In 1929, the Great Depression rippled from the United States and impacted economies all over the world. The great sparkling energy of the 1920s and its Art Deco movement was slashed in favour of extreme austerity. Three years into this downturn, the London Diamond Corporation wanted to add lustre back into the market and generate renewed interest from those with the means to buy. Gabrielle Chanel was chosen as the ideal woman to achieve these objectives, and Bijoux de Diamants – a collection of 50 high jewellery pieces with colourless and yellow diamonds – was born.
Initially, only a selection of pieces from this original collection could be identified. There were 22 interpretations of the sky with comets, moons and suns, 17 optical illusion-style pieces with ribbons, fringes and feathers, and eight pieces in spiral, circle, square and cross shapes. Some were lost to history entirely and only had testimonies to describe them, such as sizeable brooches in the shape of the numbers three, five and seven.
However, in 2012, all that changed with the discovery of a short documentary film from 1932, which would have been used alongside newsreels in cinemas throughout France. It was filmed inside Gabrielle Chanel's private townhouse at 29 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and featured a selection of Bijoux de Diamants jewels, many of which had never been seen before. Experts were able to identify 17 brooches, nine pieces of head jewellery, eight necklaces, four rings, three bracelets, two pairs of earrings, two watches and two accessories, including a cigarette case set with diamonds both inside and out.
"I wanted to return to the essence of 1932 and to harmonise the message around three symbols: the comet, the moon, and the sun. Each heavenly body shines with its own light," Patrice Leguéreau
Some 90 years later, the current director of Chanel Fine Jewelry, Patrice Leguéreau, has returned to the celestial motifs seen throughout Bijoux de Diamants for a new High Jewellery collection titled "1932". The collection is split into three chapters Le Soleil (the sun), La Lune (the moon) and La Comete (the comet), and each one can be traced back thematically to pieces in Bijoux de Diamants. There are 77 pieces in total, 13 of which are transformable, containing sapphires, fancy-coloured diamonds, opals, rubies, spinels and tanzanites. The focal point of the collection is the Allure Céleste necklace – a dramatic pendant necklace adorned with three individual motifs, one with an oval-shaped sapphire of 55.55 carats and another Type IIa pear-shaped diamond of 8.05 carats. These can be detached and worn as brooches, while the central row of diamonds becomes a bracelet and leaves a short necklace in its wake.
Chanel 1932 High Jewellery – La Comete
Within this chapter, the highlights are the Comète Volute plastron and bracelet with white and yellow oval-shaped diamonds, each with a symbolic weight of 19.32 carats. The star-shaped diamond focus of the Comète Volute brooch can be detached from its cascading diamond tail to create a separate brooch and bracelet. And then there's the Comète Volute ring with a 1.60 carat fancy vivid blue diamond. Elsewhere, the Comète Constellation necklace contains two Type IIa D-colour diamonds weighing 10.08 carats each, which can be detached and worn as a ring. There's also a separate Comète Constellation ring with a 14.52 carat Type IIa, D-colour cushion-cut diamond. There's lots more to talk about in this selection of jewels, which include significant gemstones such as Comète Infinie ring with a 5.61 carat fancy intense yellow diamond and the Comète Opale bracelet, ring and brooch with deep blue opals reminiscent of the night sky.
Chanel 1932 High Jewellery – La Lune
The 18 pieces that sparkle from the La Lune chapter of the 1932 High Jewellery collection draw on the shape of the crescent moon in shades of white, yellow and blue. There's a brooch set with three marquise-cut diamonds; the Lune Éternelle set featuring round brilliant-cut diamonds and pearls; the Lune Talisman set with gently swaying blue tanzanites and the Lune Étincelante plastron with a five carat round brilliant-cut diamond and en tremblant halo. The Lune Silhouette has a futuristic feel and centres on a ring with a 3.02 carat round brilliant-cut diamond. But nothing summarises this chapter better than the Lune Solaire trio of pieces, including two pairs of earrings and a ring in yellow and white gold, round brilliant-cut diamonds and orange spinels. The asymmetric pendant earrings are set with a pair of 2.01 carat pear-shaped diamonds, complemented by many other round brilliant-cut diamonds that are bezel-set in a three-dimensional crescent moon shape.
Chanel 1932 High Jewellery – Le Soleil
Finally, Le Soleil captures one of Mademoiselle Chanel's favourite motifs across six sets of jewels, including the Soleil 19 Août necklace with a 22.10 carat fancy vivid yellow cushion-cut diamond that can be detached and worn as a ring. Another ring in this set contains a fiery yellow 5.52 carat fancy vivid yellow diamond, and another is set with two cushion-cut rubies of 4.97 and 5.04 carats. Elsewhere, the Soleil Mademoiselle choker and earrings feature a sun in motion, with graphic lines of colourless diamonds that unfold across the décolleté and down the length of the earlobe. One of the most sunshine-infused sets in this chapter is the Soleil Talisman, including a ring, brooch, earrings and a bracelet set with diamonds and yellow sapphires. And, finally, don't miss the Soleil Dore earrings with great oval-shaped colourless diamond drops and ombre hues of yellow diamonds in a sunburst pattern.
Amazingly, when Gabrielle Chanel produced her debut high jewellery collection, it was met with disdain and anger from other jewellers. They resented a couturière dabbling in such high art and demanded that pieces be broken up, and the stones returned. Of course, pieces had been sold on the opening day of the Bijoux de Diamants exhibition, which ran from November 7-19, 1932, and this reversal wasn't possible! Sometimes, however, we need a rebel to point us in a new, creative direction, no matter the pushback from others. It is this feistiness and fierceness that continues to inspire Chanel and allow it to produce such confident and exuberant jewels.