High Jewelry Houses Went for Colored Diamonds, Want to Stay Out of the Safe

PARIS — Haute couture week here offered a glittering Parisian conclusion to a season of traveling jewelry showcases, with historic houses and independent names making a reveal or giving an encore of their latest designs.

And whether used to double down on established codes or carve out new ones, color continued to dominate the collections shown last week, particularly in diamonds.

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One would have been forgiven for forgetting that yellow ones are a rarity of nature given their profusion in collections shown in Paris, starting with Graff, where many gradations were on display in the “Sunrise” line showcased in its Saint-Honoré flagship.

“Now for engagement rings, you have more ladies choosing yellow [diamonds] instead of white,” revealed design director Anne-Eva Geffroy, reminding that Laurence Graff was among the first to collect them.

The star of the exhibition was the pear-shaped 30.28-carat fancy intense yellow centerpiece diamond, flanked by a further 167 carats of yellow and white diamonds on a never-seen-before necklace. But there were plenty more, including a necklace made of a cascade of yellow pear-shaped gems that morphed into a line of rail-set baguettes, and a row of golden brilliant-cut stones lined with a second row of white.

That contrast was also front and center at Messika, where founder Valérie Messika said that the sunny hue of yellow diamonds was reinforced by their pristine counterparts, and vice versa.

The five-set first part of the “Midnight Sun” collection marked her 10th anniversary in high jewelry, casting yellow diamonds as a symbol of the “brilliance of the sun in the middle of the night” — or rather the glamorous ’70s club scene.

Beyond the reveal of stunners that included the mirror-polish Ultimate Party collar featuring a 20-carat pear-cut yellow diamond and 9-carat cushion-cut diamond “made to shine but also to make you feel empowered,” Messika “found very interesting to [use couture] as a teaser and to subscribe more in the fashion moment, which is quite competitive.”

Revealing 80 percent of the collection in September in a runway show during Paris Fashion Week is a way for her to speak of high jewelry “in a different way, in a more casual way,” she said, particularly at a time when clients are increasingly reaching for designs that can be worn rather than stored.

“Before, it was just this opulent aspect and things that were so heavy that you wore them once in a lifetime, then parked them in your safe,” said Delfina Delettrez Fendi, who attributed this sense of ease in high jewelry to the rise of female jewelers and consumers acquiring high-value items for themselves, rather than as gifts.

But don’t mistake purchases made for oneself as being less meaningful. “There is a new energy around it. I always say that looking at a woman’s hand is like an inverted palm reading because these small objects are an extension [of one’s identity] and they communicate,” she said.

A year in the making, the Fendi Triptych collection, which was the springboard for Kim Jones’ graceful yet easy to wear fall 2023 couture designs, was articulated into three chapters, with pink-hued Roma Rosa; yellow-toned stones for Gioiello Giallo, in a nod to the house’s signature color, and Bianco Brillante, which Delettrez Fendi described as “an absence of color homage to white diamonds.”

Throughout, the jeweler played with interlinked Fs, by turn cursive shapes that formed pseudo-classic curlicues; entwined geometrically to create an abstract chain-link for a necklace, or repeated in wave-like successions. Elsewhere, she pointed out a house version of the baguette cut was the “logo inside the logo” that Delettrez Fendi wants to install as a signature.

Although the 30 designs she imagined for her first full-fledged collection for the Roman house carry a price tag that ranges from $60,000 to $1.3 million, the set of 61 pink spinels that form a crescendo on the Undarum portrait necklace took a specialist collector 40 years to source, she said at a preview of the gems.

“You feel a deep sense of responsibility” when faced with heritage of that sort, she said, particularly when compounded by the million-year journey stones took to reach the surface — not to mention the history of her family.

While high jewelry isn’t exactly quiet luxury, De Beers Diamond Jewellers chief executive officer Céline Assimon likewise saw that clients are less interested in “flamboyant presence” but are looking for pieces that could go the extra mile.

Hence the number of designs with removable elements — lacquered layers, ring jackets or diamond motifs — in the second chapter of Metamorphosis, a collection inspired by nature’s transformations during the four seasons. “These aren’t diamonds you leave in the vault,” she said.

