PARIS — For many high jewelers, not all roads led to Paris this week.
Instead, some opted for a change of scenery to introduce post-Covid collections, several of which were bigger, bolder, and featured even more important gems than in pre-lockdown times.
“It’s like a coming-out party for high jewelry as societies begin to reopen,” Paul Zimnisky, a leading diamond analyst, said in an email from New York.
Citing significant accumulation of wealth (particularly among the already wealthy) during the pandemic, a search for havens amid record global inflation, and a context of geopolitical uncertainty not seen since the Cold War, Mr. Zimnisky said, “it’s like all of the stars are aligning for the high jewelry market.”
Last month, Cartier revealed its Récif, or reef necklace, with fluted balls of coral and emeralds twisting around a rope of diamonds, part of a 90-jewel collection called Beautés du Monde, in Madrid. The event, spread out over 19 days, saw wealthy guests mingling with celebrities like Golshifteh Farahani, Vanessa Kirby and the K-Pop star Jisoo at a gala in the 18th-century Liria Palace, or singing along during live musical performances by the Black Eyed Peas or Rita Ora.
It wasn’t the only traditional jeweler to opt for a destination reveal.
For Van Cleef & Arpels, the avant-garde Palais Bulles, a sprawling complex on the Riviera once used by Pierre Cardin as a vacation home, was the backdrop for the debut last month of its La Perlée fine jewelry collection. But the house also seized on the occasion to show Perles d’Été, a collection of 12 one-of-a-kind high jewels inspired by the Mediterranean, using turquoise and other ornamental stones combined with diamonds or sapphires.
Jewelry brands attached to top fashion houses offered luxury experiences reminiscent of the lavish cruise and resort shows staged annually in exotic locales all around the world.
Having traveled to Prague, Capri, and Monaco for past high jewelry presentations, Louis Vuitton this year invited guests to Marrakesh, where Francesca Amfitheatrof, its creative director for jewelry and watches, displayed Spirit, her fourth collection for the house. At the Dar el Bacha Museum of Confluences in the Medina, the brand showed 80 of a planned 120 jewels, a “first chapter” that is already the house’s largest jewelry collection to date. The company said it would present the rest later this year.
Its most important piece, the brand said, is an articulated, openwork choker with a 10.28-carat emerald-cut ruby from Mozambique. The necklace comprises three tiers of converging V shapes in taille-sur-oeuvre (custom-cut) gold set with diamonds in the house’s signature Monogram star-and-flower cuts and triangle cuts, interspersed with eight pear-cut rubies.
It comes with a companion ring mounted with a 2.16-carat emerald-cut diamond; both jewels are engineered so that the center stones may be swapped between the two. In the same grouping, a pair of supple diamond creeper earrings loop from lobe to upper ear, fastening with a rubied clip.
Dior, meantime, showcased approximately 300 jewels during a five-day event in Taormina, Sicily. About a third were from Dior Print, a high jewelry collection designed by Victoire de Castellane and inspired by couture trimmings and motifs such as checks and florals. It is also the house’s largest jewelry collection to date.
The Dior Print collection was displayed in a runway show and, afterward, on models arranged in living tableaux on the terraced gardens of the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. But Ms. de Castellane also organized a fresh cross-pollination between the house’s jewelry and fashion businesses by incorporating specially designed couture looks by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director for women’s collections. Customers could order the clothes and buy the jewels on the spot.
The third chapter of Gucci’s Hortus Deliciarum collection by the company’s creative director Alessandro Michele was also shown last month, at the Villa Albani in Rome. Described in the designer’s notes as a “memory of memories,” the 200-piece collection features a maximalist mash-up of influences stretching from 19th-century Grand Tours to the 1970s. A micro-mosaic of St. Peter’s Basilica, for example, is set amid a necklace of stars in diamonds and blue and yellow sapphires.
But how can such lavish events be profitable?
“The largest brands have all to gain in escalating the fixed costs to compete. The bigger the event, the better. Besides, it is real-world events that seem to provide the most important social media buzz,” Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in an email.
“What you want to do — as a big brand — is spend so much that fewer and fewer brands will be able to follow. The point is to make money with the overall business, while casting huge shadows on brands that cannot afford to stay in the game,” he said.
Even so, other Place Vendôme jewelers are out to show they’ve got game.
Bulgari introduced its Eden, The Garden of Wonders collection, at its Place Vendôme flagship in early June. Though more than 30 jewels concentrated on emeralds, an exuberant necklace called Flowers of Eden, set with tourmalines, carnelians, amethysts, emeralds, diamonds and mother-of-pearl, neatly summarized the season’s trend of using ornamental, fine, and precious stones all at once.
