Luxury magazine: April 2019

Gaelle Khouri's bold creations; Tiffany's chief gemmologist shares his secrets; and travelling in style with Cartier

Of all the things we write about in Luxury, it is gemstones that I find most intriguing. I am drawn to the idea of these priceless objects being formed over the course of millions of years, deep in the belly of the Earth, before making their way to the surface to be discovered by man.

They are from the Earth and yet somehow otherworldly – one of the most spectacular examples of Mother Nature’s unending capacity to delight. Once they are in the hands of man, other wondrous things begin to occur. I am always astounded by the seemingly endless ways in which jewellery designers and master craftsmen are able to take these gems and reimagine them into countless new forms.

After more than 30 years in the business, Melvyn Kirtley, Tiffany & Co’s chief gemmologist, is still utterly enamoured by precious stones. “It never gets old for me,” he tells Sophie Prideaux in this issue, his eyes twinkling as he describes some of the priceless jewels he has handled over the years. Chief among these is the $30 million Tiffany Diamond, which made a rare outing at this year’s Oscars ceremony on the neck of Lady Gaga. The piece was last worn by Audrey Hepburn on the promotional poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the seminal film that cemented the New York brand in pop culture history.

That’s the other thing I love about gems. The best ones have stories to tell. Provenance is a fancy word, but it captures the idea that the most prized pieces of jewellery have travelled through history, bearing witness to fascinating people, places and events. This is also true of the classic cars that are featured here. I travelled to Jaipur to attend the Cartier Travel with Style Concours d’Elegance, a showcase of vehicles that were once as prized as gems by the maharajas who owned them. The concours offers a colourful snapshot of India’s rich automotive industry.

Closer to home, we speak to Gaelle Khouri. The Beirut-born creative is known for unexpected creations that challenge how jewellery is meant to sit on the body. The spindly legs of her Spider cuff grasp the arm in an embrace that is almost menacing; while her Constance bracelet hangs from the thumb to bisect the hand with a delicate line of blue sapphires.

Gemstones may be among my favourite things, but some of the designers that we speak to inthis issue are challenging how we value our jewels. They are employing materials such as wood, concrete and even seeds to create masterpieces that may not be valuable in terms of carat-count and weight, but are extraordinary all the same.

Selina Denman, editor

Drawing on Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Honeycomb ring takes its cues from architect Jean Nouvel's masterful dome

It is said that there are no wrong answers when it comes to interpreting art, be that the hidden message in a poet’s plea or the intent to conceal more than reveal in a master’s painting. When Lily Gabriella happened upon Louvre Abu Dhabi, her first unbidden thought was that its dome resembled a honeycomb, that most intricate of structure often alluded to as nature’s favourite pattern.

The Honeycomb ring, part of a nine-piece capsule collection that the Brazilian jewellery designer has created for Sotheby’s Diamonds, takes its inspiration directly from architect Jean Nouvel’s latticed canopy.  Louvre Abu Dhabi’s dome is famed for creating a “rain of light” effect as the sun passes overhead. Accordingly, the light from the fiery 6.12-carat, fancy intense yellow diamond radiates along the ring, dappling the white diamonds painstakingly handset into hexagonal cavities.  

“I am fascinated by architects who push the boundaries of design and Nouvel’s dome is a play of colour and light, which is exactly up my alley. It’s a work of art in itself, a permanent installation for the Louvre,” Gabriella says. “I also wanted this ring to showcase the geometric perfection found in nature, and what is more organic than the honeycomb?”  

This is not the first time the designer has translated architectural landmarks into precious yet wearable pieces of art. The Halcyon earrings, which are also part of the Sotheby’s Diamonds collection, for instance, mimic the intricate lines of the Chrysler Building. Gabriella, who trained at the Gemological Institute of America in New York, says some of her most cherished moments in the city were on “sunny days, when the skyscrapers would light up and the city resembled a mirror from a golden, glamorous, Gatsybian age”.

