With the opening of a new boutique on the prestigious Place Vendôme in Paris, Gucci has become the latest fashion house to enter the rarefied world of haute joaillerie. On display is Alessandro Michele’s first high jewellery collection for Gucci, which launched during Couture Week in Paris this July.
To celebrate the arrival on this iconic square of a third fashion power house, we take a closer look at Gucci’s debut high jewellery collection, created specially for the opening, alongside the latest high jewellery collections from its Place Vendôme neighbours, Chanel and Dior.
Gucci’s garden of delights
A riotously over-the-top mash-up of iconic Gucci motifs, vivid gemstones, chunky chains and religious symbolism, Gucci’s Hortus Deliciarum (Garden of Delights) collection comprises more than 200 pieces of high jewellery, divided into three chapters. The first, a poetic homage to classical emblems of eternal love, is also the most feminine – a gentle introduction to the maximalist universe of Michele featuring Cupid arrows, heart-embellished chandelier earrings and a sapphire tiara fit for a prom queen, topped with a diamond Double G.
The second chapter is a celebration of the majestic animals that are so emblematic of the house – serpents, lions and bees – alongside a mythical creature that is half-mermaid, half-tiger, while chapter three is devoted to solitaire gems. This being Gucci, though, there isn’t a diamond in sight. Instead, fiery orange mandarin garnets, blush-pink topaz, rich red rubellites and mint-green tourmalines take centre stage in this magical garden. It’s a bold, brilliant and slightly bonkers collection that will appeal to the growing legion of Gucci aficionados who adore Michele’s gloriously off-kilter take on fashion.
20 years of Dior high jewellery
Dior celebrated the 20th anniversary of its High Jewellery Department during Couture Week with the launch of Gem Dior, an exuberant homage to gemstones and their myriad hues. The largest high jewellery collection ever launched by the French fashion house, if you have a strange feeling of déjà vu when you see the pieces, that is entirely intentional. Creative director Victoire de Castellane, at the helm for all 20 of those years, references past collections with each new launch, creating a thread that joins them all.
The launch of Gem Dior takes me back to 2016 and the debut of the Granville high jewellery collection, with its daring asymmetry and beautifully clashing stones. The colour combinations in Gem Dior are more subtle and the juxtaposition of different gemstone cuts more measured, yet the effect is no less extraordinary.
When Dior’s creative director clusters gemstones within the same chromatic palette together, the result is exquisite. A wave of graduated colour washes over the Rose Dragee double ring, from deep purple to dusky pink, in this artfully abstract composition of sapphires and garnets, designed to be worn across two fingers. “It’s as if I had put all my collections from the past 20 years into a shaker and what popped out were freeze-frames and very large pixelized close-ups,” explains de Castellane. “In the end, what’s left is material and colour.”
Chanel conjures up Imperial Russia
The original queen of couture, Coco Chanel, launched her first high jewellery collection, Bijoux de Diamants, in 1932 and the maison continues to celebrate her passion for jewels today with new collections inspired by her life, loves and lucky charms.
Rather than revisiting the familiar motifs that so often feature in Chanel’s jewellery collections – including stars, comets, feathers, wheat and ribbons – the inspiration for the new 69-piece Le Paris Russe de Chanel high jewellery collection came from a brief but passionate love affair in 1920 between Coco Chanel and the exiled Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II.
With his dashing good looks, seductive eyes and roguish charm, to Coco Chanel, Pavlovich was the embodiment of Imperial Russia. He introduced her to a whole universe of Russian symbols and designs that would, over time, influence her fashions, and Le Paris Russe de Chanel revisits some of these motifs, together with the Russian decorative arts that so enchanted her.
A whimsical collection that references Russian folklore, Byzantine scarves, embroidered roubachka blouses and the famous Ballets Russes, the highlight, for me, is the Blé Maria tiara. A modern-day reimagining of the traditional Russian headdress known as the kokoshnik, tourmalines in watery shades of green are set between ropes of gold, with delicate diamond leaves weaving between them. Despite her fascination with the splendour of Imperial Russia, Coco Chanel never actually set foot in the country. Her Russia was the distant land she had dreamed up in her mind, filled with, I hope, exotic women wearing elaborate tiaras just like this one.