When Modernism arrived in Scandinavia in the 1930s, Finnish designers quickly became known for their handblown coloured glass, which was more substantial and elemental than that of their Italian counterparts in Murano. Alvar Aalto, Kaj Franck and Tapio Wirkkala were unconcerned with delicacy, employing richly hued cased glass in geometric dimensions shorn of ornament and taking inspiration from abstract stone sculptors such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Today, one of their spiritual heirs, the 53-year-old Helsinki-based Harri Koskinen, has electrified that uniquely moody Finnish aesthetic in a series of glass table lamps for Hermès. These 25-centimetre-high domed fixtures, in smoky tones of cassis, fern and amber, don’t merely illuminate but smoulder with a volcanic light.
The story of high jewellery in Europe is often said to have originated more than 100 years ago, when family-run ateliers began opening on Paris’s Place Vendôme. But Laurence Graff, the London-based founder and chairman of Graff, has always revelled in a counternarrative. Now 85, he still celebrates his start as a scrappy East End teen in the mid-1950s, repairing Victorian baubles while planning to become an international diamond entrepreneur — having the stones mined, and then polishing, designing and selling the finished pieces. As his boutiques proliferated, he bought up many of the world’s best-known rough diamonds, including the honey-coloured 299-carat Golden Empress and the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona — at the time, the largest discovered in over a century — and cut them into exquisite gems. Such showstoppers serve as enduring inspiration for the house’s audacious style, epitomised by these recent earrings: each tower of giant Colombian emeralds — 26 carats in all — capped by a flamboyant trio of pear-shaped diamonds cut to catch even the softest evening light.
Hermès’s polymathic shoe and jewellery designer, Pierre Hardy, has been responsible for the brand’s haute joaillerie line since it was introduced in 2010, creating pieces defined by a supple, swooping sense of abstraction that evokes the work of Cy Twombly. These rose gold rings, part of the Les Jeux de l’Ombre collection, reflect Hardy’s current fascination with the relationship between light and dark. Large faceted gems in classic configurations seem to cast shadows realised in the form of mirror-polished black jade, irregularly shaped like rain puddles. Hardy chose the stones — pinkish-brown and green tourmalines, an orangey imperial topaz — for their saturated lustre; paired with diamonds, the colours burst from the ebony surface. “The paradox is that without light you have no shadow,” he says. “And when you emerge from the shadow, everything seems more alive.”
The gold collar is an ancient form of adornment; around the third millennium BCE, the Egyptian hieroglyph for the word “gold” itself took the form of a necklace that was bold, broad and suited for a pharaoh. Designers at the Parisian haute jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels, which has been headquartered in the same space onPlace Vendôme since 1906, became fascinated with such antiquities after the British archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. In the years since, the house has produced many Egyptian revival works, including 1947’s thick gold Wave necklace punctuated with small diamonds. This newest homage, featuring an asymmetrical spray of stones that seem to defy gravity as they cling to the necklace’s convex surface, is made with a proprietary tool developed in the 1960s to create a textured relief on each articulated section. While modern techniques may render a monumental piece of this nature both more delicate and more comfortable to wear than those the pharaohs coveted, the impression remains one of supreme elegance.
Since its 1995 debut in Paris — when France’s first lady, Bernadette Chirac, gifted it to Diana, Princess of Wales — the Lady Dior bag (renamed for Lady Diana) has been an enduring expression of the house’s savoir faire. The original stitched-leather Cannage design was inspired by a set of Napoleon III chairs that Christian Dior selected for his first show, held in 1947. In recent years, Lady Dior’s architectural form and D.i.o.r charms have been artfully interpreted by a long list of global creatives, including Gisela Colón, Hong Hao and Genieve Figgis.
This new incarnation, crafted exclusively for the 30 Montaigne boutique in Paris, takes inspiration from the iconic store. Sketches of the exterior adorn the bag, a design conceived by the house’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, and the Roman artist Pietro Ruffo. The hand-mounted handle, hardware eyelets, rivets and interior zip pocket echo the design’s origins, while a streamlined palette allows the intricate illustrations to sing. A nostalgic celebration of the brand’s storied past, the new lady of the house is a timeless treasure for the next generation of devotees.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel never designed a watch, but if she had there’s every chance she’d have dreamed up the Chanel Première long before it was created, in 1987, by Jacques Helleu, the house’s then artistic director. One imagines Chanel standing on the balcony of her suite at the Ritz Paris, where she was a guest for some34 years, admiring the Place Vendôme below.
The octagonal architecture, built at the instruction of Louis XIV, inspired the crystal stopper of Chanel’s beloved N°5 perfume, a visual motif that is repeated in the watch’s black-lacquer dial. The gold chain bracelet, laced with a calfskin ribbon, is an ode to the double-chain straps of Chanel’s handbags. Sleek and harmonious, the Première was the brand’s first timepiece and it was the first time a luxury house had designed a watch just for women (rather than adapting an existing design). Soon to be re-released, the latest incarnation remains true to the design codes of the house’s founder, though a new clasp and scratch-resistant coating mark it as new — a premiere in all senses.