Snakes inspire Bulgari and Boucheron jewellery collections
Despite it being Year of the Goat, serpents dominate latest high jewellery oferrings in Paris
We may have just entered the Year of the Goat, but if the recent high jewellery presentations in Paris are anything to go by, 2015 looks like it's going to be all about the snake. The sensuous reptile, which is an icon of both Bulgari and Boucheron, coiled its gilded form around wrists and necks in their latest collections.
The snake has been synonymous with Bulgari for more than seven decades, and it's crafted in jewels, timepieces and luxury handbags as part of its signature Serpenti collection.
Boucheron's affiliation with the creature dates back to the late 1880s, when founder Frédéric Boucheron offered his wife Gabrielle a necklace in the form of a snake, a gift which expressed his love and protection.
But it wasn't until 1968 that the snake entered the collection properly as the Serpent Bohème. It has since become a symbolic line of the maison.
But the similarity ends there; these snakes are of very different species. Claire Choisne, creative director at Boucheron, has pared back the writhing serpent shape to a stylish diamond snakehead, and a coiled form that encircles the wrist and fingers.
She has modernised it to such an extent that in some designs, the snakehead has become an abstract motif, especially when linked together in a long sautoir.
But the serpent is generally identifiable, with gold cocktail rings and bangles textured with scales.
This new fine jewellery collection is available in Hong Kong, where Boucheron predicts it will do very well.
Hopes are especially high for the yellow gold pieces, which are particularly popular with Boucheron's local clientele; Chinese shoppers prefer the white gold.
Some customers layer the necklaces and rings with white and yellow gold, which is a particularly modern way of wearing jewellery.
The collection was presented when the Russian (despite the perilous state of the rouble), American, and Middle Eastern clientele were in Paris for the haute couture shows, so Boucheron shrewdly added a few high jewellery pieces to the collection.
Shu Qi wore a diamond-encrusted Serpenti necklace for the lavish opening of Bulgari's new Canton Road store last January.
Notable items included a snake head pendant, and a bold cuff with snakeskin recreated in pavé diamonds. In spite of the sparkle, the designs are ultra chic and understated.
Bulgari's colourful serpents have many devotees. Elizabeth Taylor wore her Serpenti bracelet on the film set of Cleopatra, and Australian actress Naomi Watts chose a necklace for her 2015 Golden Globes appearance.
In Paris, Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari's creative director, unveiled a spectacular new coiled serpent in yellow gold from its one-of-a-kind high jewellery collection. It came decked out with round and pear-shaped emeralds, and marquise brilliant cut diamonds.
The Italian luxury maison also paraded three Serpenti secret watches, with jewelled heads that opened to reveal the time. They were crafted in white gold with emerald eyes, rose gold with ruby eyes, or rose gold with malachite eyes.
Introduced in the 1940s, the Serpenti watch is experiencing a revival with a number of rare early Serpenti timepieces selling at auction for huge prices. A 1965 enamel and diamond watch fetched US$1.1 million at Christie's London last year, setting a new world record.
The new designs are different. Instead of coiling several times around the arm, they coil just once, and are fastened with a clasp.
In Hong Kong, Bulgari has launched a 30-piece limited edition of rose gold Serpenti watches exclusively for the Chinese market. They're set with 38 brilliant-cut diamonds and rubellite eyes, and cost HK$308,000.
The haute couture collections were an apposite time for the luxury jewellery maisons to reinforce their house codes, so these collections were a feast for the eyes.
Chanel's customers, already charmed by Karl Lagerfeld's mechanical-garden spectacle, saw its cut-out flowers echoed in the blooms of his dresses.
Les Intemporels De Chanel (which means "timeless") pays tribute to all the familiar symbols of the Chanel universe: the camellia, the comet, the star, the ribbon and a more recent addition, the lion.
The designs now play a lot more with asymmetry: the Camellia Gansé long cultured pearl necklace features three irregularly set diamond camellias, each graphically outlined in black spinels.
Equally irresistible were the diamond ribbon choker, and dainty bow earrings that dangled pearl tassels. Ribbons featured regularly in Chanel's fashion in the '20s and '30s.
The standout piece was the regal lion ring. Born under the sign of Leo, Coco Chanel was endlessly fascinated with the celestial world, saying "I wanted to cover women with a constellation of stars", about her 1932 debut jewellery collection. Here we had her diamond lion guarding a sparkling star.
These exquisite pieces were just a brief glimpse of Chanel's big new collection, which will introduce more of her favourite motifs during the year.