The world may be upside down but in the high jewellery ateliers of Place Vendôme, Bond Street, Ginza and Milan master craftsmen continue to work. Against the odds, the top jewellery houses capable of funding costly high jewellery collections have unveiled their dazzling collections in conjunction with the (virtual) January Haute Couture 2021 week in Paris.
High jewellery creations are planned some two years in advance so it is fair to say that these collections were probably already on their way into the workshop by the time the first COVID pandemic lockdown came into force at the start of 2020. Alongside Van Cleef & Arpels, Pomellato and Chanel - whose collections we covered a few weeks ago – Boucheron, Buccellati, David Morris, De Beers and Tasaki presented their one-of-a-kind creations last month and there were some unexpected surprises.
High jewellery or haute joaillerie is the term used for one-off jewels crafted using the most sophisticated skills and materials. Unlike the haute couture shows which are overseen by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in Paris that sets standards including the number of skilled craftspeople or petite mains in each atelier and the minimum number of fittings, haute joaillerie launches are not governed by any overarching body. However, it is in every house’s interest to maintain the highest standards in these rare creations that showcase the ultimate expression of their craft in terms of design, execution and gem sourcing.
Boucheron's Histoire de Style, Art Déco (above) has a man on the cover of the press release setting the tone for more gender-bending jewels, increasingly seen in this house’s designs. While the last high jewellery collection called Contemplation looked to the future, it is not surprising that the initial offering for 2021 finds solace in the past as artistic director Claire Choisny looked to house’s abundant archives of Art Déco designs. Choisny honed in on the daring simplicity and elegantly executed subversion of the Roaring Twenties expressed in highly-stylised androgyny, open sexuality and effortless opulence. Histoire de Style, Art Déco is a distillation of the essence of this era of great change captured in the black and white, gender-fluid, multi-functional collection she describes as: ‘a declaration of freedom and style.’
Buccellati's crowning achievement for its January high jewellery is the Moon Powder set (above) that showcases the intricate honeycomb and open-work techniques that sets this Milanese jeweller apart. Flexible and improbably light, the firm’s goldsmiths have drilled away to remove all but the most essential metal to reveal the diaphanous beauty of the 304 diamonds that shimmer in this delicate yet striking bib necklace.
David Morris, (above) the London jewellery house is one of the few to still have workshops in Mayfair. The windows of the top floor atelier overlook Bond Street and CEO and Creative Director Jeremy Morris, second-generation at the helm of the firm, flits in out from his office to oversee the work. The firm has expanded well beyond London and has a boutique in Paris as well as across the Middle East and Russia where it sells its hard-to-match selection of jewels at the very high-end of the value spectrum. In a surprising change of routine, the Renaissance collection of 13 unique jewels was launched and sold on the digital platform Farfetch.com. This is the first time that a high jewellery collection has been presented this way showing how disruptive even the most exclusive luxury brands dare to be. The model shots are suitably fashion-friendly showing that eye-wateringly valuable jewels can be young and cool. Giorgio Belloli of Farfetch Renaissance as a ‘monumental launch’ while Jeremy Morris confirms that ‘it is vital to keep breaking boundaries at every level.’ All eyes are on Farfetch to see if indeed it can sell jewels with price tags in the hundreds of thousands of pounds and above.
De Beers turns to the locations of famous diamond mining regions for the Reflections of Nature collection of 39 jewels presented in five sets. The collection looks to Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Canada for inspiration and of the five sets, the Okavango Grace (above) and the Namib Wonder stand out as they most clearly highlight the De Beers difference. The firm’s impressive stock of diamonds allows them to create unusual combinations of colour diamonds like few others can. The use of rough mixed in with polished diamonds is another design route that has been successful for De Beers, again its links to the mining side of operations allow for a wide range of diamond options. De Beers has been a key player in setting diamond trends with its pioneering use of rare hues as well as elevating rough diamonds to the status of high jewellery.
The Okavango Grace is a spectacular cascade of coloured diamonds in unusual grey, green, pink and purple tones, brilliantly capturing the watery magic of the Okavango Delta. Namib Wonders recreates the ever-changing undulating forms of the desert in diamonds. The sand blowing over the crest of dune is captured in a tassel of rough yellow diamonds vaguely in the shape of nubby briolette drops creating an allure new effect.
Japanese jeweller and pearl farmer Tasaki presents Tasaki Atelier displaying a wide range of styles. The Forest Valley necklace features a variety of cuts of diamonds, aquamarine, sapphires, tourmalines, beryls and of course pearls to conjure up the flowing organic forms of a wooded glade whispering with movement. On a mission to bring avant-garde aesthetics to the arena of high jewellery, Tasaki does not flinch from looking at unusual sources of inspiration. Case in point: the Ore earrings (above) are sold separately and reflect the magnificent colours of a mineral-rich lake in the caldera of a volcano and the asymmetry left in the wake of an explosion. The world is changing, and so too is high jewellery.