While many luxury launches across the past year have gone online, the last quarter of 2020 gave jewellery lovers in Singapore a precious glimmer of hope, as private showcases began to take place in tandem with the easing of restrictions and a drop in local Covid cases.
One of the most surprising, and scintillating, of them all has to be Louis Vuitton’s Stellar Times showcase this early December. Held at Capella Singapore for five days, the private presentation was set up in a manor and hosted individual VIPs and small media groups. What made the showcase truly remarkable was that along with the Stellar Times high jewellery collection came two of the most incredible diamond rough finds the world has witnessed since the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond was mined in South Africa in 1905.
For a maison that had only started to make fine jewellery in 2008, this showcase was an impressive display of not just its ability and achievements, but also its vision and will. Early this year, Louis Vuitton made global headlines with a travelling exhibition of the 1,758-carat Sewelô, which holds the record as the largest rough diamond unearthed this century. At this Singapore showcase, the Sewelô was accompanied by the 549-carat Sethunya, its second major acquisition within a year.
Ying and yang
It was nothing short of an honour to be one of the first in the world to view the pair of diamonds in person. In a darkened room, the spectacular roughs took centre stage along a row of Louis Vuitton’s precious stone collections that spanned pink and blue diamonds, and an array of emeralds and rubies.
Boasting exceptional purity, clarity, lustre and colour, the 549-carat Sethunya appeared larger than a golf ball and shimmered so brilliantly that our cameras were barely able to capture what our eyes could see. Word has it that experts who had viewed the rock were so taken by its whiteness that they suggested its colour could surpass the current highest D grade.
The diamond was discovered on February 1 this year in Botswana by a female diamond sorter who reportedly screamed for joy. The rock she uncovered was reportedly as pristine and unbroken as it was presented to us here in person at Capella. Estimated to be one to two billion years old, the Sethunya is named after the Setswana word for “flower” as a homage to Louis Vuitton’s emblematic Monogram bloom.
Found nearly a year before the Sethunya in the same mine was the 1,758-carat Sewelô, which means “rare find” in Setswana, Botswana’s national language. It is termed a speculation diamond as it is enveloped by a layer of black carbon skin, shrouding its full potential in secrecy.
Both diamonds were discovered in the Karowe Diamond Mine in a partnership between Louis Vuitton, the mine owner Lucara and HB Antwerp, a diamond supply chain and manufacturing company. As with the Sewelô, the Sethunya is offered for purchase to Louis Vuitton’s VIP clients to be cut, polished and made into bespoke heirloom jewels that will certainly bear the highest status in legacy and provenance.
To infinity and beyond
Another measure of Louis Vuitton’s stratospheric rise in the world of high jewellery has to be the esteem and popularity of its collections. Over the years, we have seen the maison outdo itself in every subsequent iteration. And Stellar Times is no exception.
It is the second high jewellery collection by Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s rock-star artistic director of jewellery, and it did not disappoint. Displayed against breathtaking cosmic-themed backdrops, the 2020 collection boasts an inspirational and wondrous theme of interstellar exploration that parallels an odyssey into the deepest desires of the Louis Vuitton woman.
Sublime, sculptural and voluminous works of modern art, the collection’s 90 pieces are grouped under seven galactical sub-themes: Lune Bleue, Apogée, Planète Bleue, Soleils, Astre Rouge, Céleste and Interstellaire. Evoking a spectacular vision of our universe, the collection reflects the pioneering spirit of travel and adventure that is the trademark of Louis Vuitton, and also a sense of optimism that is much-needed in today’s world.
“This theme is inspiring because of the artistic value in stones embodying planets, but I am also fascinated by the immensity of the cosmos, by journeying through space and by this feeling of wonder at all the beauty of the universe,” says Amfitheatrof.
On her singular interpretation of the theme, she explains: “Stars, constellations and the universe are a recurring theme in jewellery, usually addressed in a representational, literal way. I chose to take a more abstract and poetic approach. Stellar Times draws us into this universal topic by rousing the imagination, wonder and fascination we have for the heavens. I was inspired by the beauty of the cosmos, and more concretely by space exploration. The idea that a woman could soon walk on Mars is very much in line with Louis Vuitton’s values of adventure, travel and protection.”
Expressing a boldness and assertiveness that only good design brings out, the diamonds, opals, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, spinels and tourmalines form a fascinating constellation of colourful bling. The use of these gemstones also have a deeper meaning for the talented Amfitheatrof. “Diamonds and Opals, for example, were born around the same time as the Big Bang. These tiny stones that fit in the palm of our hand are as old as the universe itself. There is a synergy.”
The Celeste choker’s asymmetrical zigzag shape evokes the call of the unknown, while the Interstellaire necklace brings to mind the atmosphere’s kaleidoscope of colours as seen through a telescope. Every larger piece of jewellery, she says, is fully articulated for perfect flow and movement. Fine examples are the Lune Bleue, Astre Rouge and Soleils necklaces – all of which point to an exciting future that we want to be part of.
(All images: Louis Vuitton)