A complicated environment of inflationary pressures and economic uncertainty has not damped the outlook for high jewellery, which is looking especially dynamic and resilient.

Erwan Rambourg, global head of consumer and retail research at HSBC, says brands are catering to the “lucky few” with curated, experiential events. Such clients are no strangers to “inflationary pressures and volatility in the equity and property markets, but they’re relatively isolated from short-term stress because of the wealth they’ve accumulated”, he says. “I’m bullish on jewellery, full stop, but the high end will be particularly supported.”

Art and travel are strong themes this year in high jewellery. Van Cleef & Arpels’ collection, unveiled in Rome last month, evokes the experience of the 18th and 19th-century European Grand Tour and the spirit of artistic enrichment.

Boodles, too, has its own kind of grand tour around Europe, launching 19 jewellery suites inspired by the local art and architecture of 19 different cities.

Louis Vuitton’s Deep Time collection (pictured above at a June launch in Athens) is more ambitious, with an epic geological journey spanning billions of years — from the formation of the continents to the origins of life. Meanwhile, other houses rooted themselves in more singular locations: Bulgari in the Mediterranean, Dior and Chaumet in nature.

It is no surprise that high jewellery houses are aligning themselves with the art world. “Art, by definition, is bespoke; it’s one piece,” says Rambourg. “If luxury products can come across as being bespoke instead of being mass produced and mass distributed, that helps the perception of those goods.”

Art is clearly part of the strategy for the LVMH-owned Tiffany & Co. According to LVMH’s annual report for the year ended December 31 2022, revenues from high jewellery sales doubled, driven by a “flurry of events”, such as a special exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery celebrating the jeweller’s 185th anniversary, and a special collaboration with the contemporary artist Daniel Arsham that recalled a historic partnership with Andy Warhol.

Tiffany celebrated it’s 185th anniversary with an immersive exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery © Bean Studios Ltd/Saatchi Gallery
Tiffany’s Out of the Blue high jewellery colection is inspired by sea creatures © Tiffany and Co

Tiffany’s new high jewellery collection, Out of the Blue, launched in June and expands on the fantastical sea creatures created by the maison’s most celebrated designer, Jean Schlumberger, who began working with Tiffany in 1956. The collection covers seven themes, including “Star Urchin”, highlighted by a striking suite of hand-carved chalcedony spikes paired with tanzanite and diamonds.

The 71-piece collection was unveiled at Tiffany’s newly renovated Fifth Avenue flagship, renamed The Landmark. The 10-floor, 10,000 sq m space is home to nearly 40 artworks, including bespoke pieces by the likes of Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel — which turns the store into a destination in itself.

An HSBC industry report notes that visitors to the flagship now include “keen consumers and casual tourists alike, asking sales associates where this or that piece of art was in the building beyond looking at products, as if they were entering the MOMA or the Whitney museums, not just a luxury store”.

The Girih necklace from Cartier’s Le Voyage Recommencé collection combines turquoise and emeralds © Maxime Govet/Cartier

Cartier’s 80-piece Le Voyage Recommencé collection was described by Jacqueline Karachi, Cartier’s director of high jewellery creation, as “a journey back to the heart of Cartier creation”, evoking artistic motifs and design codes that have historically influenced the house. The graphic Girih necklace, for example, combines turquoise and emeralds — a blue-green palette that is now a Cartier signature — arranged in lines and arabesques that recall Islamic art and architecture (and, notably, a 1903 Islamic arts exhibition at Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs that had a lasting impression on Louis Cartier).

Nicolas Bos, president and chief executive of Van Cleef & Arpels, says art and high jewellery are “part of the same world of creation”. Its new 70-piece high jewellery collection, themed around the Grand Tour, is “an opportunity for Van Cleef & Arpels to reassert its attachment to the arts, and to demonstrate that a great voyage is indeed a work of art in itself”, says the house.

The magnificent Regina Montium necklace, for example, pairs a 27.7-carat blue-green oval tourmaline with a matching 16.26-carat cushion-cut one, and comes further dressed with sapphires, aquamarines, tanzanites and diamonds. The creation is inspired by a Leo Tolstoy short story that describes Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne as seen from Mount Rigi.