The solar motif also comes through in an Art Deco-inspired cuff that has a 21.15-carat oval-cut diamond at its centre. “The paradox with big stones is that, often, you’re unable or afraid to wear them, which is a shame. Given how incredible these diamonds are, I wanted to design something that someone can actually put on, not keep in the closet. So I designed the Solar Cuff such that the stone sits within it, almost like in its own little jewellery case; it’s not staring at you,” Gabriella explains.

After her New York stint, the designer – who was born in Brazil, grew up in Monaco, worked in Switzerland and lives in London – launched her eponymous fine jewellery brand in the United Kingdom in 2011. She is set to open her first store in London later this year, and currently operates via Instagram. “It’s like a window display to showcase my jewellery around the world. Many need to touch and try on fine jewellery, myself included, but luckily I have been able to translate my pieces online in a natural way that speaks to people. I think social media is definitely impacting and changing the way people shop, even for expensive jewels,” says Gabriella, whose capsule pieces range in price from £34,000 (Dh164,375) to several millions.

Her “luck” maybe down to posts that are at once pretty and thoughtful. Interspersed between the gem-studded rings, earrings and pendants that Gabriella creates and sells from her Instagram page, is a mix of artworks, sculptures and decorative items. Sitting between slickly edited images of gem-studded jewels are raw shots of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s pottery, the “bubbles” lamp by Italian interior designer Achille Salvagni and a grainy shot of architect Hiroshi Nakamura’s Ribbon Chapel in Hiroshima.

The effect is one of unforced luxury, an acknowledgement of the people, places and objects that inspire her. “I don’t plan the flow of images; I just put up whatever comes to mind,” she says. “It’s like posting my mood board, and the inspiration and process behind a jewel, which most people don’t really get to see. Jewellery is, after all, a juxtaposition between the raw and the defined.”

Panna Munyal

Belle of the ball

A new customisation service is offering a highly personalised spin on Dior’s coveted Grand Bal timepiece

A multi-drawer leather coffret slides open to reveal a world of possibilities. A bezel set with brilliant or baguette diamonds? A case in gold or steel? A dial in coloured lacquer, mother-of-pearl, opal, veined turquoise or malachite? The choice is yours.

Dior has launched a “created-to-measure” service for its Grand Bal timepiece, bringing the customised, one-off appeal of haute couture clothing to its watchmaking offering. The new service allows customers to build a personalised Dior Grand Bal watch from scratch.

Christian Dior was a big fan of the lavish costume balls of post-war Paris, relishing the opportunities they provided for role play and drawing inspiration from the creativity on show during these grand occasions. At the Kings and Queens ball in Paris in 1949, Dior arrived dressed as the king of the jungle; at the Artists ball hosted by the Noailles in 1956, the designer came as French writer Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly.

Dior surpassed himself in 1951, at a ball thrown by Charles de Beistegui at the Palazzo Labia in Venice, which came to be known as “the ball of the century”. Dior conspired with his friend Salvador Dalí and his wife, Gala, to create a parade of characters for the “Entrance of Giants”. Having made costumes for numerous guests, the designer himself appeared as the Phantom of Venice. It was “the most beautiful party I have ever or will ever see,” Dior reported.

“Parties like this are genuine works of art; people may be irritated by the very fact that they are on such a grand scale, but nevertheless they are desirable, necessary and important if they revive a taste for and sense of authentic enjoyment,” he said in his memoirs.

It was the Dior founder’s enthusiasm for such events that inspired the brand to launch the Grand Bal watch in 2011. Here, the textures, volume and movement of Dior’s couture gowns are re-imagined in horological form. “The ball gown makes you dream and must make you a dream woman,” Christian Dior said of his decadent dresses.

The timepiece is defined by a functioning and decorative rotor set within the dial that takes the form of a gown – emulating the gentle sweep of a dress as it twirls across a dance floor. In the watch’s various iterations since 2011, the “gown” has been crafted from precious metal, gemstones, feathers, gold threads, net, silk and the wings of scarab beetles. The Dior VIII Grand Bal Plissé Ruban, for example, features a delicate gold petticoat interlaced with a sliver of silky ribbon. The dramatic-looking Dior Grand Bal Resille, meanwhile, features a “skirt” of latticed diamonds, shining forcefully against a black ceramic dial. For the Grand Bal Plissé Soleil, the rotor is crafted from metallic grey mother-of-pearl marquetry.

