style, it features a 4.22-carat radiant-cut fancy yellow-brown diamond mounted in black rhodium-plated white gold. The removable, micro-articulated bib was made of hammered anodized titanium in orange and yellow hues and set with rays of pavé diamonds.

“There is nothing like seeing rare diamonds catch the light or the tactile sensation of a necklace’s articulations in person,” Ms. Assimon wrote in an email.

She also noted that, after two years of pandemic restrictions, clients were “ready to experiment more and express their personality,” a trend she said De Beers was catering to by creating more oversized and versatile pieces.

For his high jewelry debut, Chaumet’s creative director, Ehssan Moazen, explored a water theme in the collection Déferlante, which means “breaker,’’ highlighting asymmetrical swells of diamonds in bead and bezel settings.

Its eight pieces include a tiara, the house signature, that was inspired by archival drawings from the belle epoque. It resembles a stylized wave, with 1,600 graduated diamonds breaking into sprays of princess-, brilliant-, square- and baguette-cut diamonds.

At Boucheron, the house revisited one of the most extravagant special commissions in the history of Place Vendôme. In 1928, the maharajah of Patiala checked into the Ritz hotel with 40 servants and then brought six coffers filled with thousands of precious stones across the square to Boucheron.

The drawings of the 149 pieces that the house made from those stones — executed by Louis Boucheron, the son of founder Frédéric Boucheron — was the starting point for Histoire de Style, New Maharajahs, a 14-piece collection that includes transformable, genderless designs.

It showcases a diamond and emerald necklace that closely resembles one from the original commission, as well as a large lace-like choker in rock crystal and 4,561 diamonds. Both of the pieces can be worn three ways.

The house’s creative director, Claire Choisne, also played with scale. The New Padma earrings are composed of a pair of pear-cut diamond studs and a behind-the-ear piece. In diamond pavé, pearls and mother-of-pearl engraved with lotus flowers, the punk-like element stands upright, like a frill, over the ear.

For Victoire de Castellane, the artistic director of Dior Joaillerie, couture is a recurring inspiration that she has explored in collections like the 2014 Archi Dior and the 2015 Soie Dior. In Galons Dior — a collection name that refers to the braid trim often used in fashion — she has worked references to the volume and movement of fabric into 81 pieces of jewelry.

On the asymmetrical Multi Galons ring, for example, a zigzag of baguette diamonds and a row of flowers in pear- and round-cut diamonds encircle an oval center diamond flanked by brilliants.

Other jewelry houses are using the season to add new pieces to existing collections.

Building on its Sixième Sens group, the subject of an extensive presentation at Lake Como, Italy, in July 2021, Cartier plans to unveil the collection’s second and third chapters: a total of 50 new jewels.

These include the transformable Synesthésie necklace in platinum, set with a hexagonal Colombian emerald weighing more than 35 carats. A design that used the supple “articulated lace” technique, which makes metal settings inconspicuous, it features a cascade of diamonds and turquoise and emerald beads. The center motif and tassel are interchangeable and both can be worn as brooches.

In 1925, Cartier showed the modern neckline ornament Bérénice at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Now, almost a century later, the piece was the inspiration for the Victorienne necklace — a geometric array of diamonds, including two hexagonal-cut stones weighing a total of more than nine carats, and black lacquer pavé, anchored by a Colombian cabochon-cut emerald of more than 16 carats.

Louis Vuitton, which is celebrating the bicentennial of its founder’s birth, is introducing the second chapter in its high jewelry collection Bravery.

The locks, buckles, studs and corner pieces of the house’s signature trunks were the inspiration for 20 pieces — three parures and four cocktail rings — in precious metals and colored gems. (Louis Vuitton himself designed his first flat trunk in 1854.)

A cushion-cut yellow sapphire weighing more than 20 carats hangs from a V in baguette diamonds on the flamboyant Magnétisme necklace of pink, orange and yellow tourmalines interspersed with brilliant-cut diamonds. The sapphire, mounted in a rectangular frame, may be removed and worn on a chain.

In the same vein, Piaget is expanding on its Extraordinary Lights collection with a second act of three parures, in diamonds with tourmalines, emeralds or sapphires.

The Voluptuous Borealis necklace, a question mark style, features asymmetrical rows of channel-set diamonds and a 10.29-carat pear-shaped emerald pendant. It is to be presented with a matching ring and earrings, a diamond ear cuff and a jeweled watch.

Most independent designers seem to be sitting this season out. But despite travel restrictions that have kept her at home in Taiwan, Cindy Chao is among the few who decided to unveil new work in Paris this week.

Her seven-piece presentation includes Black Label Masterpiece earrings in titanium set with emerald-cut fancy dark brown-yellow diamonds surrounded by gradient diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, alexandrites and garnets.

Ms. Chao has called Paris her “inspiration city”: She recently established a subsidiary here and has been finalizing plans for a showroom designed by the Dutch architect Tom Postma, scheduled to open later this year.

“For a designer, it’s especially important to show work in person and not virtually,” she said in an email. “Despite the virus, and even if we have to adapt to new rules and behaviors, we have to make do and try to find solutions.”

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