CHANEL HIGH JEWELLERY: THE COCO CHANEL RENAISSANCE
Jewellery has always had the power to bring two people together, and is probably the most significant gift a man can give a woman. When you think of the relationship a designer forges with their art and the materials they use – the beautiful gemstones and precious metals – you can almost feel the passion in the final product. It’s always a gift from the heart.
On this particular day, my heart was pounding with delight as I skipped down the Place Vendome after an exhilarating morning with the CHANEL team at Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment at 31, rue cambon, Paris. I was on my way to see CHANEL’s High Jewellery Collections: Café Society, The Lion.
To get a taste of Chanel’s passion for jewellery and what inspired her about diamonds, check out this creative video:
Chanel found inspiration in all things – architecture, flowers, the constellations – but above all, it was her relationships that were the most inspiring. It was the Place Vendome, where the CHANEL boutique resides, that inspired the shape of the No. 5 perfume bottle.
This Place Vendome boutique was originally a bank and owned by Chanel’s boyfriend at the time, the Duke of Westminster. Known as the richest man alive in Britain (circa 1925), the Duke met the beautiful Chanel at a party in Monte Carlo and was instantly smitten.
He showered her with extravagant gifts – a home in Mayfair, a parcel of land on the French Riviera, and expensive jewellery. He gave her an exquisitely beautiful emerald that she tossed into the river, failing to be appeased after uncovering his infidelity. The Duke enjoyed giving Chanel jewellery, as much as she enjoyed tossing it in the Riviera. A pearl necklace suffered the same fate and failed to temper Chanel’s jealousy over the Duke’s flirtation with yet another woman, another younger woman.
I was born under the sign of the leo. Gabrielle Chanel
Mademoiselle Chanel adored Venice. It was one of her favourite cities (mine too! I love visiting when Biennale is on. The city is transformed into a contemporary art Mecca – a surreal experience every time I go!) Of all the things that inspired Chanel the most about Venice, it was the city’s emblematic lion. She collected numerous objets d’art representing the lion (as you can see in this photo), and adorned her outfits with the most majestic lion buttons.
The lion became a symbol of strength for Gabrielle Chanel, and held a very special place in her heart. Each time she returned to the lions of Venice, they would remind her of her true love, Boy Capel. She had struggled to come to terms with Capel’s untimely death and was dying her own slow death in Paris. Having found herself in Venice (at the insistence of her dear friends Misia and José Maria Sert), she happened upon the stately lion in Saint Mark’s Square. As always, she was gazing upwards following the stars as they faded with the early dawn, and there it was. Perched high up in the clouds in the glorious Venice morning sky against a backdrop of stars twinkling their ‘goodbyes’, she saw it and felt her heart skip a beat. She was in love again – this time with the lion and all that it represented. Chanel returned to Venice again and again, addicted to its rejuvenating effect and the power it had of inspiring her.
‘Constellation du Lion’ bracelet in 18K white gold, rock crystal and diamonds by CHANEL High jewellery – POA
I love how this inspiration continues today in the CHANEL High and Fine Jewellery collections. With its latest collection, SOUS LE SIGNE DU LION, CHANEL re-imagines the lion and gives it a Café Society renaissance. This bracelet is an expression of interlacing ideas, a re-imagining of Chanel’s first sighting of Saint Mark’s lion against a starry Venice sky. The lion’s sculpted curves, its outstretched paw reaching for the biggest star of all to help guide him on his way, it’s a modern retelling of Chanel’s beautiful story of renaissance.
In these gorgeous surroundings, you can feel Coco Chanel’s spirit infused in every detail. I feel as though I’m one of the jet-setting crowd myself, travelling the world in a quest for beauty…and I always find it! Like the furnishings of her apartment, it feels like an extension of the same place. Such a beautiful setting to experience this rapturous new line of high jewellery.
