September 10, 2010 4:19 pm

Preview: Sparklers to die for at the Grand Palais

Van Cleef & Arpels and six other jewellery houses are temporarily setting up shop under the soaring glass and steel cupolas of the Grand Palais in Paris for this month’s Biennale des Antiquaires. Here, they will display their finest sparkling wares alongside antique mirrors, furniture from the Middle Ages and “objets de vertu”.

Jewellery is not new to the Biennale, but this will be the first year for Vuitton, a newcomer to the world of haute joaillerie and Piaget, better known for its jewellery watches.

A look at all seven collections confirms that unusual stones, and particularly opals, are still in vogue: look out for the stunning effect of opal beads shot through with fire, as seen at Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Shaking up the traditional hierarchy of high jewellery are rough chrysoberyl beads, imperial topaz found only in one mine in Brazil, morganites, spinels and sapphires in unexpected grey hues or the sunset pink tones of the padparadscha variety rub shoulders with diamonds and emeralds.

Cartier has 70 jewels on display and 11 objects, the latter an unexpected addition. Bejewelled desk sets, clocks and bowls in precious materials that include rock crystal, white gold, argonite, agate, onyx, serpentine and diamonds have not been given such prominence for many years.

Cartier is expecting a growing demand for precious one-off, high-price tag objects for the home, too fragile to serve a fruit salad from.

While the objects may be of the “dust at your peril” genre, Cartier wants us to get our hands all over the jewellery. Wearability is increasingly important and today the master jeweller’s challenge is to make dozens of carats of diamonds as easy to slip on as a silk scarf.

Take the 1948 Maharajah of Patiala’s necklace, Cartier’s largest single commission. Today, it is evoked in a new guise. Even though it strings up a hefty 50-carat yellow diamond, the necklace has been engineered to leave you feeling more at ease than a maharajah in pyjamas.

Mismatched earrings, rough beads, natural pearls, asymmetric cascades of diamonds and sapphires in dove grey, powder green and fawn, are inspired by birds, water and a gentler side of nature.

In place of the house’s trademark panther are birds plumed in soft pinks and caramel hues or draped around rare, large stones.

Chanel travels back to the source of its jewellery history: the 1932 “Bijoux en Diamants” exhibition organised by Gabrielle Chanel. From jersey fabric to diamonds, Chanel knew the importance of comfort. It is no surprise that the 1932 jewels were highly wearable and showcased a fresh way to sport the aristocracy’s favourite stone, though most of the original jewels were dismantled.

The Plumes collection of 35 pieces is just how Madame Chanel liked it. The settings are the finest of frames to emphasise the diamonds, and many of the jewels can be taken apart to make separate pieces. The highlight is a replica of the feather brooch from 1932. The brooch is so supple that it will drape nicely over the shoulder or happily sit on the head.

Christian Dior blooms bright this season. Delicate garlands of roses of diamonds, pink sapphires and emeralds make up the Precieuses Roses collection, the perfect finale to its romantic couture creations.

On a less traditional note, Victoire de Castellane, jewellery designer at Dior, opens her “coffret” or jewellery box to reveal a subcontinental car-crash of colours. Inspired by Bollywood, bright green enamel and diamond snakes slither over sky-blue turquoise stones set off by spangled glossy sweet-red lacquer to reach bulging pomegranate fruits.

Harry Winston ventures out from the white world of diamonds and explores interesting coloured stones in the Royal Gardens collection. Designers went to the house archives in search of sketches that never made it beyond the drawing board. The 40.8 carat mandarine garnet at the centre of a diamond necklace and the pink sapphire and spinel diamond drop earrings bring a flash of colour to the collection.

Louis Vuitton’s inaugural high jewellery collection was shown in 2009 and for the first time will be present at the Biennale. As is fitting for a trunk maker, the collections are called “L’aime du Voyage” and “La malle aux trésors.” Lorenz Bäumer, who designed the collection says: “Vuitton likes to break the rules. This is not traditional jewellery and Vuitton is very brave to do it.”

The “L’aime de Voyage” necklace at first glance appears to be a delicate web of diamonds. Look closely and you can find a miniature guitar pick, safety pin, equaliser, drum sticks, an old fashioned vinyl record and an electric guitar, all fastened at the back of the neck by an amplifier plug.

Piaget debuts at the Biennale with 60 pieces of jewellery inspired by both couture and cocktails. Lace, tassels, net and embroidery are woven out of diamonds into necklaces and cuffs. More adventurous are the cocktail rings. The Mojito features a minty green tourmaline and emeralds with a lemon wedge of citrine on the side, while the Sex on the Beach sparkles with sugar diamond-crystals.

Appealing to the festive spirit of the Biennale, Piaget offers diamond-set eclairs and cream puff rings.

Van Cleef & Arpels has set sail on “Les Voyages Extraordinaires” with Jules Verne at the helm. Be prepared to be plunged to the bottom of the sea where writhing creatures dwell, float above the Nile in a balloon and whizz past a supernova in outer space.

An ambitious 175 pieces have kept the ateliers busy, with no respite even over the summer, as master jewellers worked to make an impressionist’s view of the Nile from above in tsavorite, spessartite, demantoid garnets, emeralds and diamonds.

Look for the 48.13 carat imperial topaz dangling from the trunk of the Maximus elephant brooch, black opal beads in the Nuage d’Oort necklace or the mandarine garnet, sapphire and diamond Tampa necklace with detachable space ship.

Maria Doultonof The Jewellery Editor

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.