Van Cleef & Arpels Alps Regina Montium necklace
Van Cleef & Arpels Alps Regina Montium necklace

Elsewhere, the Italian landscapes of Florence, Rome, Venice and Naples make their way into four bracelets, the gemstones set in a watercolour-like tableau of micro mosaics. Many of the Van Cleef & Arpels pieces feature detachable pendants and interchangeable elements, offering a transformability option that increasingly suits high jewellery’s jet-set clientele.

Louis Vuitton’s Deep Time collection also includes various interchangeable jewels, such as a Rupture necklace that can be worn in three ways. Set with a 13.81-carat triangle cut yellow sapphire, the jewel sets a chunky gold chain — which is typically more at home in fine jewellery — between rows of opals and zircons. At more than 170 pieces, Deep Time is Louis Vuitton’s largest high jewellery collection yet, and the fifth collection by artistic director Francesca Amfitheatrof, who has been adding more transformable pieces each year.

The Rupture necklace from Louis Vuitton’s Deep Time collection is set with a 13.81-carat triangle cut yellow sapphire © Louis Vuitton

The maison’s high jewellery offering has “evolved extremely fast”, she says, and today has a distinct signature thanks, in part, to the use of custom-cut diamonds in the shape of the Louis Vuitton monogram. “All our jewellery feels quite young — it’s linked to fashion — so it has a modernity,” says Amfitheatrof.

Transformability — and chains — were also seen at Chanel, whose 63-piece Tweed de Chanel collection was inspired by the fashion house’s most iconic fabric. A statement-making, ruby and diamond, bib-style Tweed Royal jewel comes topped with a yellow gold chain and is made up of a necklace, brooch and ring, and can be worn in seven different ways. For example, the central bejewelled lion head can be removed and worn as a brooch, or the diamond detached and worn as a ring.

Tweed de Chanel necklace
The Tweed de Chanel necklace can be worn in seven different ways © Chanel

Elsewhere, Chaumet’s 68-piece Le Jardin collection was an ode to botany, and also featured transformable jewels such as a Fern suite crafted from a melange of diamonds, where a brooch doubles as a hair clip and earrings feature removable diamonds for various styling options.

Transformability was also on show in watches, the most standout of which is Bulgari’s Giardino Marino Grande secret watch, which crafts a burst of coloured gemstones into an underwater seascape that includes a starfish set with a 3.96-carat rubellite and seashell paved with diamonds and Paraiba tourmalines. Both can be detached and worn as mismatched earrings.

Bulgari created 25 high-end watches to complement its Mediterranean-themed high jewellery collection; 24 were sold by the end of the launch event held in Venice in May. Forty out of the 150 high-jewellery pieces were priced at more than €1mn.

Bulgari’s Giardino Marino Grande secret watch includes a starfish set with a 3.96-carat rubellite © Bulgari

Bulgari chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin said that, post-Covid, clients are inclined to “go for the best — or wait” and are upgrading their purchases in search of exceptionality. “People who would have bought a €100,000 piece of high jewellery today will go the extra mile to go to €350,000 because there’s a special gem which they know will be hard to find,” he says.

Even so, high jewellery is becoming more “fun and democratic”, says Caroline Scheufele, Chopard co-president, citing the increasing use of titanium. “Twenty years ago, you were considered crazy to set sapphire and diamonds into titanium, which is not a noble metal,” she says, adding that the days of selling a high jewellery parure with a matching necklace, earrings and ring are over.

“Women like to mix shapes and colours, rose gold with white gold,” she says. “It’s no longer top to toe in the same thing.” Consequently, nearly all the collections mixed precious and semi-precious stones as the design dictated. A case in point is Gucci’s maximalist-style Allegoria collection, themed around the four seasons, in which tourmalines, mandarin garnets and kunzite are centre stones, alongside fun and unexpected cuts such as fan, briolette, paisley and kite shapes.

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