x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A show stopper of a gem

How Victoire de Castellane has revolutionised the world of costume jewellery both at Chanel and Dior.

Dentelle Tourmaline Rebrodée ring from Dear Dior collection. Courtesy Dior Joaillerie
Dentelle Tourmaline Rebrodée ring from Dear Dior collection. Courtesy Dior Joaillerie

Dior's jewellers have always made the sort of delicious pieces that, with their vivid clusters of coloured stones and graphic designs, will enhance anything from the simplest sweater and Capri pants to the most dramatic, full-skirted ball gown. And as it was all costume jewellery, almost anyone could afford to glisten like a maharaja, without having a bank safe to store their favourite pieces in.

Then along came Victoire de Castellane, who had spent many years making costume jewellery at Chanel before arriving at Dior's Haute Joaillerie doors to make fantastical creations out of real gems and gold. Her signature style - an almost psychedelic hyperreality that saw whole narratives played out on giant, enamelled, fairy-tale jewels - is instantly recognisable.

That makes the Dear Dior collection, which debuted at summer's haute couture shows and will be shown in full at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris this week, something of a departure - or at least a mouth-watering detour.

With Dear Dior, de Castellane turns costume jewellery on its head, taking the flashy, colourful, joyful designs of the Dior archive from the 1950s and remaking them in real gold and gems. Thus, multicoloured stones jostle together on brooches and rings, like the Dentelle Tourmaline Rebrodée (pictured) in gleefully clashing symmetry; and where once coloured glass would have sat, now turquoise, opal, amethyst, diamonds, emeralds and peridot are flung together in one piece, with a filigree-fine gold "lace" back, in the Bouquet d'Opales earrings. They are a sort of Byzantium-meets-Bollywood mix of rainbow colour and symmetrical, abstract design.

It seems a good time to be looking back: this year's edition of the Biennale des Antiquaires, France's biannual showcase of only the most exceptional fine antiques, art and jewellery, is being curated and set-designed by none other than Karl Lagerfeld, who aims to evoke the belle époque with his interiors, even recreating a Paris street scene in the Grand Palais.