Earlier in July, in a side room at the De Beers offices in Paris’ on Rue de la Paix, a stone sat in a position of honor on a pedestal. This wasn’t just any stone: It was a 296-carat rough yellow diamond, approximately the size of a golf ball, its hue evenly balancing tone and translucence—a must for a fancy colored diamond. It dwarfed the other large diamonds nearby, which varied in size from 58 and 117 carats. Judging from the smile on the face of De Beers CEO François Delage, the yellow stone was his top prize. “It will be cut into a briolette,” he explained, adding that the finished teardrop-shaped gem easily would still top 200 carats.
The annual “high jewelry” presentations at Paris Haute Couture Week, which this year took place July 2 to 6 in Paris—coinciding with the Fall/Winter haute couture shows from Chanel, Dior and other high-end labels—often include such wow moments. This is when jewelry houses showcase the pinnacle of their craftsmanship and ability to source special stones with one-of-a-kind jewelry designs. Although many of these pieces are privately sold even before they are presented to the press, they create demand for the brand, in addition to lending some bragging rights.
Van Cleef & Arpels, for example, presented its Le Secret collection, with each piece more of a design marvel than the one that preceded it. Convertible jewels—such as necklaces that can be worn a variety of ways or that can be split into a necklace and bracelet, or a pendant that becomes a brooch—were key to Van Cleef’s high-jewelry work.
These presentations also reveal the convergence between the worlds of fashion and jewelry. Take Chopard’s Silk Road collection, which was inspired by a 2015 meeting between copresident and creative director Caroline Scheufele and Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei. Scheufele’s brilliant, often lace-like jewels strikingly complemented Guo Pei’s fanciful dresses and gowns in the latter’s runway show in Paris.
An interesting theme this year explores the interplay between light and color. Piaget’s Sunlight Journey collection, with its bold colors and mosaic-like designs, touched on this idea, says Jean-Bernard Forot, jewelry marketing director for the house. He cites the Amalfi Coast as the line’s inspiration. “When you wake up in the morning, you see how the early morning sun plays with the water,” Forot explains. “At midday, the sun is high in the sky, and the colors are much stronger. And in the evening, at sunset, those colors take on yet another feeling. It’s always the same place, and yet the light changes those moments, and perhaps your emotions.”
These high-jewelry collections can take anywhere from 18 months to two years to make, though some may require even more time. Taipei-based jewelry designer Cindy Chao, who favors nature-driven designs, spent six years thinking about how to craft the perfect dragonfly brooch. “My pieces are very organic, and I’m influenced by my father, who was a sculptor, so the pieces have a sculptural feeling,” she says. “The piece also has to present an artistic sense from 360 degrees, not just from the front. That’s the spirit and the essence of handcraft.”
Forot agrees. “Jewelry is serious when you work with precious stones and artisanship, but it’s also something you should enjoy,” he says. “You’re buying savoir-faire—and style.”
This floral ring by Buccellati highlights a 13.47-carat coral surrounded by .28 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds, all set in pink and white gold. Price upon request, 212.308.2900 buccellati.com
The Flying Cloud 2017 collection takes its name from the yacht owned by Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, who was a paramour of Coco Chanel’s. Its nautical theme is evident in the rope shape of these Endless Knot diamond earrings in 18 karat white gold set with two pear-shaped diamonds totaling 4.67 carats, two round-cut diamonds totaling 2.02 carats and 1,408 brilliant-cut diamonds. Price upon request, 212.535.5828, chanel.com
Music festivals inspired Chaumet’s 2017 collection. This Rhapsodie Transatlantique necklace features a 29.77-carat cushion-cut morganite, a 23.38-carats oval-cut chrysoberyl, a 12.87-carat oval-cut Imperial topaz, a 12.21-carats oval-cut pink tourmaline, a 10.67-carat cushion-cut tanzanite, a 2.12-carat pear-shaped diamond, 30 diamonds weighing between .55 and .71 carats each, round Umba garnets, round champagne diamonds, and round and brilliant-cut diamonds. Price upon request, 126.96.36.199.24.24, chaumet.com
Chopard’s opulent necklace in 18-karat white gold and titanium—the latter metal keeps the necklace lightweight and more comfortable to wear—features pear-shaped emeralds totaling 105 carats, 73.2 carats of brilliant-cut Paraiba tourmalines and 52.3 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds. Price upon request, 212.223.2304, chopard.com
Inspired by a delicate flower, Cindy Chao’s White Label Collection Yellow Diamond Leaves ring features three heart-shaped intense yellow diamonds totaling 9.53 carats, 8.18 carats of white diamonds and 1.03 carats of yellow diamonds, all set in 18-karat white gold. Price upon request, 852.2561.8298, cindychao.com
De Beers based its 2017 high-jewelry collection on the various stages of a lotus flower. Here, a white diamond necklace resembles a blooming lotus, with three pear-shaped diamonds forming petals surrounded by marquis- and baguette-cut diamonds on a pendant that also can be detached and worn as a brooch. Price upon request, 212.906.0001, debeers.com
The Bosquet de l’Encelade brooch from designer Victoire de Castellane’s Dior à Versailles, Côté Jardins collection features a veritable bouquet of gems: diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, tsavorite garnets, peridots, pink tourmalines, purple sapphires, demantoid and spessartite garnets, yellow diamonds, alexandrites, pink sapphires, chrysoprases and yellow sapphires, all set in white, yellow and pink gold. The brooch comes with a white-diamond necklace and can be worn separately as a brooch or on a velvet choker. Price upon request, 212.931.2950, dior.com
The Roaring ’20s is the theme of Messika’s Paris est une Fête (“Paris is a Party”) collection. These Roaring Diamonds asymmetrical earrings contain 167 diamonds totaling 8.57 carats and set in 18-karat white gold. Price upon request, messika.com
India-based designer Nirav Modi says he was inspired by the brilliance of the rising sun when crafting his Soleil ring, which features a 20.87-carat pear-shaped fancy yellow diamond surrounded by fancy intense pink diamonds and white diamonds, all set in 18-karat white gold. Price upon request, 800.772.0000, niravmodi.com
As part of its Sunlight Journey collection, this Nightfall cuff is crafted of 18-karat pink gold, set with one cushion-cut purplish-pink spinel totaling 6.68 carats, surrounded by red and pink spinels, pink sapphires, spessartite garnets and diamonds. Price upon request, 212.246.5555, piaget.com
For 2017, Alexandre Reza’s iconic Cascade earrings have been reimagined by his son Olivier in D-color marquise-cut diamonds totaling 33.19 carats and cabochon-cut pigeon’s-blood rubies totaling 36.31 carats, with each stone articulated and set in 18-karat white gold for gentle movement. Price upon request, 188.8.131.52.51.21, alexandrereza.com
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Among the convertible jewels in the Le Secret collection by Van Cleef & Arpels, this Pegase necklace features a 45.10-carat emerald-cut sapphire, surrounded by diamonds, emeralds and sapphires set in 18-karat white gold. What’s the secret? The center diamond pendant opens to reveal a tiny Pegasus crafted of diamonds (the pendants is also detachable). Price upon request, 877.828.25333, vancleefarpels.com