My year in high jewellery

Maria Doulton looks back on a bumper year of creativity and selects her favourite high jewels from 2016.

Bina Goenka emerald, pearl and diamond necklace

It’s that time of the year: the Christmas tree is still up, no one can bear the sight of another mince pie and emails are reduced to holiday greetings. All signals that the time has come to cast my mind back over the past 12 months and, with the help of our trusty bulging Dropbox folder, decide which one-off jewels most impressed me in 2016.

Offrandes d’été diamond tiara
From La Nature de Chaumet, this Offrandes d’éte wheat-sheaf tiara laden with diamonds is inspired by a jewel in the house’s museum from 1811 (POA).

Who knows why, but wheat was a big motif around Place Vendôme during Couture Week in Paris. Chanel and Chaumet both showed collections dedicated to this ancient symbol of plenty, but it was Chaumet’s wheat sheaf tiara that took my breath away. Ripe with diamonds but as light and graceful as wheat stalks swaying in the late summer sun, it captures the beauty of the simplest gift of nature while its flowing form is testimony to centuries of design and manufacturing finesse chez Chaumet.

Look how I happy I am trying on Bina Goenka’s emerald and pearl choker, top, which sits on the skin in a cascade of lustrous nacre and velvety green. I love how Bina has combined delicate pearls with impressive emeralds and diamond-pavéd drops for a majestic and gently gracious jewel.

Rosa dei Venti 38.08ct mandarin garnet transformable necklace/brooch
The central section of this Giampiero Bodino Rosa De Venti Mandarin Garnet necklace can be worn as a brooch (POA).

If a jewel can capture a moment then this Giampiero Bodino necklace crystallises the joy of colour. And if a jewel can do that, well, it’s a winner in my books. Sunny days ahead for whoever is lucky enough to have the bright lights of this necklace in their jewel box. 

It’s not often you need a torch to fully appreciate the beauty of diamond-setting, but Cindy Chao’s Winter Leaves necklace is best seen with light shining through the back of the jewel to attempt to comprehend the insane levels of perfection required to set this number of stones so nimbly. Six thousand diamonds totalling 250 carats are transformed into a frost-dusted leaf that ripples, dips and sparkles, defying the limits of pushing the boundaries of both creativity and craftsmanship. See this astounding jewel in motion below:

I just can’t get this Bulgari necklace out of my mind. Since I first saw it at the new Bulgari mega-emporium on Bond Street, the play of the vibrant pink spinels next to the cool, unperturbed depth of the sapphires is one of the most sophisticated colour pairings I have seen in a long time. It may not be Bulgari’s most valuable creation of the year, but boy does it beam out Italian-style glamour.  

Bulgari’s one-of-a-kind sapphire and spinel necklace, inspired by Italian gardens, presents a stunning combination of gemstones. 

Finding new ways to arrange diamonds in ever-closer clusters in ever-lighter settings is a challenge several jewellers are not afraid to take one. Boghossian’s Les Merveilles collection packs diamonds together with so little metal visible that every facet of the jewel appears dipped in diamonds. Watch our video below on this ground breaking technique and jewellery design. 

It’s been 15 years since the softly spoken Pierre Hardy took control of Hermès jewellery. While Hardy is known for his strong, uncompromisingly original designs, HB-IV Continuum stands out as a fusion of brilliant boldness with a more feminine edge. 

HB-IV Continuum Ombres et Lumière pearl bracelet
Hermès' fourth Haute Bijouterie collection includes this spectacular Ombres et Lumière pearl bracelet (POA).

I am totally in love with the Ombres et Lumière set with South Sea and Akoya pearls that as always with Hardy’s design expresses a philosophical stance. Gentle graduations of pearls reflect the eternal passage of day and night.

Making a grand entrance at the Biennale des Antiquaires, NIRAV MODI is one to watch. Though well established in India as the haute joailliere du jour, this six-year-old house is gaining a following in the USA and Europe thanks to its knockout jewels.

Jasmine cut diamond necklace
NIRAV MODI's Jasmine cut has the effect of diamonds floating on thin air - you will be hard-pressed to see how the gems are held in place (POA). 

Applying engineering to the art of diamond cutting and gem-setting, NIRAV MODI shows us diamonds in a new light. I love the freshness of this necklace featuring the house’s patented Jasmine-cut diamonds, which are as clear as drops of water that hover over the skin so very lightly.

This year brought a world record in the form of a bejewelled teapot. The Egoist, below, was unveiled in London by Nirmal Sethia, the man behind Newby Teas of London. Worth $3 million, it is covered in 1,658 diamonds and 386 rubies with a 6.67 carat Thai ruby at its heart. Mr Sethia created this unusual object to raise awareness of the culture and history of tea around the world, and that is worth raising a cup of Lapsang Souchon to.

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