In the summer of 1969, shortly after the first astronauts landed on the moon, Aristotle Onassis ordered a pair of hammered gold earrings for his wife Jackie to commemorate the occasion (it was also her birthday ). In the 1950s, a series of spiky gold brooches marked Sputnik’s topicality. In 1835, when Halley’s Comet appeared in the night sky, a fad for celestial-themed brooches set with diamonds and emeralds seized upon circles that could afford them. (When the comet returned in 1910, a variety of more democratic paste stone swept the globe.)
Space exploration, the heavens, the rays of the planets and the shapes of the stars have a deeply rooted place in the history of jewelry. How far does it go?
“Diamonds are the beginning of the universe. They are our closest link to the Big Bang, ”says Francesca Amfitheatrof. That is, it goes back to the beginning. And also back to the future: “We will be on Mars soon. Imagine if it’s a female astronaut who gets there first? “
Amfitheatrof, artistic director of jewelry and watches at Louis Vuitton, is a fascinating designer at storytelling. “What if the ability to time travel starts around your neck or on your finger?” ”
This is how she opens our conversation to her new 90-piece fine jewelry collection, Stellar Times. It’s the kind of intriguing provocation that baffles you, but also allows you to focus more clearly on the 8-karat ruby at the center of the diamond necklace she designed to represent the red planet.
This particular story begins on dry land, with Amfitheatrof having a “starting point of an idea,” which has led to two years of research into space photography, the history of navigation, and the study of maps. A writer recently compared his approach to the method game. She walks into an area showing you around her collection (she and I have been used to browsing her inspirations together, from her years at Tiffany & Co.), and although you don’t need to know the whole story. to appreciate the power of his creations, his generosity in sharing his creative process is rare. It generates a kind of lively and fascinating conversation not always present in the world of fine jewelry.
Come, share the fantasy.
Stellar Times begins where its first fine jewelry collection for Vuitton, Riders of the Knights, ended with sapphires. “The opening chapter of Stellar Times is Blue Moon, a nod to the previous collection.” Attentive readers may remember the centerpiece of Riders of the Knights, an armor-inspired necklace with a sapphire crystal in its center, which we featured in CGV one year ago. And they’ll see the connection between this and the almost domed diamond and sapphire necklace that appears in Stellar Times.
“There is a common thread from there,” says Amfitheatrof. “I have allocated stones to each chapter.”
Black opals are central to Celeste’s plot, most spectacularly in a diamond and emerald constellation pendant necklace. (Any potential customer hooked on the myth that opals bring bad luck should note that this has been debunked countless times: as a hoax created by Cleopatra, so that she could amass the best stones in the Roman Empire; as a bad one. reading a scene in a 19th or, quite possibly, like a plot started by 19th century diamond merchants to crush the burgeoning popularity of opal. “We use a lot of amazing opals,” says Amfitheatrof. our customers love them. “)
Yellow sapphires are the star of Suns, the flagship piece being a tiered necklace designed to project both volume and lightness, and the Red Star chapter revolves around the aforementioned 8-karat ruby.
The principles of chapter organization are the product of Amfitheatrof’s clear vision for Vuitton and her desire to create a strong and distinct ‘jewelry vocabulary’ for the house, but this should not lead you to assume that she is rigid in its approach. Her creations are armed with her belief in the wonders of the universe and the power of the artisans of the Vuitton workshop in Place Vendôme where, she says, “anything is possible”.
“The Place Vendôme workshop is just another level. I respect the thousands of hours it takes to make the parts and what I call the “manufacturing” language we all share. I’m talking about that. And our customers feel it: the way each part is handcrafted, the engineering behind it. Each one fits so well that you feel like you can climb a mountain wearing it.
Amfitheatrof admits that there were Zoom calls when she asked to shift a drawing by “one decimal of a millimeter”. I’m a maniac of proportions.
It is part of its mission to inject even its high jewelry pieces with a certain dose of informality. “Vuitton is adventure and energy, and the women who buy our fine jewelry embody it. They want to wear this.
The appearance of each piece when worn – up a mountain, across a dining table, on a SpaceX trip to Mars – is crucial to Amfitheatrof. She describes the assembly of multiple diamonds on a single necklace, the hours of thought it took to see how their light would play on either side of the wearer’s profile. The expertise to experiment with the sizes of the stones creates a “rain of diamonds” effect.
This collection is also a tour de force on the part of buyers of stones from Vuitton; Amfitheatrof says working with them is “a dream come true. They are in the tradition of the old stone hunters, like the adventurers who went to Egypt to find King Tut.
The precious stones they provide over the course of a year allow Amfitheatrof’s “flagship idea” to explore space to later become a reality. Access to rubies, sapphires, black opals and rare emeralds, as well as a specific treasure of Vietnamese spinels, enabled him to identify colors in a photograph of space, then to “paint in the stones “.
If you are wondering if the imposing 2019 achievement of the Pierre de Vuitton department – the acquisition of the second largest diamond in the world – made its entry into this collection, the answer is no. But be patient. The beauty of all fine jewelry right now is that it lives in an alternate reality of time, in the sense that in a world where so much is fleeting, every piece takes a big part of it to create.
“Fine jewelry is a slow and painstaking process,” says Amfitheatrof. “There’s a thinking and a process behind everything we do, and I think people are thinking about it even more deeply than a year ago. The heritage here is timelessness.
This story appears in the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of City Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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