With Dior’s new “created-to-measure” service, you can choose to have this clockwork gown finely latticed, draped, feathered, sun-pleated or beribboned, in an extensive palette of colours. There is also the option to customise the back of the watch case with an engraved message.

One thing is certain: with 200 million possible outcomes presented by this new service, you are guaranteed to walk away with a unique piece.

Selina Denman

A cut above

Priceless pieces shimmer amid spring’s most beautiful blooms

Photography: Antonie Robertson, Fashion director: Sarah Maisey, Flowers supplied by Bliss Flower Boutique

Serpenti high jewellery necklace in pink gold with mother-of-pearl, malachite and pavé diamonds, price on request, Bulgari

Serpenti high jewellery necklace in pink gold with mother-of-pearl, malachite and pavé diamonds, price on request, Bulgari

Ruban earrings in 18K white gold with baguette-cut and brilliantcut diamonds, price on request, Chanel Fine Jewellery. Laurier necklace in white gold with brilliant-cut diamonds, price on request, Chaumet

Ruban earrings in 18K white gold with baguette-cut and brilliantcut diamonds, price on request, Chanel Fine Jewellery. Laurier necklace in white gold with brilliant-cut diamonds, price on request, Chaumet

From top: diamond ring, Dh27,500, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace. Capture Me ring in 18K white gold with white diamonds, Dh14,600, Akillis at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Peridot bangle, Dh21,200, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace

From top: diamond ring, Dh27,500, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace. Capture Me ring in 18K white gold with white diamonds, Dh14,600, Akillis at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Peridot bangle, Dh21,200, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace

One-of-a-kind L’Heure du Diamant watch with guilloche dial and round brilliant-cut diamonds, price on request, Chopard

One-of-a-kind L’Heure du Diamant watch with guilloche dial and round brilliant-cut diamonds, price on request, Chopard

Clockwise from bottom left: Soleste earrings in platinum with tanzanites and diamonds, price on request, Tiffany & Co. Capture Me ring in 18K white gold with diamonds, Dh18,200, Akillis at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Ventaglio necklace in white gold with emeralds and diamonds, price on request, De Grisogono. Schlumberger Vigne ring, price on request, Tiffany & Co. Rhodolite ring, Dh10,200, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace

Clockwise from bottom left: Soleste earrings in platinum with tanzanites and diamonds, price on request, Tiffany & Co. Capture Me ring in 18K white gold with diamonds, Dh18,200, Akillis at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Ventaglio necklace in white gold with emeralds and diamonds, price on request, De Grisogono. Schlumberger Vigne ring, price on request, Tiffany & Co. Rhodolite ring, Dh10,200, Gorgon Claw collection, Versace

Overseas self-winding watch in 18K pink gold with diamonds, price on request, Vacheron Constantin. Rose Bagatelle ring in white gold with diamonds, Dh52,000, Dior

Overseas self-winding watch in 18K pink gold with diamonds, price on request, Vacheron Constantin. Rose Bagatelle ring in white gold with diamonds, Dh52,000, Dior

Joséphine Aigrette Impériale diadem in white gold with brilliant-cut diamonds, pear-shaped tsavorite garnets and pear-shaped pink sapphires, price on request, created exclusively for The Dubai Mall by Chaumet

Joséphine Aigrette Impériale diadem in white gold with brilliant-cut diamonds, pear-shaped tsavorite garnets and pear-shaped pink sapphires, price on request, created exclusively for The Dubai Mall by Chaumet

Fil de Comète necklace in 18K white gold with round-cut diamonds, price on request, Chanel Fine Jewellery

Fil de Comète necklace in 18K white gold with round-cut diamonds, price on request, Chanel Fine Jewellery

Allegra Toi & Moi earrings in pink gold with white diamonds and cacholong cabochons, price on request, De Grisogono. Paper Flowers diamond cluster necklace in platinum, price on request, Tiffany & Co

Allegra Toi & Moi earrings in pink gold with white diamonds and cacholong cabochons, price on request, De Grisogono. Paper Flowers diamond cluster necklace in platinum, price on request, Tiffany & Co

