There are one-of-a-kind pieces and then there are those that have never been done before. The latter is not an easy feat in a style genre that very rarely reinvents itself. But leave it to the oldest house on Paris’ Place Vendôme to deliver the most forward-thinking and truly unique creations of the season. The latest collection delivers everything from a necklace made from a cloud of diamonds, which looks a bit like an Elizabethan ruff collar (albeit one created using high-tech computer algorithms), to a necklace that replaces an earth-grown stone at its centerpiece with a new-age material lifted from NASA.
Capturing the levity of weightlessness is not easy to come by in high-jewelry. Volume is, more often than not, the name of the game when it comes to creating the world’s most eye-catching jewels. But in a world turned topsy-turvy, Boucheron creative director, Claire Choisine, was feeling particularly inspired. Unmooring herself from the constraints of traditional jewelry design, Boucheron’s new contemplation-themed collection is aptly named both for the thoughtfulness of its undertaking and the ethereal manner in which it captures the idea of floating on air. Here a some of the highlights to the 67-piece collection.
Goutte de Ciel (Drop of Sky):
Perhaps the most extraordinary piece in the entire collection, Boucheron’s statement Goutte de Ciel necklace is a conversation starter in both design and substance. Looking to encapsulate the sky into a piece of jewelry, Claire Choisine looked beyond traditional, precious stones for something that has never been seen before in the world of gems. The cabochon-looking centerpiece is actually made from Aerogel—a material that is comprised of 98.8 percent air and 0.2 percent silica. Until now, it was primarily used by NASA to capture stardust and insulate the Mars Rover Unit.
Choisine discovered Aerogel through a Google search, which led her to Greek scientist, artist and MIT fellow Dr. Ioannis Michaloudis, who has been working with NASA on undisclosed projects with the unusual material. (In person, it looks a bit like dry ice.) Michaloudis was brought on board to help the Parisian house mold the material into a gem-like structure, which turned out—unsurprisingly—to be quite a feat. Even Michaloudis was not quite sure initially how they would be able to incorporate the material into the necklace. It took a few trial runs—and a total of 857 hours for the completed necklace—to get it right.
Aerogel starts out as a liquid gel substance with alcohol in its pores that must be heated and pressurized until the liquid evaporates, leaving mostly air and a tiny bit of silica to form a solid. At first, Michaloudis and the Boucheron team tried to drop the liquid in a Borosilicate glass to work on its form but it shattered to pieces. Ultimately, a metal mold had to be created in the necklace’s pendant form to drop the liquid into and then heated and pressurized to achieve its shape.
The result is a stunning ice-blue 6 cm pendant surrounded by rock crystal and 6,162 diamonds with 108.17 carats that delivers high impact without weighing the neck down. The pendant also detaches in case the owner wants to wear the collar or pendant separately. Its coloring varies depending on the light, sometimes reflecting the hues of the sunset. While Boucheron has priced the unique piece at €590,000 (approximately $674,000), a real value cannot be placed on a material that has never been seen before in high-jewelry. A matching bracelet, also with an Aerogel centerpiece, is also on offer (price to be confirmed). And, Choisine says she has no plans to use Aerogel again, making these two pieces not only a historical first, but truly one-of-a-kind.
Nuage en Apesanteur (Weightless Cloud) Diamond Necklace:
Another seemingly impossible project Choisine undertook this season was to create, almost literally, a cloud of diamonds for the neck. Imagine if you took handfuls of diamonds and threw them around your neck and they stayed weightlessly in place with no setting? That is the effect of the Nuage en Apesanteur masterpiece ($679,000), which mimics the effect of millions of minute liquid droplets that form a cloud. It was created using 4,108 diamonds attached to barely-visible titanium stems.
It took 10,000 threads of the ultra-light material to suspend the diamonds in a cloud-like form. In order to create the piece, which was two years in the making, Choisine first had a Boucheron artisan create a structural design using cotton to create the shape and then enlisted a computer programmer to devise an algorithm to help the in-house engineers bring it to life in jewel-form.
It is an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship and imagination that looks unlike anything else you will ever find in the ateliers of the most elite high-jewelry houses. Few things express, so pointedly, the spirit of luxury like having your head literally in a cloud of diamonds.
Fenêtre Sur Ciel (Window onto the Sky):
Choisine looked to another artist who works with fixed spaces to highlight the moving effects of the sky on the soul. James Turrell’s “Open Sky” art installation in Naoshima, Japan, inspired this white gold, titanium and mother-of-pearl necklace’s backdrop adorned with diamonds, tanzanites, aquamarine, rock crystal and lacquer ($735,000).
Each hexagon is accented in either diamond or mother-of-pearl with the latter airbrushed in lacquer to create the effect of a stormy sky—a process that took almost 2,000 hours of work. The flexible titanium mesh further accents the fluidity of the sky. At its heart is a 35-carat sugarloaf tanzanite with a deep ultra-marine hue accented in diamonds. An 8.52-carat tanzanite ring surrounded by pave diamonds also accompanies this design.
Avant Le Frisson Pistil Collier (Before the Thrill Dandelion Collar Necklace):
“As children, many of us have blown on dandelions and watch the featherlight seeds blow away in the air,” said Choisine in a press presentation, describing the inspiration of the diamond Pistil Collier ($340,000). To illustrate the effect of the wind on the flower, Boucheron crafted the stems of every diamond-tipped seed in titanium, as thin as a hair, with some elongated pieces that move when worn or touched. The collar is so realistic in its representation you can practically envision blowing the diamonds off into the wind. Fortunately, they are firmly secured in place despite their fragile appearance.
The necklace is also accompanied by a ring, bracelet and earrings that complete the suite.
Like flowers, birds are not an uncommon theme in jewelry. They have been a source of inspiration for centuries, but Choisine managed to capture their beauty in an entirely new way by capturing their migration mid-air. This white gold and diamond piece evokes the swirling of a flock of birds around the ear in cuff meets drop earring moment ($136,000). Meanwhile, she wisely chose to picture the Ailes du Vent (Wings of the Wind) brooch on a man (price to be confirmed)—a menswear trend that is reaching new heights, particularly on the red carpet—to show the collection’s versatility.
The highlight of this particular sub-theme of the collection, however, is the rock crystal collar (price to be confirmed), with diamond bands, which has been laser-etched on the interior to create the ethereal effect of a fluttering dispersal of wings mid-flight. Only a rendering of the creation is currently available for publishing, but the piece (as well as the earrings) is an incredible example of how Choisine has managed to take age-old jewelry themes to the next realm. They appeal not only to one’s visual sense—it’s as if you can almost hear the hum of the birds hovering in the air.