Not long ago, the high jewelry presentations on and around Place Vendôme brought the semiannual couture shows to a dazzling finale.
This summer, however, many of the biggest fireworks already have happened, with brands from Bulgari to Van Cleef & Arpels introducing their most exclusive collections in exotic locations.
Major jewelry makers are increasingly adopting a fashion industry-like practice, choosing their own dates for elaborate events and then flying in top customers, influencers and editors for a couple of days of cocktails, canapés and cabochons. It all looks quite a lot like the extravagant cruise (or resort) presentations that have returned with a vengeance since the pandemic waned.
While the link between a high jewelry collection and the setting in which it is revealed can be tenuous, Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Switzerland, wrote in an email that such events let brands pamper clients “beyond any level we know.”
“This is part and parcel of a deliberate escalation that mega-brands are driving to leave competitors in the dust,” he added. “You cannot afford a landmark flagship, major itinerant shows and high-profile V.I.P. entertainment at the four corners of the world? Then you cannot play in the premier league.”
This season the uber-luxury journeys started in May with Bulgari unveiling its Mediterranea collection in Venice.
The house took over the 15th-century Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel for a week, installing oriental carpets, jewel-tone custom fabrics by the Venetian company Rubelli and sculptures by the glassmaker Venini to create a lavish showroom. An interactive jewel-making experience driven by artificial intelligence was part of the entertainment, and NFTs were sold with jewels like the Yellow Diamond Hypnosis, a white gold serpent necklace coiling around a 15.5-carat pear-cut fancy intense yellow diamond.
The main event was a gala at the Doge’s Palace to honor the 75th anniversary of Bulgari’s signature Serpenti design, a celebration that began late last year and is to run through the first quarter of 2024. The brand ambassadors Zendaya, Anne Hathaway, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Lisa Manobal of the K-pop group Blackpink joined guests on the palazzo’s balcony for a gem-laden runway show orchestrated by the fashion editor and stylist Carine Roitfeld.
Of the 400 jewels in Venice, 90 carried a price tag of more than one million euros, the brand said. And while Bulgari declined to comment on sales, the event seems to have been a social media hit: Three posts by Ms. Manobal chronicling her “unforgettable night in Venice” got more than 30.2 million likes while two posts of Zendaya in the Yellow Diamond Hypnosis totaled more than 15 million.
This season both Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton presented their largest high jewelry collections to date.
For its 170-piece collection called Les Jardins de la Couture, Dior created a runway on June 3 on a garden path at Villa Erba, the former Lake Como home of the Italian film director Luchino Visconti, and sent out 40 models wearing gems in floral themes by Victoire de Castellane, the house’s creative director of jewelry, and couture outfits by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior women’s collections.
Deep Time, Francesca Amfitheatrof’s fifth high jewelry collection for Louis Vuitton, was unveiled June 13 at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus, at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, to a dance choreographed by Dimitris Papaioannou and an original composition by the classical violinist Renaud Capuçon. The 95-jewel presentation, the first chapter in a collection that is to total more than 170 pieces in all, included the white gold and diamond Wave choker with a 40.80-carat Sri Lankan sapphire. (And for the first time, the house introduced one-of-a-kind handbags in exotic leathers that matched the jewels.)
In Florence, Cartier transformed the garden at the Villa Corsini into a runway on May 24 to display 80 jewels, the first chapter of a new collection called Le Voyage Recommencé (in English, The Journey Begun Anew).
And on June 21, Van Cleef & Arpels went to Rome to reveal Le Grand Tour, 70 jewels inspired by the culture-seeking trips to the continent once made by wealthy Britons. It includes Escale Sacrée (in English, Sacred Stopover), an articulated bracelet that depicts Florence’s Duomo as a white- and rose-gold cathedral against a night sky of bead-set diamonds, blue and mauve sapphires, and black spinels.
While the extravagance (not to mention the carbon footprint) of cruise fashion shows has been raising eyebrows, high jewelry’s events haven’t drawn similar attention — at least not so far.
“There’s this fatigue around cruise collections because they’re about clothes,” said Bruno-Roland Bernard, a lecturer on financial and luxury management at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, “but high jewelry offers a way of creating extra excitement that’s complementary, valorizing and also highly coherent for the wealthiest clients.
“It’s a dream scenario because it corresponds to the clientele, it’s a positive vector of communication and it’s profitable,” he added. “What will be interesting is to see how it all trickles down to fine jewelry, as couture does with ready-to-wear.”
Some houses still have a few jewels left to show in Paris this week. Dior, for example, said it would present selected pieces alongside items from its couture, housewares, baby and accessories collections at a pop-up showroom on the Left Bank.
And Chanel, which introduced the second chapter of Tweed de Chanel in London early last month, confirmed it will show the new collection by appointment in the French capital, too.
The array, inspired by Coco Chanel’s signature material, includes the Tweed Lion, a white and yellow gold plastron necklace set with rubies, spessartites, yellow sapphires, spinels and diamonds. Its diamond-studded lion’s head may be detached and worn as a brooch or on a simpler necklace, while a 10.17-carat pear-cut diamond pendant also can be detached and worn in a ring.