Hubert Burda Media

Mystical Masterpieces

Chanel's latest high jewellery collection explores the power of gems as talismans, giving strength to their wearers.

Mystical Masterpieces

It is no secret that Gabrielle Chanel was deeply superstitious. Her penchant for the mystical was apparent from the many keepsakes that have been immortalised in her former apartment at 31 Rue Cambon — from the chandeliers made from healing crystals and camellia flowers, which symbolise purity and longevity, to the wheat motifs that represent prosperity and multiple lion heads, a reference to her Leo star sign. Not only did she surround herself with emblems she believed had protective qualities, she also used to wear a topaz and gold signet ring on the little finger of her left hand for much of her life, calling it her “talisman”.
Many of these emblems — the comet, the lion, the camellia — have since 1993, served as silent muses for Chanel's high jewellery collections and become icons of the house.
This year, Chanel moves beyond the figurative icons linked to its story, focusing instead — with its 50-piece Les Talismans de Chanel collection presented during Paris Haute Couture Week — on a more philosophical exploration of the power of jewellery as talismans, granting their wearers courage and protection.
“Gabrielle Chanel was surrounded by objects that gave her power, strength and energy. With this new collection, we wanted to recreate this relationship with jewellery — for women to be able to wear this energy,” says Benjamin Comar, international director of Chanel Fine Jewellery. “You always have something you wear or take with you for important occasions when you need that extra power. We wanted this collection to be more personal, as a symbol of security for the modern woman.”
Chanel's updated interpretation of these mysterious medallions come in the form of three alluring medieval quatrefoil patterns, adorned with stunning diamonds, sapphires, Japanese cultured pearls, blue violet tanzanite, red spinel, orange topazes, multicoloured lacquer and enamel. There are clear Renaissance and Byzantine influences in the design of the pieces, reflecting Coco Chanel's fascination with the eras.
Les Talismans de Chanel is divided into 11 sets, made up of 11 necklaces, 12 pairs of earrings, three brooches, 10 bracelets, a watch and 13 rings. An ode to Gabrielle's love for diamonds (as seen in the one-off jewellery collection Bijoux de Diamants she created in 1932) is the Envoutante set, comprising a necklace, ring, bracelet and a pair of earrings — all festooned with timelessly dazzling stones. The set boasts two out of four unique creations in the entire collection that cannot be reproduced because of the value and rarity of the gemstones used.
The clear star of the collection is the Envoutante necklace, the most expensive item at €2.1 millon. Nestled within the spellbinding piece encrusted with 631 diamonds, is a 3.01-ct oval-cut F-VVS2 stone and a dazzling 8.09-ct briolette-cut D-IF rock suspended below it. The masterpiece, produced in the Maison's high jewellery workshop, is a showcase of true craftsmanship and technical prowess — weighing a mere 80g and taking almost a year to create. It is complemented by a matching set of earrings (also a one-off creation), which comes with two rose-cut diamonds (6.68ct) and two oval-cut diamonds (2.02ct).
“The necklace looks so simple, but requires very delicate work. The flow of the stones is beautiful and it's so light that you don't even feel it when you're wearing it,” says Comar, citing the piece as one of his two favourites in the collection. Another unique creation is the 18k white gold diamond-studded Particuliere sautoir with a rare 11.66-ct dark yellow brown diamond, which can be worn in more than one way — with the pendant worn either in front or at the back, or detached and used as a brooch.
Comar stresses that Chanel has always designed with the modern woman in mind. “A lot of brands create around stones, but we do the reverse. We design first, then find the stones and techniques to match the drawings. We do not believe in creating trophies. We believe in designing pieces that are flexible, supple and comfortable for the wearer.”
The sculptural €150,000 Solaire cuff in 18k yellow gold, set with a 1.53-ct oval-cut E-VVS2 diamond, is the other piece close to his heart. “The Envoutante necklace and the Solaire cuff are such diverse interpretations of the talisman. One is very strong — bright, yellow and bold — and the other is very delicate. In a single collection, they are total oppostites, yet they reveal the same idea,” he adds.
A brilliant showcase of the impressive know-how and craftsmanship of Chanel's métiers d'art partners, the cuff boasts a unique embossing technique. Unlike engraving, embossing does not involve removal of metal from the surface, but achieves the desired shape by applying pressure with hammers and chisels.
The métiers d'art are master craftsmen who handcraft the jewellery, the flowers and plumes, the buttons and headgear, among other things crucial to the house's haute couture collections. Since the 1970s, the Maison has been commited to keeping the skills of these venerable experts alive by slowly and discreetly acquiring Paris's small, traditional companies and ateliers — many of whom had worked with Gabrielle herself.
Illustrating the traditional art of lacquering and grisaille enamelling magnificently are the Hypnotique and Fascinante sets respectively. The former reveals a captivating quatrefoil motif made of translucent lacquer, yellow gold, tanzanite and white gold set with diamonds, with the colours of lacquer chosen to match the different shades of tanzanite. The latter features the familiar camillia motif, with the enamelling giving its domed surface a three-dimensional effect.
But the most impressive of all is the one-off Attirante brooch, a colourful piece featuring a 5.02-ct round-cut red spinel, four sugarloaf-cut yellow sapphires (27.07ct) and four pear-cut orange topazes (8.15ct). Inspired by another of Chanel's favourite motifs, the ribbon, it shows off not only the intricate art of stone setting, but also the painstaking craft of cloisonne enamelling and embossing.
Summing up the collection as one which strongly reflects Chanel's focus on creativity and liberty of design, Comar says: “What differentiates us from other brands is that we have more freedom in creation. We are younger and have a culture of openness, which matches today's world.”
“Chanel was the first brand outside of the jewellery world to create high jewellery in 1993. And now, a lot of other brands are entering the market and doing the same. It's great. I like this dynamism. A market with no newcomers isn't dynamic.”