The changeability of the seasons is a ubiquitous source of inspiration for jewellery collections and has been for decades, if not centuries. From Art Nouveau to the present day, winter-themed jewels seek to capture the cold and frozen shift in weather but also hint at the magic that lies beneath and has so shaped the ‘winter wonderland’ theme. I enjoy seeing how the season is reinterpreted year-after-year and pay special attention to the collections and novelties that aspire to do something different, add a touch of quirkiness to the festive period, or reinvent traditional motifs with innovative materials. The pieces selected below are so evocative of winter it would be hard to imagine them worn or displayed in the height of summer. Perhaps that is the highest compliment one can pay to winter inspired luxuries.
The sheer creativity of master artisan Wallace Chan never ceases to amaze me. Having seen his transformable Snowflake brooch at TEFAF this year, I am still deeply impressed how it can be turned to create two distinctive patterns. Inspired by the idea that no two snowflakes are ever the same, it is crafted in coloured titanium and Wallace Chan porcelain, with aquamarine, blue topaz, pink sapphire, green tourmaline and a 7.86ct yellow diamond centre. To create something so delicate in appearance with such strong, hardwearing materials is both a feat of engineering and jewellery craftsmanship.
Australian atelier David Michael drew inspiration from the artistry of Lalique for its Winter Koi Pond brooch, which gives the impression of a koi carp swimming beneath frozen water. Carved from naturally included rock crystal, the carp itself was hand-painted on a carefully selected slice of mother of pearl, which provided the perfect multi-tonal backdrop for the creature. As an art object, the brooch marries diamonds and moonstone pavé with carved cacholong – a form of common opal – grey spinels, tsavorites and diamond ‘cubes’ that add extra shape and dimension. The Winter Koi Pond brooch, which has 47.47 carats of total stone weight, will be sold at the Magnificent Jewels sale hosted by Sotheby’s in December.
Winter isn’t just about snowflakes and ice, it’s also a time of celebration in many parts of the world. In Russia we celebrate the New Year in the same way as Europeans celebrate Christmas, just a few days later. So, this year Russian high jewellery designer Liza Borzaya decided to treat her customers to New Year capsule collection of charms shaped as baubles, painted with hot enamel depicting winter birds and embellished with diamonds. I also admire the playfulness of her Sweets collection with surprising Christmas motifs, like gingerbread men, candy canes or cookies. Each charm is affixed with a key and presented with a lock that can be worn as a pendant on a long diamond sautoir or attached to a flexible gold mesh-like wraparound necklace.
The Van Cleef & Arpels Snowflake Haute Joaillerie collection, which is a part of its permanent offering, represents a more subtle take on the winter theme that allows pieces to be confidently worn in brighter months. That being said, its densely placed white diamonds in earrings, pendants, bracelets and rings somehow still manage to give the impression of evening glamour more suited to dark evenings. The snowflake has been a theme of the House since the 1940s, which demonstrates just how evergreen the notion is among collectors. I am particularly inspired by the Snowflake transformable necklace in platinum, white gold and diamonds, which contains 680 stones totalling 63.87 carats.
Every year, Chopard artistic director, Caroline Scheufele sets the artisans in the Maison’s atelier the challenge of creating the same number of pieces as the anniversary year of the Cannes International Film Festival. This year, that’s led to 73 new creations inspired by the natural world, including three-dimensional, gem-set polar bears and seals that transport me straight to the polar ice caps. The Polar Bear ring is especially endearing with 12.5 carats of brilliant cut diamonds, set in white gold, with black diamonds and two cabochon-cut sapphires to add liveliness to its eyes. Maybe as a subtle nod to each animal’s different temperament, the Seal ring, also in white gold and diamonds, uses cabochon cut topazes to create a cheeky glint in the eyes instead.
Sometimes the story behind a piece is just as interesting as the piece itself. A new Heritage locket in 18k rose gold, diamonds and blue guilloché enamel contains a ‘polar bear surprise’ - crafted in white enamel, black diamonds and agate - that’s directly inspired by an onyx carved polar bear miniature, produced by Peter Carl Fabergé himself in 1909. This original onyx bear has a fascinating history, having been owned by French nobility and purchased by Virginia Fair Vanderbilt, an American socialite. Vanderbilt acquired the snow-white bear for £26 from Fabergé’s London boutique in September 1909, chosen as a gift for the Marquise Berthe de Ganay.
Although launched in 2017, the Boucheron Hiver Impérial high jewellery collection is still important to note for its wintertime array of diamonds, pearls and precious stones. Boucheron was in fact the first French jeweller to open a boutique in Moscow in 1897. All Hiver Impérial jewels were inspired by arctic landscapes across vast swathes of Russia divided into three chapters. Of note is the first one - Lumière de Nuit, led by the Flocon Impérial necklace with detachable pendants. Set with a 5.20 carat cushion-cut diamond, it is embellished with meticulously carved snowflake-style rock crystal shapes with inlaid diamonds, all set in white gold.
Depending on where you are in the world, winter can be a blessing or a curse. Even so, there’s a synergy between icicles, snowflakes and high jewellery, especially when considering the most luxurious of creative materials: diamonds. What heightens my appreciation is when diamonds are elevated through transformable elements or unusual materials that really bring the freeze of winter to life.