Sign up to myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about Luxury goods news.
After 2020’s muted high jewellery launches, this year has welcomed back bold and daring collections, complemented by several new investment pieces, as the industry targets a buoyant Asian market and accelerates its push with digital content.
China has continued to lead the sector’s recovery, with most brands planning to bring their collections to Asia this summer. Notably, Dior launched its Dior Rose collection in Chengdu last month (pictured above), even though the pieces are a nod to the house’s revamped Paris atelier and flagship.
At 116 pieces, Dior Rose is the house’s largest jewellery collection yet, themed around the rose in four themes, with the floral gems punctuated by signature elements such as a mishmash of coloured stones and off-centre settings.
Cartier and Bulgari staged their glamorous launches in Italy, which underscored the importance of travel and the social gatherings that are synonymous with high jewellery.
The Sixième Sens par Cartier collection aims to evoke the emotional “sixth sense” that comes with wearing exceptional creations crafted with stones forged by nature over millions of years. A standout Phaan ring, for example, stacks a 8.20 carat ruby above a 4.01 carat rose-cut diamond, highlighting the allure of gemstones, while a warm sensuality oozes from the Pixelage necklace, its tones and patterns evoking the panther — the house mascot — topped with 27.34 carats of golden topaz.
Rather than staging a grand event at a venue such as Paris’s Grand Palais, as in years past, Cartier this year decamped to Lake Como, which enabled it to host a series of smaller events. This gave it a chance “to use the intimacy that is requested as an advantage”, according to Cyrille Vigneron, Cartier president and chief executive.
Cartier is increasingly experimenting with this format, as seen in a private concert it hosted in Seoul with the pianist Sunwook Kim that was attended by small groups of socially distanced guests.
“It was both ‘together’ and ‘intimate’,” says Vigneron, who emphasises the former, in particular, for Sixième Sens. “To travel and have a social occasion to wear something that is absolutely beautiful — that’s what high jewellery is about and nothing can replace that. High jewellery is a way to present a better version of yourself . . . The occasion to dress up in some way is something beautiful — by itself.”
A small selection of clients and VIPs also had occasion to dress up in Milan, for Bulgari’s launch of Magnifica. The 350-piece collection is the Italian jeweller’s most expensive yet, with more than 60 pieces priced at more than €1m, and headlined by boldly designed necklaces topped with jaw-dropping stones, such as a 131.21 carat spinel that is billed as the fourth-largest in the world and the largest on the market.
Big stones, says Bulgari chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin, are the “cornerstone and excellence” of high jewellery, with clients naturally drawn to their investment potential, especially compared with other luxury categories, such as fashion or accessories.
“Clients perfectly understand that [high jewellery] is something that will more likely appreciate than depreciate,” he says. “In terms of luxury, these pieces are something you can wear and enjoy. You can also have an investment around the neck. That satisfaction is surely more tangible than just reading your bank balance on your computer.”
Bulgari also embraced the “phygital” trend, with its live event followed up two weeks later by a five-minute pre-recorded catwalk show from Milan’s iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade. Bulgari plans to release more films throughout the year using hours of footage that came from filming the catwalk event.
“Content creation is probably one of the most important consequences of the digital revolution — it’s a totally new way of working,” says Babin. “We have to think digital first, and for beautiful content on a mobile screen, rather than a large screen or even print.”
Standout stones — of a different style — are also central to Louis Vuitton’s Bravery collection, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founder. Eight key themes chart Louis Vuitton’s life and vision, opening with a constellation-inspired suite centred around tanzanites, tsavorites and opals, which signal Vuitton’s birth in the Jura mountains, with Myth dedicated to his arrival in Paris and the creation of his multi-faceted identity (pictured below). The latter is headlined by a triple-strand choker that can be worn in 12 different ways and features key codes of the fashion house — most notably, Louis Vuitton’s custom-cut diamonds in the shape of its house monogram flower and star.
Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of watches and jewellery, calls the custom-cut stones, crafted exclusively in the house’s Place Vendôme atelier in Paris, the “holy grail for any jeweller” that helps cement its design identity.
“The cuts are especially hard to achieve from an engineering and cutting point of view,” she says. “The tension within a diamond means that if the points aren’t perfect, the diamond will shatter.”
Bravery should have launched in Paris, but travel restrictions forced a move to Monaco to be closer to clients. Most of the Place Vendôme maisons are still quietly showing their collections in Paris, with several houses — including Chopard, Pomellato and Boucheron — dressing celebrities at this month’s Cannes Film Festival.
Boucheron’s innovative Holographique collection features gems sprayed with titanium and silver, a holographic coating process that is normally found in the aerospace industry and gives the pieces an ethereal, futuristic look. Such designs, says chief executive Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, will appeal to younger customers, who are less investment-focused and are “a lot more creative and educated on their style and tastes.” She also notes: “They are willing to play more and, above all, see high jewellery as poetry — as a piece of art that tells a story.”
After the summer, Holographique will move to Asia, where the collection will stay for extended periods — a format that started during the pandemic and will remain, says Poulit-Duquesne. “Covid helped us move out of our comfort zone and reinvent the way we do things. We really take the time to do local events with clients and press, which is really effective.”
Piaget is also showing its latest collection in Paris. Called Extraordinary Lights, it nods to festive, evening illuminations and is epitomised by a necklace that can be worn six ways, its graduation of sapphires and yellow diamonds depicting a starry sky moving into dawn. Piaget has recut the necklace’s central yellow diamond to 8.88 carats, a figure that will appeal to the Asian market (the number eight is considered auspicious), while its clarity has improved to “internally flawless”.
At 48 pieces, the collection is 30 per cent smaller than previous launches. The reduced size echoes clients’ sentiments, says Cynthia Tabet, Piaget’s global product marketing director. “They’re smaller but more impactful collections,” she says, “with different capsules launched throughout the year for different stories.”
Gems with “true meaning” resonated with clients at Chaumet, says chief executive Jean-Marc Mansvelt. Featuring dynamic gem-set strands that and twist around necklaces and rings, the Torsade collection extends the architecture theme from last year and celebrates the maison’s revamped home on Place Vendôme.
The collection is being shown in Paris and on social media platforms such as Weibo in China, which has become especially important for connecting with clients during the pandemic, according to Mansvelt.
“We have been able to remind our clients that life continues and that despite everything, we can still talk about creativity and things that can surpass difficult moments. This is actually the purpose of jewellery.”
Get alerts on Luxury goods when a new story is published