There is no jeweller in the world quite like Lydia Courteille. Her creations – colourful, surreal and often provocative – fly in the face of convention. Resolutely independent, the Parisian designer has the creative freedom to design precisely what she likes, finding inspiration for new collections in the most unusual places, from George Orwell’s Animal Farm to the eccentric Russian Empress Catherine II. But what unites all her jewels is her extraordinary imagination. Who else would dare create a pair of orange sapphire and fire opal ear climbers shaped like lobsters? Or a shoulder-skimming earring from which dangles a fisherman net’s worth of colourful marine life?
A mineralogist with a passion for unusual and unique stones, Lydia designs from the heart. Her taste for the bizarre is her trademark, which is why you will find skeletons, spiders and deep-sea creatures in her collections, alongside an eclectic array of gemstones. Combine the two and you get the wonderfully whacky Animal Farm collection and her fierce Rainbow Warrior jewels.
But Lydia's universe is not populated entirely by larger-than-life jewels. When I sat down with her at the Couture Show in Las Vegas she let me try on a chic cocktail ring from her personal collection set with a beautiful white baroque pearl, held in place by a constellation of tiny diamond stars. Her “non” ring is diminutive in size but not message, while her Sea Star cufflinks – understated for Lydia – might be considered outgoing if you are not already acquainted with Lydia’s technicolour world of gemstones.
Indisputably Lydia, but with the volume turned down a notch or two, these jewels are the perfect introduction to this talented French designer. Try them on in the designer's bijoux boutique on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, or browse and buy Lydia Courteille online.
Catacombs Skeleton earrings
Lydia's Catacombs collection is the DNA of her brand. Taking the macabre and making it beautiful, her depictions of skulls and skeletons are always laced with a generous dose of humour.
With all their joints in working order, these black diamonds earrings, complete with smiling baguette diamond teeth, perform a skeleton dance when worn.
Harem Hand of Fatima ring
One of her signature looks, Lydia was designing rings that span the entire length of the finger long before they became so popular. This Hand of Fatima ring from the Harem collection is divided into three parts, which are connected by chains of black rhodium-plated gold.
Each of the rings features an ancient symbol of protection - a Hamsa, an Evil Eye and the moon - brought to colourful life through Lydia's bold use of gemstones: yellow sapphires, orange spessartite garnets and purple-tinged blue tanzanites.
Secret Garden carved jade earrings
Inspired by Ode à Cassandre, a poem by Pierre Ronsard, these pretty floral earrings from the Secret Garden collection have a flamboyant feminine streak. The lush colour palette is typical of Lydia, who cites the natural world as one of her biggest inspirations. Green discs of jade, carved with swirls so that they appear leaf-life, descend from flowers with hot-pink sapphire petals.
Secret Garden Myosotis ring
Blue and purple forget-me-not flowers wind their way up the finger in this colourful creation from the Secret Garden collection. Part knuckle ring, part traditional ring and set with blue sapphires, green tsavorites and purple amethysts, black rhodium-plated gold chains link all three rings.
Deep Sea Sea Stars cufflinks
These cute cufflinks are so Lydia, whose affectionate portrayal of marine life has seen everything from octopuses to seahorses dangling from ear lobes and wrapping their tentacles around fingers. A ray of sunshine against a starched white cuff, each starfish is set with sapphires in different shades of orange to mimic the colour of this five-armed sea creature.
Queen of bling Rihanna was recently spotted wearing a handful of statement rings from Lydia's Scarlet Empress and Queen of Sheba collections, and we are sure she would love this ring, which bristles with attitude.
Of all the words in the French dictionary, non is the most empowering. Picked out in black diamonds in an elegant black font and set on a gold band, these three little letters say so much.
Sens Interdit Mouth ring
I loved Lydia's Lips ring, with its rows of pearly teeth, and this latest incarnation is just as fun. Her wicked sense of humour sees the phrase "La croqueuse de diamant" - which translates as "diamond muncher", the French expression for gold digger - transformed into a cool and colourful ring featuring carved red corundrum lips swallowing a diamond-shaped rock crystal.