WITH a heritage as rich as Chanel's, there's no shortage of inspiration, it seems. Eighty years after Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel created the fashion house's fine jewellery collection, its present-day designers are still drawing ideas from her sense of design and aesthetics.
Chanel had been designing costume jewellery to go with her ready-to-wear since the 1920s, but in 1932, the Bijoux de Diamants fine jewellery line was created. The little known story is that this was upon request by De Beers, then a diamond-mining company looking to jumpstart the diamond trade after the First World War.
It wasn't that successful a move for De Beers, which later went on to create the legendary tagline "Diamonds are forever" in its advertising campaign; neither did it endear Chanel to the established jewellery houses at that time.
But even if the move did not benefit De Beers, it was a boost for the house of Chanel. Chanel found her niche, coming up with fashionable and versatile designs using fine gems. For the 80th anniversary last year, 80 pieces were designed to pay homage to the original collection, drawing inspiration from the motifs and symbols from 1932 and the founder herself.
Chanel's "1932" high-jewellery collection has comets, stars, suns, fringes, fountains, ribbons, feathers and a newly-created lion. Born on Aug 19, Coco Chanel's star sign was Leo. The lion was her favourite animal and the lion motif featured in this jewellery range was based on a sculpture in her house.
All the motifs have been re-interpreted in "1932". The "Comete" necklace does a more dramatic sweep around the neck and dazzles with a 15-carat diamond in the centre. And for the first time, it also becomes a head piece.
The Sun is re-interpreted as a sautoir necklace made up of multiple diamond-set chains held by a generous white-and-yellow-diamond sun.
In a clear reference to the style of the 1930s, the "Franges" and "Fontaine" themes see the "Franges Swing" necklace made up of several rows of diamonds.
The crowning piece of the collection is the lion, rendered in rutile quartz and in rock crystal topping diamond comets. The Constellation du Lion, which is not for sale, has been kept in Chanel's own museum collection.
Coco Chanel's founding principles for her diamond jewellery were that the pieces had to have light mounts, and that they could be worn in different ways to serve different purposes. For example, a star motif from a necklace can be worn as a brooch or at the centre of a bracelet.
Like in her haute couture, Chanel's credo was to allow a woman the freedom to move. Some of her inspirations are simple. She's cited the Parisian night sky, for instance.
But what she hardly ever mentioned is her childhood in an abbey, with corridors paved with geometric patterns, crescent moons, five-pointed stars, Maltese crosses and other Templar symbols that seem to have remained engraved within her memories.
With this 1932 collection, Chanel's aesthetics have again given us a glimpse into her world and vision.