Gestures of Romance
Since ancient times, jewellery has been the gesture of romance, and likewise the history of Chanel Fine Jewellery is one of love stories. It begins with Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s beloved Boy Capel, who was the first to present her with bouquets of white camellia flowers. Symbolising reward and talent, the flower was likened by Coco to a rose without thorns – pure and elegant. The English lover also gave Coco a string of pearls during their time together. Although the romance eventually ended tragically, the pearl has become an important and enduring element in the design story of Chanel. The camellia flower has also been transformed into one of the most iconic symbols of Chanel, becoming, in the form of a brooch, one of the brand’s best-loved accessories.
In mourning Boy Capel, who was killed in a motoring accident, Coco travelled to Venice, where she took on a new lease of life. Born a Leo, Coco believed fate had taken her there, where the lion symbol gave the magnificent city infinite power. This impressive and compelling feline became Coco’s favourite animal, while a visit to St. Mark’s jewellery collection inspired a touch of Byzantine style. The lion motif would often feature in her designs, as a set of buttons or a handbag buckle.
During the 1920s, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia presented Coco with a Maltese-cross pendant necklace set with striking precious stones. Appreciating the colourful gemstones, the queen of creation began to inlay jewellery with different stones, disregarding traditional stone-setting conventions. As with her fashion, she would create and recreate, all the while striving for perfection.
In 1932, Coco designed her first and only jewellery collection. The Bijoux De Diamants collection was entirely made of diamonds, as she felt “If I have chosen diamonds, it is because they represent the greatest value in the smallest volume”. Never one to conform, Chanel presented the collection at her Faubourg Saint-Honoré Paris mansion, creating a sensation across Europe and in the United States by displaying the pieces with waxed models instead of the customary jewellery trays of the time.
The only high-jewellery collection designed by Coco Chanel herself, Bijoux De Diamants featured stunning and innovative details: “I have a horror of clasps! I just got rid of them” she exclaimed. Having designed transformable pieces, she simply said, “My jewellery pieces can be transformable. You see this necklace; in an instant you can turn it into three bracelets and a brooch.” With no clasps and infinite forms, Chanel’s fine jewellery reflected the simple elegance of a woman’s silhouette. They belonged to the new woman.
Jewels of an Empire
In 1993, Chanel opened its first fine-jewellery boutique at the prestigious Place Vendôme in Paris. Drawing inspiration from the original Bijoux De Diamants, an entire collection was created, featuring comet necklaces, starry hair accessories, dazzling crowns, glittering ribbons, and more. While almost all pieces from the original collection have been lost, the original Comète brooch, created by Madamoiselle Chanel herself in 1932, has remained. The brooch is set with 28 old mine-cut diamonds for a total weight of 7.8 carats, including a central diamond of 1.2 carats. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Bijoux De Diamants collection, a Comète necklace feature 18k white gold set with a 14.8k round-cut diamond was created in 2012.
Like the pearls and the camellia flower, comet and shooting star motifs are sources of infinite inspiration for Chanel, highlighting the eternal beauty of women. Coco once said, “I want to cover women in constellations of stars, stars of all sizes.” A symbol of beauty, the freedom and gracefulness of the comet has become a key element of Chanel high jewellery.
Subsequent collections continue to take inspiration from the original Bijoux De Diamants collection and the life of Gabrielle Chanel. Just as camellias and lions became decorative elements in her Parisian house at 31 rue Cambon as delicate patterns on ebony screens or carved crystal centrepieces, the lion totem made its way into high-jewellery design for the first time in 2012. The camellia flower also returned in a more recent design: a stunning set of Camélia Gansé bracelet and earrings, both in 18K white gold set with marquise-cut diamonds and Japanese cultured pearls.
As her empires of haute couture fashion and fine jewellery coalesced, feathers and ribbons began to influence her jewellery designs. Having always been drawn to ribbons, she once remarked, “I want jewels to fit a woman’s finger like a ribbon would; my ribbons are supple and detachable.” Ribbons have always been the darling of fashion design, at once recalling the innocent child and yet hinting at the voluptuous curved lines of a woman. With her unique sense of style and magical touch, Coco gave the traditional ribbon a playful and contemporary twist by making it slightly asymmetric. Comets, stars, ribbons, feathers, fountains and fringes have all become part of a classic vocabulary that drives all of Chanel high jewellery’s designs since that first collection in 1932.
Chanel high jewellery continues to pay homage to the rich legacy of Coco Chanel, not just on a visual aesthetics level but also through the overall design concept. The brand continues to uphold Chanel’s tradition of attaching great importance to the value of fluidity, freedom, easy-to-wear and modern femininity.
Harvest of a Golden Era
When it comes to Chanel, great attention is made to ensure each piece of jewellery represents the brand’s DNA. The entire process from the first sketches, which draw on the world of Coco Chanel, to the final setting of the stones, takes no less than two years. The brand continues to celebrate Coco Chanel as a designer first and foremost by beginning with the jewellery design before searching tirelessly for the perfect precious stone to embed at the heart of the creation. By designing first, Chanel high jewellery continues to create unimaginable pieces that never cease to inspire awe in its admirers.
In November 2012, Chanel high jewellery opened its high-jewellery workshop – the Studio of Creation – at 18 Place Vendôme, Paris. The decision was the next step in the creation of a creative design studio three years ago. This state-of-the-art atelier helps to make the entire creative process smoother and quicker while maintaining the highest quality. The brand has experienced rapid growth over the years, and the creation of a high-jewellery workshop allows the brand to establish its market position against competitors. At the same time, in-house craftsmanship and well-guarded techniques are passed onto incoming talent. Today, Chanel high jewellery launches two collections each year, at the Paris Haute Couture Paris Fashion Show in January and July. The latest collection, Les Blés de Chanel, was launched in Hong Kong in September of this year.
For as long as Coco Chanel could remember, she always had fond memories of wheat. Coco’s August 19 birthdate coincides with the harvest festival, a celebration that symbolised renewed prosperity and abundance. Wheat held a captivating power for Coco, and it became an icon that decorated her homes in many forms: fresh bouquets of wheat, carved wheat in timber panels, and brass and bronze sculptures of wheat. In September 1967, when she was invited to present its autumn/winter couture collection in Moscow, the models presented her with a huge bouquet of wheat, which she then arranged in her apartment at 31 rue Cambon.
The high-jewellery collection Les Blés de Chanel celebrates for the first time this fundamental element of Coco Chanel’s world, this eternal symbol of regeneration, abundance, luck, prosperity and endless creativity. The collection features 62 high-jewellery pieces based on the concept of the lifecycle of wheat: Chance, Prosperity, Happiness and Renewal.
The Brins de Printemps ring in 18k white gold is set with peridots, aquamarines, tourmalines and diamonds, representing the new seedlings sprouting from the ground, tender and green. The Fête des Moissons necklace in 18k white and yellow gold set with a 25-carat cut-cornered rectangular-modified brilliant-cut fancy intense yellow diamond, and adorned with 121 fancy-cut multicoloured diamonds, 932 brilliant-cut yellow diamonds and 10 marquise-cut diamonds is the crowning piece of the collection, embodying the warm temperatures of autumn, when the ears of wheat bask in the golden sun and the fragrance of wheat fills the countryside.
Champ de Blé, Impression de Blé and Blé Infini play on the motif of renewal with precious and sparkling pattern designs. The Cascade d’Epi necklace and earrings are soft and golden like the ear of wheat, curling gracefully around the neck or the ears of the woman who wears them.
The latest collection, in all its softness, appears like a wheat field moving in the breeze. The world of Chanel high jewellery is an ephemeral charm that leaves you craving for more.