Colour, voluptuous curves, architectural inspiration. The great jewellery maisons are finding ever-new ways of curling precious metals and gemstones around fingers, wrist and neck, in motifs that range from classical to modern, from abstract to tongue-in-cheek ironic. In some of the latest collections, brands look to their places of origin for inspiration.
Bulgari's Diva collection features a fan-shaped motif that is woven into stylized petals, chalice shapes and trumpets, in cascades of gold and precious stones. But why Diva? Bulgari has always had close links to the world of cinema and Cinecittà in Rome, and above all to Elizabeth Taylor, who was so attached to her Bulgari jewellery that she insisted on wearing it on set. Perhaps one of the most famous photos of the modern 'Queen of the Nile' shows her on the set of Cleopatra wearing one of the very first gold and diamond serpent watches, which became an iconic motif for the brand. Diva in fact recalls Ancient Egypt, with the fan motif that becomes absolutely contemporary, sculpted into simplified forms. Extra light is created by the cabochon cut that has been used by Bulgari since the late 1950s: a recess is carved at the centre of each cabochon stone, and a diamond is inserted.
The inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels' Perlée collection dates back to the 1920s, when granulated gold surfaces were introduced, based on the so-called Egyptian style that was then in fashion in France. Tiny gold spheres became the hallmark of the Perlée collection in 2008, and in 2013 it was extended with the addition of yellow gold pieces. You can now compose your own personalized ring or bracelet by combining yellow, white and pink gold. The splendid cuff in yellow gold and diamonds is a scintillating masterpiece, with extra light provided by the snow-setting technique.
Spanish jewellery brand Carrera y Carrera were inspired by the Golden Age of their country, the age of the Spanish Empire, when ruff collars were a mark of sophistication. The Tesoros del Imperio series includes four lines, Reina, Velazquez, Isabel and Cervantes, and it is above all in the latter that the ruff motif is most clearly expressed, with voluptuous curves and the brand's hallmark matte-shine effect that gives the gold differentiated textures and colours. Polished floral decoration stands out from the satin background, creating a fascinating frieze in contrast to the intricately-set diamonds.
In the Paris Nouvelle Vague collection, Cartier's inspiration comes from the city where the brand was born in 1847. The collection features a wealth of design ideas, with some colourful and delightfully ironic pieces, in seven lines. In the Mischievous series, rings and earrings are brought to life by blue and green lapis cabochons, cheeky projecting forms alternating with identical shapes in gold inset with diamonds. The effect is one of youth and freshness, like balloons travelling skywards from the Tuileries gardens at dusk on a summer evening. In Impish, the colour range is restricted to ultramarine blue and black, in lapislazzuli, onyx, diamonds and white gold, orchestrated into intersecting curved planes, like abstract butterfly wings, or a miniature mobile by Alexander Calder.
If Cartier's inspiration is Parisian, Tiffany & Co. looks to New York, the brand's city of origin. The 2013 Blue Book collection features jewels inspired by the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties. Opulent pieces, a swirl of Baroque curves dripping in diamonds, with coloured stones providing glittering tones of blue, red and yellow. The colour palette is painted in Tiffany's speciality, fancy colour diamonds in pink, orange, blue and green, as well as sapphires, spessartites, and some stones that Tiffany pioneered, such as turquoise, green tsavorite, lilac-pink kunzite, blue-violet tanzanite and pink morganite. The effect is one of pure red-carpet glamour, and in fact Tiffany's jewellery featured strongly in the movie The Great Gatsby featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. When worn, Blue Book collection jewellery moves with Jazz age exuberance, flowing with the wearer’s movements. The effect is slightly random, like the bubbles in champagne, tiny, sparkling specks of light that illuminate an outfit. All that is needed to make it a work of art is the wearer's skin.