New designs of jewellery are organic celebrating nature in dynamic ways says LARA OLADUNNI
Something interesting is happening in the world of jewellery. Jewellers around the world are taking on a daring terrain with recent edgy jewellery designs. New designs are drawing strong inspiration from nature.
Last summer, Chanel unveiled its collection of jewellery, at the Place Vendôme in Paris, which revolved around the theme of wheat.
Inside Chaumet’s luxurious salons, there was also wheat abundantly. There were plump ears of corn and sheaves tied with ribbons, bursting with diamonds, both wild and refined. It was one of four oblique plant themes which include lily, laurel and oak.
Boucheron has jewelleries inspired by sunkissed diamond ears of wheat gathered up in its poetic Blé d’Eté set. The open-fronted necklace sees them sweeping softly sidewards across the collarbone. Obviously, with these daring attempts, the master jewellers have all drawn on the classicism and rustic charm of the humble ear of wheat.
This new approach signals a new approach to representing nature in jewels, a turn towards something less sweet and sentimental and more organic and earthy. This new trend is driven by the beauty of nature’s imperfections.
Tarra Rosenbaum, pine cones necklace is a reflection of pretty-pretty blossoms synonymous wth nature. There are also pieces that reflects beauty of nature like the innocuous butterflies have fluttered off into the sunset and been replaced by crunchy-carapaced beetles. Some of the most captivating designs are made by German goldsmith Otto Jakob, who designs his pieces directly from nature, using his own collection of beetles.
London-based Lebanese designer-jeweller Gaelle Khouri’s designs are even more edgy as she takes an aggressively theoretical approach in her Soft Deconstruction collection.
One of her pieces, Self-Portrait fish earrings is an illustration of “bones” in rose gold, with discontinuous fleshy heads and tails pavéd in cloudy, icy, heavily included white and brown diamonds. The Imbroglio ring is an oversized cellular sculpture in blackened silver, with a rolling rose-gold spine set with white and brown diamonds and bright-green tsavorite garnets.
Through her new collection, one could tell that Khouri is fascinated with human reactions to nature, including the forces of attraction and repulsion, hence her choice of caterpillars, centipedes and cockroaches as the framework for earrings, a necklace and a ring and of vertebrae for a bony, knobbly, blackened-silver Spine cuff.
Khouri says she started mixing metals like bronze and gold in a bid to lower the cost. However, she found the mixture went well with the spirit of her designs. The combination and contrast of tone and texture, dark and light, matt and shiny, buttress the vigour of nature and make her jewelleries look alive.
Vigour is truly a key feature of the new organic mood. Egyptian jeweller Azza Fahmy’s 12-piece Wonders of Nature collection seems to grow over the wearer. It highlights the connection between the natural world and man, between Ottoman gardens and the Victorian naturalist. Fahmy’s jewels are layered with silver and gold, an encrustation that generates a hazy 3D effect, seen in the massive flower between-the-finger rings and a wide silver collar, open at the front, over which spreads an overgrown garden inhabited by an exotic hoopoe.
“People today want to be surprised,” says Cartier’s director of image, style and heritage Pierre Rainero. “Looking at themes from nature, we found the cactus very inspiring; there are so many varieties, and the shapes are modern and architectural, with a generosity of form.” He is also attracted by the idea of projecting a different view of femininity from that traditionally associated with flowers. “The cactus is a strong plant with a delicate flower. It’s daring, original, a survivor, and communicates strength.”
The Cactus de Cartier collection is joyful, juicy-looking and free-spirited, with a strong cocktail vibe, a hint of the California desert, and delicate details that fit perfectly with Cartier’s aesthetic vocabulary: the chrysoprase berries, clustered on the bracelet, are inset with emeralds, 1920s style, and scattered with tiny, rust-toned carnelian flowers, each centred with a diamond. The emerald beads of the luscious earrings feature tiny diamonds, and the open-ended bangle, again in 1920s style, is ornamented with lapis flowers centred on a diamond. The jewels are light yet voluminous, particularly the massive rings in which spines are stylised into trails of round gold beads, bringing a primal beauty that is a defining feature of the new organic jewels.
Designer-jeweller Cora Sheibani was ahead of the trend in finding inspiration in cacti a few years ago for her ever-evolving bestselling series Cactaceae. She explains that it came about because she had recently taken up gardening and had also been making more frequent visits to her mother’s house on the Aeolian Islands, where cacti and succulents thrive. “They are little survivors,” she says. “I found their shapes fascinating and graphic, and I liked that they bloom at unexpected moments.” Her designs are abstract, stylised and strong, with undulating or ribbed surfaces, in matte white or yellow gold, set with black-speckled dark-green nephrite from Russia perhaps, or a sprinkling of diamonds. She worked with her goldsmith in Paris to recreate the Victorian star setting, but gave it longer, thinner radiating rays to provide the impression of spikes. “For me, this is a modern, graphic interpretation of the classic flower jewel.”
Even portrayals of animals, among the best loved of all jewellery themes, have become less predictable, with jewellers looking for deeper meanings and connections – between man and nature, or science and nature. Van Cleef & Arpels went biblical with its Noah’s Ark (L’Arche de Noé) collection of twinned-animal brooches; at Bulgari, the iconic Serpenti has been stylised into a graphic pattern of scales; and Boucheron moved on to deer, wolves and eagles for its popular animal rings that have previously featured pandas and koalas. Boucheron creative director Claire Choisne describes how founder Frédéric Boucheron “depicted strong, wild, realistic nature. We’ve made the animals more graphic, to capture their positive force.”
Additional report from FT’s How To Spend It