From her to eternity
When you think of fine jewellery, Chanel isn't the first name that comes to mind. The French luxury brand is better known for its cult 2.55 handbag, although the house is hoping to break new ground with its latest haute joaillerie collection, 1932.
Based on the Bijoux de Diamants collection originally created by Coco Chanel in 1932, the 80-piece line celebrates the house's 80th anniversary in jewellery. Featuring watches, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings, rings and head pieces, they draw inspiration from her favourite motifs and symbols.
While a preview is being held at Chanel's Prince's Building shop until the end of the month, the entire line will be unveiled on March 23 in Beijing, marking the first time the house has launched a high jewellery collection outside Paris.
'It's nice to celebrate in a new city, which is also part of our future,' says international jewellery director Benjamin Comar.
'The collection shows our innovation from 80 years ago to now. We are here not just to create jewellery, we want to make jewellery that brings something new to the table.'
The original Bijoux de Diamants line marked the first time Chanel had worked with diamonds after making her reputation with costume jewellery and pearls.
'The diamond corporation approached Chanel after the Great Depression to design 30 pieces, which angered a lot of traditional jewellers,' says Georges Amer, Chanel Fine Jewellery's director of purchasing and development. 'Jewellery wasn't new to her, but the fine material was.
'Back then it was something new, and even now it looks modern, which is why we wanted to reference it. The new collection is based on the same themes but with a different look, so hopefully our clients will be able to link it to the original.'
Like its predecessor, this 1932 collection - which took two years to develop - reinterprets the house's signature bow, knots, feathers and star themes. While some sets are more detailed than others (one necklace, for example, features 3,800 stones and took 16 months to complete), the idea is to show something new with each piece, whether in style or technique.
'We use titanium with white gold in new ways, setting it with diamonds and curving it around another stone to add volume. On one piece, you see different diamond cuts ranging from round and baguette to emerald and briolette,' says Amer. 'One of my favourites is a blue sapphire ring, with triangle-cut sapphires set invisibly and at irregular levels and heights. It's different from Van Cleef's invisible setting and was challenging for the artisans and stone cutter to find the perfect sapphire.'
The collection uses a selection of rare stones, including a 32 carat fancy vivid yellow diamond. The stone originally weighed 34 carats and took two months to cut into shape without losing its vivid colour.
In the Celeste brooch, which is inspired by the solar system, the centrepiece is a rare 79-carat baroque cultured pearl from Australia in a shimmering blue, circled by an open network of diamond stars and rings.
The collection also sees the debut of the Lion, another favourite symbol of Chanel, who was a Leo. It's the first time the house has used an animal motif in its collections.
'To introduce the Lion, we wanted to make pieces that aren't just jewellery, and more like art. We asked an experienced laboratory to sculpt the body and head from rock crystal, underlined by an emerald cut diamond in fancy vivid yellow. It's been made into a necklace. We chose yellow because in the original collection all the pieces were white except one,' says Amer.
The Etoile Filante claspless necklace features a cascade of chains with baguette-cut diamonds, connected to a large diamond star that can sit on the shoulder or chest, or as a brooch.
'The design studio is free to do what they want from the outset. We don't have a brief - it's all about the creativity,' says Amer. 'We let the studio work on the designs first and we adapt our search for the right stone.'