There are few things as elusive as a shadow. A shroud of mystery that cannot be avoided or contained, its existence is marked, ironically, by absence—namely, the absence of light. It is this precise intangibility that makes it such a bold muse for Hermès in its Les Jeux de l’ombre high jewellery collection. Designed by creative director of Hermès jewellery Pierre Hardy, the collection captures shifting shadows and the way they interact with light, giving solid form to the immaterial with unique elegance.
“We always talk about light and sparkle in jewellery, so I wanted to take the opposite approach,” muses Hardy. “In the performing arts, I’ve always loved the incandescent effect of the spotlights as well as the shadows they cast onto the stage floor. I find this distortion of light very appealing. The collection is a response to this desire, to poeticise the form taken by shadows.”
Shadows take on myriad forms in Les Jeux de l’ombre, both material and conceptual. In Lueurs du jour, black jade—worked by hand to give it a smooth satin finish—extends past diamonds and coloured gemstones to contrast their gentle hues. In the Ombres Mobiles pieces, inky contours of titanium stretch like long shadows into the evening light, their abstract forms pushing past the structured lines often found in jewellery.
“You could say that the shadow extends the very regulated world of jewellery. It offers a reverse perspective,” adds Hardy. “By incorporating the shadow into the pieces, I’m looking to make a precious element of something that, on the face of it, isn’t precious. My pleasure is one of discovery; shadow is the light’s treasure.”
The collection also delves into the idea that pieces can break free from their shadows, existing as entities that, while connected, remain independent. The result: the spectacular Miroir d’Ombre suite. Its necklace, for example, divides into two—a chain of white gold set with baguette-cut diamonds and a three-carat cushion-cut yellow diamond, running alongside a shadow of blue sapphires in dégradé shades.
The storied legacy of Hermès is evident throughout the collection, told through pieces that pay homage to the house’s iconic symbols. Its signature Chaine d’Ancre motif, for instance, is reimagined in the Chaine d’Ombre necklace through a unique approach to pavé setting—as flat-cut white diamonds are juxtaposed against dégradés of black spinels and blue sapphires to give the chain link volume. Taking almost 2,000 hours to create, including 700 hours of gem-setting to individually position each stone, it is a gorgeous show of meticulous craftsmanship. The Fouet ombré necklace, meanwhile, alludes to the house’s equestrian heritage. A knotted, white gold whip pavé set with brown diamonds and baguette-cut diamonds, the necklace is shadowed by a layer of midnight-blue sapphires.
In the Triptyques Lumière pieces, the connection between darkness and light takes an abstract turn. Playing on the idea that shadows hold and hide precious light within them, Hardy creates the Couleurs du jour Triptyques Lumière necklace—a triptych with sliding mother-of-pearl panels to either conceal or reveal its treasures to the light.
And to close the collection, a final ode to shadow, light and—surprisingly—colour. At the centre of the Lumières brutes series lies rough, uncut stones, each carefully chosen for their vibrant intensity. As light shines through, they cast silhouettes in colours that reflect their original splendour as precious relics of the earth. Summing up, Hardy explains: “It’s been a dream of mine: to leave the stones as they are. It came from something I experienced when visiting a gem-cutter, who showed me diamonds and tourmalines. When I shone my phone’s flashlight on them, the light cast shapes around each of them. I have simply highlighted the shadow projected by the stone. I have invented as little as possible, even in terms of how the colours are distributed over the pavé settings. I worked almost like a geologist, as close to the mineral as possible. Projecting light onto a rough stone is a revelation, a wondrous experience.”