Of the houses that had gone on the road, only Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels said they would hold presentations during the current haute couture week in Paris.
At Van Cleef & Arpels, the 910-carat Lesotho Legend rough diamond yielded 67 diamonds, which are now showcased in the 25-piece Legends of Diamonds collection. Both traditional and individual mystery setting techniques in which the metal mount becomes invisible to the eye were used to craft Atours Mystérieux, a transformable diamond and ruby necklace inspired by pieces from its archive — the Collerette necklace of 1938, and a similar design created for Queen Nazli of Egypt the following year.
The jewel features an oval-cut diamond weighing more than 79 carats, nestled in a whorl of rubies and diamonds. It may be removed and replaced by a mystery-set element in rubies and diamonds; both pieces also may be worn separately on a chain.
About 40 pieces from the first chapter of Cartier’s Beautés du Monde collection will be showcased at the Ritz Paris on Wednesday. Among them is the Artios necklace, a neo-Art Deco style with 16 Colombian emeralds totaling 41.34 carats mounted on an openwork chain of diamonds in a variety of cuts with onyx accents.
In May, Chanel reopened its Place Vendôme flagship following a multimillion-euro renovation by Peter Marino that more than doubled its surface. And while the house will welcome clients to its grand salon overlooking the square for private events, it is presenting its latest collection, called 1932, at the Grand Palais Éphémère this week, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
The 77-piece collection, which marks the 90th anniversary of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s first foray into high jewelry, reprises celestial themes in chapters named Comet, Moon, and Sun. All of those converge, however, in the Allure Celeste necklace, anchored by a 55.55-carat oval sapphire nestled in a diamond crescent moon. Detachable diamond comets and halos may be worn separately as a bracelet or as three styles of brooch. The house said that the piece could be worn in 20 different ways.
But in a season that, overall, appears very much “more is more,” some houses — Hermès, Boucheron, Chaumet, De Beers and Pomellato among them — focused on playing up unexpected contrasts, for example mixing humble materials with precious ones, or developing innovative techniques.
With Les Jeux de l’ombre, a 53-piece collection for Hermès, Pierre Hardy did both, using rough diamonds, crystals, spessartites, aquamarines, tsavorites and mother-of-pearl marquetry on Couleurs du Jour, a necklace inspired by the stained-glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. He also devised an invisible mechanism that lets the piece open and close; it can also be worn back to front.
“In general, jewelry presents itself all at once. This necklace, on the contrary, is like a little theater of light and shadow,” Mr. Hardy said during an interview.
In the same spirit, a ring with twin discs, in rose gold, diamonds, black jade, and chalcedony, has a pivot hidden under a central moonstone, which lets it be worn on one finger, or expand into a two-finger ring, “like an eclipse,” Mr. Hardy said.
For her Carte Blanche collection this year, called Ailleurs, Boucheron’s artistic director Claire Choisne said that imaginary travels inspired her to draw on the feathers, flowers, and shells used in different world cultures, revisiting for example the bird of paradise as a head jewel set with amethysts, orange and yellow sapphires, pink and violet stones and orange lacquer on titanium.
Elsewhere, Ms. Choisne used flattened, hand-stitched rattan woven with gold thread as a framework for a sculptural, front-clasping necklace called Rotin Diamant. The piece has a two-carat center diamond and features 2,370 smaller diamonds weighing almost 95 carats. Mother-of-pearl was also the base for a striking bib necklace printed with tattoo-like helicoidshells; the bib may be detached from a knotted torque choker in Japanese burned wood partially set in diamond pavé.
Lately, De Beers has been experimenting with anodized titanium and aluminum and pavé diamonds as foils for its white and fancy diamonds. A seven-piece parure called Optical Wonder pays tribute to the work of Victor Vasarely, leader of the Op Art movement, in either black and white or pink, as on a ring set with a fancy intense pink diamond from the house’s Natural Works of Art collection.
Chaumet continues to explore the theme of waves and the sea, now with an expanded palette of colors and stones. Gray, mauve and olive pearls, diamonds and sapphires in a riot of colors mingle on the Comètes des Mers necklace. Various sizes of spinel run along the upper rim of the Escales necklace, whose diamond fringe is set with sapphires and Paraiba tourmalines in gradient blues.
Yet this season may turn out to belong to diamonds as traditional jewelers like Graff, and newcomers, like Messika, as well as independent designers like Cindy Chao and Anna Hu, put forward their biggest and brightest stones yet.
Mr. Zimnisky, the diamond analyst, said that the industry had seen “a notable uptick in sales of exceptional diamonds, including highest-quality fancy-colored diamonds with prices in excess of $1 million.”
“These exceptional diamonds are important for the larger natural diamond industry, as the big stones sell the small stones,” he said.