Jewelled traditions

The mysteries and brilliance surrounding the most prestigious jewellery houses

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27 August 2013

You would think that a jewellery brand that all but disappeared from the world for a century would have little chance of resurrection. But the legend surrounding Fabergé is so powerful that its relaunch in 2009, 92 years after the Russian Revolution that put an end to Peter Carl Fabergé's business in St. Petersburg, immediately caused waves of joy to surge through high society. In London, there is a sumptuous boutique on Grafton Street and another in Harrods' Fine Jewellery Room.

Amazingly, considering the violence of the Revolution, the brand has been reunited with the family. While Katharina Flohr is Creative and Managing Director, the company can count on the expertise of Tatiana and Sarah Fabergé, great-grand-daughters of Peter Carl. Fabergé presented their contemporary jewellery at Baselworld in Switzerland, exhibiting some superb high jewellery pieces from the new collections Les Danses Fantasques and Viera, featuring spectacular coloured gemstones.

Meissen is another brand whose long history has been deeply affected by changes in European history. Founded in the early 1700s in the like-named town near Dresden, its crossed-swords trademark is one of the oldest in existence. Many of its classic porcelain tableware patterns are still made today. After the Second World War, its location in East Germany meant that most of its products went to Russia. After German reunification, the brand's reputation was such as to survive the increasingly competitive environment, and in 2012 Meissen repositioned itself as a global luxury and lifestyle group, in the areas of tableware and home items, jewellery, and fine arts. At Baselworld 2013, Meissen presented the My Little Mystery collection, which unites the sparkle of diamonds with the unusual pastel colours of its Meissen porcelain gemstones.

Garrard & Co. is a company with a long history of dealing with monarchs. Founded in London in 1735 (making it the oldest jewellery maison in the world), they were appointed crown jewellers by Queen Victoria, and worked on some of the most famous gems in the world such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond. More recently, the ring Prince William gave to Kate Middleton for their engagement, with a 12-carat sapphire surrounded by diamonds, is also a Garrard product. The Wings collection presented this year is a celebration of over 275 years of history, with cuffs, necklaces, earrings, rings and pendants all based on the wing motif.

Boucheron have been suppliers to Tsars and royalty since its foundation in 1858. "Notre raison-d'être est de créer l'Emotion," said founder Frédéric Boucheron, and the maison succeeds from season to season. L'Artisan du Rêve is a collection based on their vast heritage, in which creative director Claire Choisne returns to the stylized feather and butterflies motifs set into the Point d'Interrogation necklace, a piece without any form of closure, resting on the neck as lightly as a feather. Bouquet d'Ailes suggests peacock feathers, butterflies and dragonfly wings, superbly crafted from gold, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, opals and rock crystals.

Similar inspiration gave rise to the Between-the-Finger rings by Van Cleef & Arpels. This series includes the Two Butterfly piece, a dialogue between two butterflies, one in diamonds, the other in pink sapphires. The design enables the owner to wear the piece as she likes, with the motif facing inside or out, by means of an ingenious swivel mechanism.

Jacques Adler began his career as a jeweller in Vienna, but he soon moved to Istanbul in search of the finest gems and founded his company there in 1886. In 1972, his descendants moved to Geneva, perpetuating the brand's unique approach to combining different materials and different design styles. Today, Adler has transposed one of the most dramatic cosmological events for our planet, an eclipse, into jewellery. The contrast between the light of the sun and the blackness of the moon during the eclipse is interpreted by the shape of the jewels, with a slender white gold ring set with fiery diamonds, inside an ellipse of carbon.

In London, you can explore these collections and many other high jewellery houses on Bond Street and thereabouts. Not surprisingly, fairly close to Buckingham Palace.