“The pieces we are showing are conversation starters,” Assimon continued, recounting how the platinum and titanium Winter tiara with its seven diamonds — including the central Natural Works of Art 8.5-carat pear-cut D-flawless one — had inspired a client as a jewel to wear but also a way to showcase gems in her collection.

Another conversation is the question of provenance and traceability, she said, with the topic increasingly brought up and evaluated by clients ahead of purchases.

As “healthy competition” and the arrival of “drastically different points of view between houses” broadened the high jewelry field, a fundamental shift she’s seen in recent years has been increasingly versatile designs with more casual options; the importance of color, particularly in diamonds, and the parallel rise in value and decrease in size as clients reached for rarer gems. “Educating the audience, our clients and our guests by showing them the range of colors in diamonds is our purpose,” said Assimon.

Highlights included the 2.78-carat fancy intense pinkish purple cushion on the ring of the Spring set, fancy dark green-gray pear-shaped diamond removable pendant on a Winter collar necklace or the 2.03 carat fancy vivid orange diamond presented loose with suggested design sketches and valued north of $11 million.

Although pearls remain the core of Tasaki’s collections, president and CEO Toshikazu Tajima remarked that prices of colored diamonds were rising sharply. “Especially pink, after they closed down the [Argyle] mine. They are becoming 10 times more expensive than four or five years ago, but customers still want them,” he said.

The Japanese jeweler’s Nature Spectacle collection, which spanned six sets, played on a range of colors to express the beauty of the sea, as inspired by the locales where its pearls are cultivated. There were diamonds, of course, but also an array of sapphires, morganites and tourmalines, to depict the pink lights of a shallow and clear lagoon in the Flourish set or graphic stream of water in Cascade’s Paraiba and pearls assortment.

Here, too, “customers want something they can wear on a number of occasions,” said the executive, highlighting that consumers were also increasingly sensitive to design over the pure investment value of a jewel’s constituting elements.

Reaching for stones of exceptional quality, even if that means compromising on carat weight, is also an underlying movement that Chaumet CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt has observed since the COVID-19 pandemic trailed off.

“We even see it in solitaire rings and more quotidian designs,” he said.

But that’s not the biggest challenge faced by jewelry houses. “Finding the stones is the challenge and it’s become extremely complicated. When I started, you could draw a set and source the stones. Now, we have decided not to start a design without having all the stones on hand.”

He attributed this to a growing high jewelry market, with an increasing number of participants as well as increasing consumer demand. Not that increased scarcity was felt in the “Le Jardin de Chaumet” collection that explored the natural world, a recurring theme for the house.

Best in the lineup were the Ecorce set, that figured sap — a 50.61 black Australian opal on the necklace — bursting through gem-encrusted bark; the graphic sweep of calla lilies in the Arum designs, with yellow Ceylon sapphires and diamonds, as well as the Blé necklace that could be worn three ways thanks to its naturalistic crown of ears of wheat that came paired with a sharp line of diamonds.

Although multiple wears or shareable sets continued to be a way of ensuring pieces would stay out of vaults, the Chaumet executive said offering such designs — 11 could transform here — had less to do with trend and more to do with the enthusiastic welcome of clients. “Everyone surely sees the playful side of doing your own thing by wearing it your way,” he said.

At Boucheron, playfulness was certainly built into every aspect of the More Is More collection designed by creative director Claire Choisne as part of her annual Carte Blanche summer offering.

Taking its cues as much from the Memphis Group as from the world of comic strips, she imagined larger-than-life pieces that played on simple volumes and large scale to create delight — the collection was imagined at the end of 2020, when France was in the throes of its second lockdown.

Choisne’s designs ranged from giant cocktail rings made of Murano glass or rock crystal spheres stuffed with yellow sapphires, and brooches shaped like hoodie drawstrings; to hair scrunchies with tsavorite-encrusted baubles and a surreal XXL hair bow paved in diamonds and crafted from bioacetate and magnesium, a metal 10 times lighter than gold.

Launch Gallery: High Jewelry Houses Went for Colored Diamonds

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