With hair slicked back in a finger wave and lips painted a dark, sultry red, Lady Gaga looked every inch a silver screen goddess from a bygone age when she walked the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet earlier this year. Yet, for all the Old Hollywood glamour that she channelled, it was her jewellery that truly shone: A diamond and gold frame choker that dripped with post-punk finesse, and hand-etched butterfly-like earrings from Tiffany & Co.’s 2019 Blue Book collection.
From a jewellery perspective, the myriad images of Gaga that flooded the Internet drove home the fact that Tiffany & Co. had entered a new era under the firm hands of Artistic Director Reed Krakoff—one in which the boundaries of high and fine jewellery were being experimented on, and where “casual” and “divine” reasserted themselves on the same playing field. Things have certainly taken an edgier, more industrial-inspired turn, and the American jeweller’s 2019 Blue Book collection has likewise followed suit.
Aptly called Tiffany Jewel Box, this year’s showcase was centred on seven main themes that range from the more traditional—like Flora and Ribbon—to the avant-garde, with Sculpture and Frame taking an unconventional approach to high jewellery. (The former sees a gold handkerchief floating within a glass box with a 5-carat diamond cradled in its midst; while the latter does the exact opposite of what has come to be expected of haute joaillerie, which is to push the jewellery’s metalwork to the forefront of design in an almost gleeful defiance.)
Then, there is the series of 11 brooches, each with a vessel created by the brand’s renowned hollowware workshop. From the diamond dragonfly that fits snugly in an envelope, to the butterfly perched on its golden branch in a glass jar, to the beetle that calls a matchbox its home, the collection surprises with a refreshing attitude to the conventions of what makes high jewellery… well, high.
Chief Gemologist Melvyn Kirtley lets us in on what went into the making of this pivotal collection.
Congratulations on the new collection! The brooches, I thought, feel more like artworks.
Exactly! I think [this applies to] the Dragonfly in particular because we used this diamond cut called “cracked ice” that we actually introduced last year. We reused it again this year to give an angularity to the structure of the wings with this lovely transparency. It was a lovely contrast, this incredible juxtaposition.
Tell us more about this year’s Blue Book.
Well, this year was about wanting to elevate our craftsmanship and gemstone story in a way that really gives it a different lens. Reed [Krakoff] and the design team really wanted to merge art and science. So it was about having the jewellery designs be extremely modern, extremely wearable, but also very sculptural when they’re not being worn. The series of brooches, for example, have got their own precious vessels—each one specially made in our own hollowware factory. So, it brought together all these elements from our past very much into the future.
What did Tiffany & Co. set out to achieve with this collection?
We wanted to make sure our designs appealed to the general worldwide Tiffany audience. We wanted the designs to be in service to the gemstones, and to really elevate them in a special way. And also to emphasise the incredible craftsmanship that we produce in our own workshop. I’ll give you a very good example of this: There’s a sapphire and diamond flower brooch with overlapping petals, and when Reed and his team first presented the sketches, it showed sapphire petals at the back, with a petal of diamonds overlaying, and you could see through one to the other. This was interesting because, in reality, when you pavé diamond a petal, you can’t see through it because all the light coming back to you is sparkle; that’s the way round diamonds are designed. So I looked at that and said, “Okay, now I’ve really got to redesign a cut to make this work.” So I developed a wonderful round flat cut with a shallow pavilion that allows you to see through enough and yet still get the lovely sparkle from the crown facets. So you’re getting transparency and brilliance, and you’re seeing the sapphires below.
Are there other ways that this Blue Book collection sets itself apart from the previous edition?
Well, there are more simple lines, which I think makes it wearable, modern and extremely collectible, particularly with the vessels for the brooches. I think that’s really something that’s quite unique and special. We’ve also introduced men’s jewellery with gemstones. While we’ve done men’s jewellery for many, many years—it’s part of our heritage and archives—we’ve never done men’s jewellery with diamonds, rubies, sapphires… This is just a small subset [of the collection], but they’re really wonderful.
Related article: Here’s Your First Look At The New Tiffany & Co. Men’s Collection
What gemstone excites you the most in the collection?
The opal. I really shouldn’t say this, but it’s my favourite! It’s just under 40 carats and it’s impossible to find a black opal of that size. I looked at hundreds, if not thousands, of opals; and I love this particular black opal because opals, to me, are remarkable gemstones. They represent the beauty of nature in the most special way. Their three-dimensionality, their flashes of colour… They’re always changing, based on how you look at them and where you look at them—in different lighting, from different angles. So to me, an opal of this size, there’s like a world inside it. It was impossible to find, but I found it!
What aspects proved most challenging when it came to producing this collection?
Two distinct things, really. First of all, finding the gemstones. I’m auditioning, as it were, hundreds and thousands of gemstones, and looking at the best of the best, but they don’t always fit; they don’t always have the right character. Even though they might be good, they’re just not right. And also, the craftsmanship. One example is the ribbon necklace that has graduated custom-cut diamonds and graduated coloured sapphires. I think I looked at that necklace every day for 18 months because it was such a challenge to make. It wraps around a beautiful green tourmaline and each of the diamonds, each of the sapphires are cut specifically because it’s not on one plane, it’s on two planes and it has to turn; it has to be fluid. It was an enormous challenge. I would say that each and every design had its challenges.
What do you think jewellery buyers are looking for these days?
I think they’re looking for both collectibility and wearability. They’re not looking for things that only work for a gala dinner, but also for lunches, parties, cocktails, evenings, dates, whatever! They’re looking for things to enjoy both by wearing it and by looking at it as a form of sculpture. So this is where this collection, and this lovely merger between art and science, comes in. I love that.
Photographed by: Leung Mo
Styled by: Windy Aulia
Makeup: San Chan
Hair: Him Ng
All jewellery are from Tiffany & Co.’s Blue Book 2019 Collection.