When Chanel introduced its famous matelassé pattern - the iconic quilt that adorns many of its accessories - to its Coco Crush fine jewellery collection last year, the Internet went gaga. Launched exclusively through Net-a-Porter, many of the pieces sold out within hours, which is perhaps why at Paris Couture Week last month the French Maison again played with the motif, but this time in its haute joaillerie designs.
Signature de Chanel marks the first time that Chanel has tried to replicate matelassé in its high jewellery collections, and the results were spectacularly diverse. The Maison’s designers used cleverly placed squares of gold, diamonds, pearls, sapphires, carved mother-of-pearl and even rock crystal to create that famous criss-cross.
One of the most breathtaking jewels within Signature de Chanel is the de Saphir necklace, which stars a 21ct untreated Ceylon sapphire, polished with a goose-feather technique that took the team seven months of searching to find. The diamonds and white gold surrounding this special stone are also impressive as each strand is like a piece of a puzzle. At the base of this Chanel necklace, the strings of diamonds are separated due to their differing lengths, but if you were to push them together, you would find that they slot perfectly into one another to look just like the upper section of the necklace.
Another piece of sapphire jewellery that stood out was the Signature Ultime bracelet, which used 265 square-cut sapphires, weighing 66cts, surrounded by a trim of 7.7cts of white diamonds, to create a flexible bracelet that clings to the contours of the wrist. The sapphires have been invisibly set, so no metal can be seen between the stones, giving this a luxe finish.
Pearls - Coco Chanel’s go-to jewel of choice - naturally played a role in the new high jewellery collection, with round white pearls clustered together to make the paving stones of matelassé, as well as dark iridescent mother-of-pearl that had been carved into slightly curved squares to create a textured effect. One more unusual material used was rock crystal. This clear crystal was carved into matelassé forms and wrapped with fronds of diamond-set gold. As the rock crystal is translucent, you can see through it and it magnifies what is behind, so Chanel placed more diamond settings behind the crystal, creating an optical illusion.
What Signature de Chanel has so successfully done is take an iconic design motif and interpret it in fresh new ways. While the form of the matelassé is a simple one, the technical challenges that had to be overcome to bring it to the world of haute joaillerie were not. And in a collection as creatively and technically diverse as Signature de Chanel, this strong design heritage knits it all beautifully together.