Icons & Innovations: De Beers: Feminine Mystique
Last november was a big month for Raphaèle Canot, artistic director at De Beers LV. She launched the Talisman jewelry collection; put the finishing touches on a special collection developed with Los Angeles designer Neil Lane to mark the December opening of the brand’s second U.S. store, in Beverly Hills; and gave birth to her first child, a girl named Ruby. While all these accomplishments required months of preparation, nerve, and dedication, the pregnancy dictated that she sacrifice one of her great passions in life: extreme skiing.
This appetite for adventure may seem surprising given Canot’s soft-spoken and modest presence. The 37-year-old Paris native is not your typical artsy designer type. After graduating from law school with a specialty in copyrights and patents, Canot spent 11 years at Cartier, where she had started as a project manager for the CEO, working on legal and business issues. From there, she moved into marketing, then product development, before becoming creative director. Canot joined De Beers LV as artistic director in 2004 to build a new international jewelry brand from the ground up, overseeing design as well as brand positioning and image, including advertising and store design.
“De Beers is a totally different adventure,” she says, contrasting her previous role at 150-year-old Cartier, which often involved creating collections based on designs from the house’s archives. “De Beers LV is a brand of the future, so the frame of reference is the future rather than the past.”
Canot’s creative influences include contemporary art, which she collects, travel, and architecture (her husband is an architect). With the abstract forms she uses in Talisman and other collections, she seeks to reach sophisticated women from all over the world. “In terms of styling and design, De Beers will be more symbolic than illustrative,” she says, noting that certain symbols resonate with all women, whether they are American, European, or Asian.
Talisman, she explains, is based on “our consciousness of Mother Nature, mother earth, which is global.” The collection mixes cut and polished stones with rough diamonds. She works with the raw stones because “They are as they come out of the earth, untouched by human beings,” she says, adding that the pyramidlike shapes of the natural crystals reference the age-old symbol of power and eternity. “The pieces look like they came from some ancient treasure, while at the same time like they could have come from the future.” Among the six high-jewelry pieces in the collection is a pair of earrings with clusters of rough and polished diamonds, including natural colored stones in varying earth tones of yellow, brown, and green.
Canot’s emphasis on the spiritual aspects of her designs reflects her interpretation of the new zeitgeist. “In the 1990s, people were trying to be very rational, everything had to be explained, and jewelry had to be slick and chic,” she says. “Today it’s much more about emotions, spirituality, and dreams. People have their feet on the earth, but their minds are in the stars.”
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