Lofty and affected is what high jewellery is, right? Not quite. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Especially, when you are looking at the collections unveiled during the week dedicated to haute couture at Place Vendôme and of Rue de la Paix in Paris. 

An enthusiasm characterised through a rich palette, a reverberation of the diversity that exists across continents and horizons. Cartier, Chaumet, Bulgari, Mellerio seemed to have taken it upon themselves to study and express the creative diversity of the world. The notes of Africa vibrated in Chaumet, the powerful colours of electrifying Italian nights exploded in Bulgari, the fresh tones of the Borromean  islands intoxicated the jewellery by Mellerio known as Meller. And then there was Piaget having carved out a generous arctic luminosity. Cartier took charge of a vibrant, and exhaustive ode to the colours of the globe, bringing together jewellery reflecting different parts, in one place the delicate hues of Japan and in the other contrasts characteristic of Asia, of the Orient. In every direction this very same exaltation of la joie de vivre was seen.

While looking over all these creations, it was evident that the same enthusiasm was expressed technically through chromatic combinations that have never been seen before: a clever way of enhancing the prestige of gemstones — tourmalines, morganites, garnets — alongside more traditional precious stones like the ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond.

An inspiring landscape

This universal curiosity was also felt by Chanel jewellery, but in a different manner, less literal, and evidently a lot more deeply. The  Coromandelcollection puts on display 59 pieces, of which 24 pieces are unique, all inspired by the universe of lacquers of the same name. One of the famous photographs of Gabrielle Chanel surrounded by the lacquer panels was also on display.

These precious objects are the screens of the Coromandel, Chinese lacquers, of an incomparable brilliance. Mademoiselle Gabrielle had, perhaps, never been happier than with these intimate objects of hers displayed, an exhibit of some of the most enchanting landscapes: she admired them in leisure, with its poetry and palaces, the golden reflections of the birds, dark, rich and red flowers. Perhaps she travelled to those places in her thoughts, on the rivers of India passing over to the dreamland of fabulous China. “Lacquer is my element, it isn’t exactly in your face.” She bought some 32 such screen and panels of the 17th and 18th centuries. She gave away a fair few of them but some still dress the walls of the apartment on 31, Rue Cambon.

A medley of jewellery

The creative studio and the ateliers of Chanel Joaillerie have laid emphasis on the spectrum of lacquer colours of the Coromandel (by refracting them off of the green of tsavorites, in the red of the beads of ruby, in the smoothnes of the emerald, in red spinels, onyx) to create a collection which articulates itself over three themes: floral, bestiary and mineral. A set of pieces created: a reversible cuff, a plastron in yellow gold punctuated by a cloud of pearls and diamonds, and – the piece that absolutely stole our hearts – a marvellous series constructed around a bird, a theme that is very rarely worked on by the house: the bird seems as if it we ready to take flight, particularly one on a ring ornate with blinding diamonds of more than 10 carats. Expertly executed, gracious, hypnotic. And yet the principal characteristic was not in that.

Gabrielle Chanel discovered the Coromandel panels during the 1910s. A decade marked by an extraordinarily creative ambiance, by an effervescent intellect, the liberation of the mind and the soul. A decade of friendship as well. A little less for the young Coco perhaps, who established, during those years, the foundation of a brilliant cenacle, in the heart of which evolved some of the brightest avantgarde artists and leading personalities. Decisive years, landmarks, for the one who had not yet become an institution to herself, but for one who was gaining recognition as a fashion designer of note, already appreciated for her ability to place herself against the current of the trends and the banality of her times.

And so, the most extraordinary work done by the creative studio and ateliers of Chanel Joaillerie has been, with this collection, get us to just about touch with the tips of our fingers, to physically be part of the genius that was Coco, and all that through the vigour of their expertise and the expanse of their stylistic register, the effervescence of a time and an existence. For her, they have composed, with the Coromandel collection, a sublime mix of jewellery, which capture different moments that were part of the internal panorama of a young Gabrielle Chanel. Each jewel is not just a reproduction of colours and shapes of a landscape of old, it tells the tale of the internal quest in the existence of a young artist who was in search of her essence. An inspiring journey: it is from those intimate aspects that an entire universe is born!

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.