High Five: The Enduring Spirit of Chanel Jewellery

Chanel may well be known for its trademark suits and little black dresses, but the storied French fashion house has built a complete universe of adornment that expresses every mood. Whether that’s a dazzling, flawless diamond, cut to resemble the proportions of its famous No. 5 bottles, or a ‘quilted’ beige gold ring, to be worn every day, each piece is in constant conversation with its emblematic motifs. Quilting, tweed, stars and lions – the visual language of the brand is understood in everything it produces.

In 1932, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel added a new layer to its creative universe with the release of Bijoux de Diamants, the house’s first foray into high jewellery and, with it, she became the first female designer to cross over into the male-dominated world of high jewellery.

Coco Crush necklace in 18k white gold by CHANEL Fine Jewellery

The visionary mademoiselle had proven to be a gifted accessories designer and was the first to introduce large costume pearls into her collections, strung in milky strands and punctuated with camellias, ribbons and candy-hued gemstones. She had been commissioned by the London Diamond Corporation to create a special diamond jewellery offering, the hope being that the celebrated couturière might boost the market after the economic crisis of 1929.

The result was a sparkling 50-piece collection, presented on wax busts in Chanel’s 18th-century townhouse at 29 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris on November 5th. Attendees included Baron Édouard de Rothschild, Condé Montrose Nast and Pablo Picasso, as well as a great many princes, princesses and ambassadors. The pieces themselves drew inspiration from the celestial floor mosaics at Aubazine Abbey, where Mme Chanel had spent her childhood at the Cistercian monastery’s orphanage. “I wanted to cover women in constellations. With stars! Stars of all sizes,” she said during the two-week exhibition. As such, the French designer presented a galaxy of pristine white diamonds, with bracelets that circled the wrist like blazing comets, a brooch carved into a twinkling crescent and cascading necklaces arranged as the Big Dipper constellation.

from left: Coco Crush ring in 18k white gold by CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Coco Crush bracelets in 18k white, beige and yellow gold with diamonds by CHANEL Fine Jewellery

A revolution and eternal source of inspiration for the house, Bijoux de Diamants wasn’t free of controversy, with many jewellers at Place Vendôme, the famed jewellery hub of Paris, taking umbrage that a female dressmaker had been tasked with reviving the struggling diamond industry.

Ninety-two years on from this era-defining collection, which was her only high jewellery offering, the luxury fashion house’s uniquely elegant and contemporary take has expanded to new realms of bijouterie, as well as fine gem-encrusted jewels and watches that nod to the brand’s 114-year heritage. Today, the man behind it all is Patrice Leguéreau, director of the brand’s jewellery creation studio. From his studio above the Place Vendôme boutique, it’s his job to oversee the jewellery universe, orchestrating the house symbols and motifs and ensuring that every piece – from the everyday rush of a quilted, gold Coco Crush ring to the gobsmacking glory of a 55.55-carat diamond necklace –has that instantly recognisable Chanel spirit. “In Chanel, more than anywhere, every piece of jewellery is full of sense and full of stories,” he told us.

Première Edition Originale watch in yellow gold-coated steel and leather with lacquer by CHANEL Watches

At every level of the Chanel jewellery universe, those unmistakable codes are clearly and beautifully expressed. Coco Crush, a tribute to the founder’s love of equestrianism, is one of the house’s signatures and most beloved fine jewellery series to date. The brainchild of Leguéreau’s creation studio, the coveted line dropped in 2015 with a series of yellow and white gold rings and cuff bracelets that referenced the quilted matelassé, a textured fabric used for horse blankets, saddle clothes and protective jockey jackets.

The collection has since grown to encompass earrings, pendant necklaces, bangles and earcuffs, some crafted from beige gold – Chanel’s signature alloy – or set with diamonds. Most recently, Coco Crush has expanded once again with a campaign starring actors Lucy Boynton and Amandla Stenberg and K-pop hitmaker Jennie Kim, all modelling new talismans that include single white-gold earrings and mini bracelets centred by the Coco Twist clasp, which allows each precious design to seamlessly open and close in a single motion. The centenary of the best-loved Chanel No. 5 fragrance led to the unveiling of a remarkable high jewellery line, titled the No. 5 Collection. With more than 100 high jewellery pieces, five emblematic facets of the legendary perfume – the bottle, stopper, flowers, the number five and the fragrance’s sillage (the lingering scent left in the air when someone leaves the room) – have been cast in gold and dusted with mixed diamond cuts. Following in the footsteps of this high jewellery offering, these fine pieces pay homage to Chanel No.5 through prestige materials and exceptional expertise. Heritage motifs like Gabrielle Chanel’s lucky number five and a stylised drop of perfume feature across pendants, rings, necklaces and earrings in glittering diamonds and white or beige gold. This versatile jewellery is woven with history and design.

The references to No. 5 don’t stop there. Indeed, they spill into Chanel’s watchmaking, with its ground-breaking Première timepiece. Designed by the brand’s artistic director of more than 40 years Jacques Helleu, the classic 1980s model has since been relaunched as the Première Édition Originale with many of its streamlined features still intact. Its interlaced leather chain strap is a nod to the house’s famous quilted flap bags, while the octagonal case shape evokes an aerial view of Place Vendôme, home to the Ritz Hotel, where Mme Chanel lived for 34 years.

from left: Lion Solaire de Chanel ring in 18k white gold with diamonds by CHANEL High Jewellery, Eternal N ̊5 necklace in 18k white gold with diamonds by CHANEL High Jewellery

From perfume to tweed, Chanel’s latest venture into high jewellery saw Leguéreau transform the house material into precious metals, studded with diamonds, pearls and coloured gemstones. And for the first standalone boutique dedicated to watches and jewellery in the US, newly opened on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, he has returned to a favourite motif of the house, with Lion Solaire, rendering Coco’s beloved lion emblem (she was born on August 19, 1883, under the sign of Leo) in white diamonds. Nearly a century after she first introduced those dazzling stones to the Chanel jewellery universe, the richness of her pioneering vision retains all its splendour. That spirit shines on.

Taken from 10 Magazine Issue 72 – DARE TO DREAM – out now! Order your copy here.


from left: J12 watch in ceramic and steel by CHANEL Watches, Eternal N˚ 5 transformable earrings in 18k white gold with diamonds by CHANEL High Jewellery


Fashion Editor DORA FUNG
Digital operator TIMOR RAZ
Photographer’s assistant JUSTIN SARINANA

Jewellery and watches throughout by CHANEL

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