Just like the Café Society, I will try to ignore the cultural ruptures of the day and cherish this moment by wrapping myself in extravagant jewels. Just take a look at this magnificent selection. Each piece as unique as the next, yet so beautifully reminiscent of Mademoiselle and the world she envisioned.
‘Café Society’ necklace in 18K white gold with blue sapphires, spessartite, red spinels, yellow sapphires, orange garnets, tsavorites and diamonds by CHANEL High Jewellery – POA
Have you ever seen anything quite so beautiful? The architectural symmetry, the circular pattern repeating and disappearing but always continuing like Chanel’s own path in life, this necklace is simply stunning. With its clever use of color to draw the eye to the stone at the centre, set on an angle like a star, the diamonds still reign supreme in this beauty.
The interlacing of different colours, shapes and patterns trick the eye into seeing so many of the objects that inspired Chanel. You can see the famous cross from her cuffs, the petals of the camellia, the stained glass of the orphanage where she grew up, but always the circular, cyclical pattern symbolizing an infinite and powerful presence.
The Café Society collection pays tribute to one of the most avant-garde groups of the time. With names like Picasso, Stravinsky and of course, Chanel herself, this jet-setting crowd zipped from hotspot to hotspot, always in the spotlight and always in the highest style, surrounding themselves with luxury and sparing no extravagance wherever they went. The circular pattern of this stunning piece resembles the pirouettes of the ballet dancers in the grand ballet that these three masterminds worked together on. It captures the essence of the day, the time of the belle époque, and the beginning of a new era.
The avant-garde geometry and trend-setting essence of these designs invoke the inspiration and genius of Coco Chanel.
‘Midnight’ bracelet in 18K white gold, diamonds and onyx by CHANEL High Jewellery – POA
The mastery in each piece is truly awe-inspiring. The back of this bracelet is so intricate, it almost looks like the mechanisms of a watch.
‘Parae’ earrings in 18K white and pink gold with multicoloured sapphires and diamonds by CHANEL High jewellery – POA
So unusual, yet graceful, modern and precious, these earrings sparkle with the intensity of Chanel and conjure up all kinds of images from the Belle Epoque.
This beautiful watch from the Mademoiselle Prive Collection, with the trademark Maison Lesage embroidery is one that I saw in production when I visited the embroidery house the day before. I even contributed to the process – so much fun. The embroidery on the watch face recreates the beautiful camellia that Mademoiselle held so dear.
My trip to the Masion Lesage workshop the day before was truly inspiring. Recreating the camellia was like tapping into the spirit of Chanel and I felt a little closer to the genius of this woman and the CHANEL brand itself.
No expense is spared with this embroidery. The camellias are recreated using gold thread, gold paillons, diamonds and natural pearls. Exquisite! Like a Haute Couture dress, remarkable craftsmanship.
18K yellow gold case set with 60 brilliant-cut diamonds (~1 ct). Embroidered dial made by the Maison Lesage with 1 rose-cut diamond, 18K yellow and white gold paillons and gold threads. 18K yellow gold hands. Black satin bracelet with 18K yellow gold ardillon buckle set with 80 brilliant-cut diamonds.
‘Lion Arty’ cuff in 18K yellow gold by CHANEL Fine Jewellery – POA
This bracelet fits seamlessly with my other jewellery, and reminds me of my dear boyfriend, the Leo. I would quite understand if he decided to surprise me with this Lion Arty cuff! The perfect gift and a lovely reminder of the Leo protecting his loved one.
‘Lion Pépites’ ring in 18K white gold and diamonds by CHANEL Fine Jewellery – POA
So many wonderful memories swirling in my brain right now. What a magnificent experience this has been. Thank you, CHANEL, my gracious hosts. You have brought me that bit closer to my beloved Chanel, a truly inspiring woman and a great role model for women today. Her essence and beauty lives on through CHANEL in all its splendour.
GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla features exquisite global discoveries, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews – a celebration of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery and vintage jewellery.
*Photographed by Liza Urla . Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla.
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