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In Paris, Nature Meets Craft in Jewelry

20 april 2012

It is 100 years since the decadent poetry of René Lalique’s jewelry was abandoned by its creator in favor of sculpted crystal objects, writes Suzy Menkes in her article published by the New York Times at

According to the author, the sleeping beauty of the Lalique world was woken with a new collection based on the love of nature and a fiery imagination that created mythical creatures from peacocks to dragonflies.

A focus on haute joaillerie, in tandem with the summer 2012 haute couture season last week, brought the Lalique pieces to a mansion in the Place Vendôme. The designer Quentin Obadia, saying “the big work was to understand the spirit of Lalique,” showed his reinterpretation of the phoenix, the dragonfly and Vesta, the Roman goddess of fire. He also offered more approachable pieces like rings and bracelets, spun off the major work.

Using the founder’s revolutionary mix of crystal with precious stones, the designer also infused the style with linear Art Deco shapes and even introduced a contemporary bridal collection, including the house’s signature lily of the valley.

Silvio Denz, the Swiss fragrance mogul who bought the Lalique brand in 2008, listed the different “pillars” of the brand, including crystal, interior decoration and perfumes — and now the revived jewelry collection.

At the heart of all high jewelry is the meld of fine materials and exceptional craftsmanship.

Top trends in haute joaillerie:

The jewels on display last week in the Place Vendôme reveled in an artisanal approach and in nature, with symbols of birds, stylized flowers and rustic lattice.

- Spinels, to avoid the soaring cost of rubies

- Sapphires in rare, nonblue shades

- Vivid color mixes of fine and semiprecious stones

- Deliberately mismatched earrings, playing with contrasting colors or shapes


“I wanted to go back to when my mother would take me to Dior as a little girl in the 1970s,” said Victoire de Castellane, designer for Dior’s fine jewelry. But she was thinking more about craft and artisanal work than the grandeur of haute couture.

The collection that goes on sale in May is based on wicker work, like the chairs that once were used in the couture salon. Redolent of light summer days, the Napoleon III cane chair was worked as a yellow gold bracelet, set with colored stones or as a ring (below) with a starting price of €2,000, or $2,630.

Louis Vuitton

“What could be more Parisian than the Champs-Élysées,” said Lorenz Bäumer, talking about the original Louis Vuitton when he came to Paris in 1854. With a Vuitton dedicated jewelry store set to open in June in the Place Vendôme, the designer was inspired by three iconic places: the famous “Champs,” the fountains of the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries gardens.

But abstraction — not tourist attraction — was the idea of Mr. Bäumer, whose diamond grid necklace offered a subtle outline of the Arc de Triomphe, a fountain of sapphire blue water mirrored the Concorde, while an emerald and white gold ring expressed the green public gardens.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Love birds, wings in flight and nesting birds have been an inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels since at least the 1930s — hence the display of heritage pieces alongside a “Colors of Paradise” collection focusing on lightness, movement and, indeed, color.

A diamond bird motif, with a twist of a tail forming a ring, or a bird flying from a necklace of sky blue chalcedony beads, expressed the sweet side. But Van Cleef’s love bird clip, nestling in a turquoise necklace, showed the more vibrant spirit while earrings in contrasting stones underscored the fashion for mix-and-match.


Bulgari’s color combinations of mandarin garnets scattered beside green peridots made a bracelet look good enough to eat while mismatched earrings included the same stones with mother-of-pearl. Fresh, too, were multicolored sapphires in yellow, blue and violet for a necklace with a waterfall clip.

Flowers seem to be sprouting slightly less as jewelry for the summer season. But blooms looked joyous as earrings of pink sapphire petals set around emeralds. Showing Roman skills with both fine and semiprecious jewels, Bulgari’s spin on spinels was to gather them with amethysts and turquoise.


“Bee my love” is a sweet-as-honey way for Chaumet to play with its iconic buzzy bee symbol — and to emphasize the modern ways this can be expressed. Creating high as well as more affordable jewelry, the jeweler is using the bee for a brooch made of blue opal.

On a more modest scale, the interlocking rings and bracelets cut in a precise pattern mimicking a bee hive offer a more approachable way of embracing Chaumet’s bee identity, which goes back to the Napoleonic era.