Chains are, by nature and purpose, supposed to be tough, heavy and brawny. But in the hands of Pierre Hardy, creative director of Hermès jewellery, that image has been transformed into a leitmotif that is light, playful and glamorous in the new Enchainements Libres collection. Inspired by Hermès’ origins as a harness maker and saddler, the curb chain, saddle chain, anchor chain link and toggle clasp have been reimagined in precious metals and stones and even titanium for a series of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings.
“Metal might seem to be the most hostile of materials, but the challenge for me was to find its point of fusion with the human body, to find flexibility, ergonomics, sensuality,” he says. “When I’m designing I forget how precious or rare the metal might be; everything stems from shape.”
Unapologetically modish, the Adage Hermès boldly enlarges the links in a play on contrasts and asymmetry, combining rose and white gold paved with brilliant-cut diamonds. And if it weren’t for the use of titanium as the base material, the spectacular dimensions of the Hermès Fusion necklace would be much too burdensome on the neck. The fact this ultra-light metal is infamously difficult to melt and set with gems also showcases Hermès’ technical prowess. Rose gold accents and brown diamonds add warmth to the traditionally industrial metal.
“Fluidity is inseparable from the chain: Its essential nature is to be flexible. Sometimes I make it disappear, turning it into a ribbon, a flat expanse; this is the Hermès Voltige narrative,” he says, referring to the flowing design composed of minuscule yellow gold anchor chains. One necklace is composed of 12m of chain, and each link meticulously studied to achieve the desired textural effect — a process that requires a month of work.
In direct contrast to the Voltige Hermès is the Chaine d’ancre zoom. The anchor chain link appears magnified to extravagant proportions in a rose gold necklace and ring thanks to a large rock crystal cabochon that surrounds the diamond-crusted link. Hermès admits several attempts were undertaken to find a perfectly clear stone, particularly one of this size, and many laborious hours to achieve that level of perfection on the polishing.
But it is with the Hermès Grand Jete and Petit Jete that we see the beautiful irony of freedom come alive in chains. Links in the Grande Jete are stretched, lengthened, rounded and angled. Rose gold and diamonds hang alongside pink opals, black jade, pearls, orange sapphires and topaz. While some links remain connected, others detach and hang. Made up of 106 assembled elements, it’s a whirlwind of stylish disorder. The Petit Jete is a more classic take, trading eye-catching size for light-capturing stones. The paved and articulated chains are punctuated with 3.2-ct pear-cut, 2-ct cushion-cut and 1-ct oval-cut diamonds.
Hardy’s dancer past translates well into jewellery, seeing how his preoccupation with movement creates pieces that become extensions of the body. “They reveal gestures, enhance postures. They are objects with a lot of personality, light and radiance,” he explains. “These pieces are designed for modern lifestyles. They dance in unison with the bodies that wear them.”