Header image: Chanel Blé Maria brooch
Talk to jewellers about their inspiration and they describe the thrill of discovering a wonderful stone that instantly dictates a design, or the satisfaction of creating a design and then finding the perfect gems to achieve that vision. Now there is an exciting new element. High jewellery collections always have titles, but now these often relate to an overarching story, in which each piece reflects in obvious or subtle form.
It is an idea at which Chanel excels, necessary because Coco Chanel only designed one fine jewellery collection, in 1932. “I am interested in her life and personality”, says Patrice Leguéreau, director of Chanel’s jewellery creation studio, which creates “stories” around areas of the designer’s life. “Sometimes a collection broaches an aspect of her very clearly; at others it just conveys a spirit.” Her passion for all things Russian followed her affair with the exiled Grand Duke Dmitri, with whom she lived in Monte Carlo for a spell. The new Paris Russe collection includes diamond pieces featuring a motif that could be a sunburst or a medal similar to those that adorned uniforms in Imperial Russia, and the two-headed eagle that was not only part of the Russian insignia, but also decorated a mirror in Chanel’s apartment — stunning as a diamond and rock crystal cuff.
Other pieces reflect Chanel’s love of Russian decorative motifs — she often wore finely-embroidered peasant-style shirts — and the colourful costumes designed by Léon Bakst for the Ballets Russes. Embroidery inspires the delicate, intricate Sarafane necklace of diamonds and pearls, while a transformable tiara is shaped like the traditional kokoshnik headpiece, and the array of coloured stones in the Blé Maria headband references the Ballets Russes. The secret, says Leguéreau, “is a quest for suppleness and lightness, translating the opulence of Russian inspiration without adding weight, making gold and stones into jewellery as fluid as silk”.