I’ve always felt a natural affinity with Coco Chanel. It starts with sharing her star sign (Leo) and goes down a million paths because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love Chanel? So when I got the chance to witness an exhibition of the House’s most precious jewels in Paris – on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Bijoux de Diamants, Mademoiselle Chanel’s very first high jewellery collection no less—I knew I was in for a real treat. The ginormous exhibition space at the Grand Palais Éphémère was transformed into a dark and mysterious cavern—so Chanel—with spots of light that twirled and illuminated the jewels, and special visual displays that lit up as you walked past.
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Chanel’s new 1932 high jewellery collection is like no other. With decades-worth of history and archives to work with, this voyage of jewellery is beyond time and place. And what better place to start dreaming from than by looking up—to the circling of the planets and the movements of the stars. And 1932 has certainly drawn a new map of the heavens.
Patrice Leguéreau, Director of Chanel Fine Jewellery Creation Studio, has retained the theme of the heavenly bodies from the original collection, and its design ethos of pure lines that allow for freedom of the body. With the comet, an icon of Chanel jewellery from the creation of the first open necklace that embraced the neck with its diamond studded star and six- lined trail, twisting spirals and shooting stars circle in endless pursuit of the celestial bodies.
The moon, which featured on just one piece in the Bijoux de Diamants collection, now emerges as a symbol in its own right in the 1932 collection: The original crescent moon has waxed into a full moon, its light glowing in a shimmering halo. Then, naturally, there is the glorious sun, with its graphic fan of rays effecting a firework of lights.
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By revisiting the past to better project itself into the future, the Chanel Fine Jewellery Creation Studio has invented living jewellery to complement the ever-changing rhythms of the body’s movements. Out of 77 spectacular creations, 13 are transformable, wrapping around and resting freely against the skin in a profusion of celestial motifs that inspires one to dream. Star-studded coils can be twisted around the wrist at will to create unique constellations. Every heartbeat and each inward breath makes the necklace nestling at the base of the neck quiver. By wearing them in her own way, every woman gets to decide just how she wants to be showered with diamonds. Sapphires as blue as the night, diamonds of intense blue or yellow like the blazing sun, opals as deep- hued and mesmerising as a galaxy, rubies of a heart-racing red, spinels glowing like dawn, tanzanites with the colour of the skies… If the original collection was comprised almost entirely of diamonds for its pure, pristine distillation of light, this 1932 collection gives pride of place to colourful gemstones. Always in motion, always surprising, sometimes low in the sky, sometimes at its zenith: These exceptional pieces reproduce the brilliance of the heavenly bodies for which Mademoiselle Coco had such a passion.
For all that, it was the sun motif that truly took my breath away. A montage of white and yellow diamonds, the Soleil 19 Août necklace features a remarkable fancy vivid yellow cushion-cut diamond weighing 22.10 carats. This fabulous stone with an intense radiance can be detached and worn as a ring, a brooch or as a pendant. Even the three strands of diamonds—simple and elegant—stand perfectly as a piece around the neck, as if enraptured by the rays of the sun, circling thrice around the neck. The accompanying gold and platinum ring is set with an exceptionally rare fiery yellow and perfectly round 5.52-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond. The ring is also embellished with two cushion-cut rubies of 4.97 carats and 5.04 carats, both with diamond halos. The power of the sun certainly had me spell-bound but then if anyone can do that, well, it would be Chanel.
Read ahead for an insider’s look at the creation of these stunning pieces.