When Chanel’s jewellery head Patrice Leguéreau went to Venice with his sketchbook in 2018 to start thinking about the Escale à Venise high jewellery collection, he would have been blissfully unaware of what the world would be like when the collection actually launched in January 2021. Pre-pandemic, pre catastrophic floods—the Venice he saw was a charmed and sun-kissed one, far closer to the Venice Gabrielle Chanel sought solace in in 1920 after the death of her love Arthur “Boy” Capel. “I came back with extremely colourful drawings, snapshots of everyday Venetian life,” he writes.
Divided into four themes, this 70 piece-strong collection pays tribute to Venice’s architecture, its canals, its lagoon islands and the lion that features in many of the city’s most famous locations—as well as being the symbol for Gabrielle Chanel’s own astrological sign.
In Eblouissante, the soft, faded colours and geometry of the façade of a Venetian palace are reimagined as a dramatic suite in pastel pink hues—soft pink spinels, white diamonds and pearls are set in pink gold and platinum, in cascading geometric motifs—long necklaces with diamonds and spinels laid out in diamond-shaped formations or set like pretty little bricks around larger stones. Leguéreau has written that, as well as echoing the palace façade, this suite recalls “in a dreamlike way, the quilted fabric so dear to Mademoiselle”.
There are big diamonds here, too—a pair of asscher-cut diamonds of over 10 carats each in a pair of earrings that are transformed from a necklace featuring a third 10 carat-plus stone, no doubt to appease that particular Chanel client who loves Chanel high jewellery, but needs huge diamonds in there to justify it.
In Serenissime, (a French word for Venice not often used in English), the Byzantine-era mosaics turn up in onyx and diamond squares, the onyx squares interrupted by pastel pink, yellow and orange sapphires, as well as spessartine garnets and, in the case of the necklace, an enormous 27.09 carat oval mandarin sapphire.
But it’s not all serious in this collection—there are nods to light-heartedness via certain motifs—the blue and white mooring poles of the gondolas are wrought in lapis lazuli and diamonds in the pieces of Volute Venitienne, while the red ribbon of a gondolier’s hat becomes a lacquered gold accent to diamond hats across pieces in Ruban Canotier, and there are sweet little sorbet-topped cones as brooches in Souvenirs de Venise.
The most spectacular pieces, however, reside firmly in the Constellation Astrale chapter of the Spirito di Venezia set. Meticulously cut shards of lapiz lazuli surround yellow sapphire stars with white diamond accents across a huge necklace, bracelet, sweeping earrings and a cocktail ring. Reminiscent of both a galaxy of stars on an inky blue sky and the famed winged lion on a mosaic sky that features on St Mark’s Basilica, these are extraordinary one of a kind pieces that speak both to Venice, and to Chanel’s love of it.
Leguéreau has stated that they have “tried to unite the extreme richness of the theme with a great jewellery-like fluidity”. And in this particular suite more than any other, they have totally nailed that goal.
This article was originally published on British Vogue