Cullinan West penthouse, The Broadway, Westminster, London SW1

Its coveted postcode aside, this four-bedroom duplex penthouse sits in a tower inspired by one of the world’s most important diamonds

The six paired towers of The Broadway development in London are named after the Sancy, Paragon and Cullinan diamonds. Courtesy Northacre

The six paired towers of The Broadway development in London are named after the Sancy, Paragon and Cullinan diamonds. Courtesy Northacre

The Broadway in London has three big-name players backing it: the project is a collaboration between Abu Dhabi Finance Group and Northacre, the property company behind The Lancasters in Hyde Park and The Bromptons in Chelsea; while the architect is Squire & Partners, which has London’s Bulgari Hotel and Mayfair House, and Dubai’s Vida Downtown hotel and apartments in its portfolio.

The private residents' gardens on the fourth level.

The private residents' gardens on the fourth level.

Another stellar trio that Broadway’s developers looked to are the Sancy, Cullinan and Paragon diamonds. The Sancy, which is of Indian origin and now sits in the Louvre Paris, is a 55.23-carat pale yellow stone that has belonged to various royals, including King Manuel of Portugal, Henry III of France and James I and VI of England and Scotland. The latter set it into the Mirror of Great Britain, a jewel created to mark the union of the crowns of the two countries.

The living room of the duplex penthouse in Cullinan West.

The living room of the duplex penthouse in Cullinan West.

The Paragon was mined in Brazil and acquired by jeweller Laurence Graff, who transformed the rough stone – thought to be the largest flawless diamond in the world – into a seven-sided, kite-shaped, 137.82-carat jewel.

The master bedroom.

The master bedroom.

At 3,106 carats, the Cullinan is the largest gem-quality diamond ever found. The rough diamond, mined in South Africa, was cut into nine stones, including the 530.40-carat Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, and the 317.40-carat Cullinan II, which sits centre-front on the Imperial State Crown of the UK.

The master bathroom.

The master bathroom.

The three stones inform the residential towers within The Broadway, the shimmering facades, oversized windows and entranceway ironmongery of which are influenced by the facets of the diamond they seek to reflect.

Within, the colour palettes of the apartments emulate the way light reflects off each stone: light for the Sancy, medium for the Cullinan and a darker palette for the Paragon.

The swimming pool.

The swimming pool.

This penthouse, for instance, has bronze aluminium window frames, grey marble accents, engineered oak floors, full-height timber doors and lacquer-finished wardrobes, all in shades that reflect the “diamond” that the home sits within. The duplex apartment has six-metre-high ceilings, four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

The kitchen comes with Bardiglio marble worktops and splashbacks, and appliances from Gaggenau and Miele. More Italian marble can be found on the walls and floors of the bathrooms, which also come with Corian baths and basins, Cova lighting, anti-mist mirrors and glazed shower screens.

Views at ground level.

Views at ground level.

The penthouse takes up the 18th and 19th floors of Cullinan West, one of six residential towers on The Broadway’s 1.72-acre site, which will include a 20,000-square-foot pedestrianised square, a 26,000-square-foot retail street and 118,000 square feet of office space, upon completion in 2021.

Residents will have access to several private landscaped gardens, a spa, a fitness club with a 25-metre swimming pool and a vitality pool, plus a games room, cinema, meeting rooms and banquet halls. A 24-hour concierge service will oversee matters ranging from housekeeping and travel itineraries to organising theatre tickets, restaurant reservations and even a constant supply of fresh flowers.

Panna Munyal

Cufflinks for every occasion


Take a walk on the wild side with Cartier’s signature panthers in yellow gold, onyx and striking tsavorite.


The graphic white gold, onyx and pavé diamonds in Bulgari’s Quadrato squares will add a touch of polish to any outfit.

Van Cleef & Arpels

With the night sky picked out in pink gold and aventurine glass, the Midnight in Paris cufflinks by Van Cleef & Arpels are deeply romantic.


The polished is juxtaposed with the rough in Dior’s popular bee motif cufflinks, which are now available in yellow vermeil.

Dolce & Gabbana

A fearsome-looking dragon in yellow gold and red enamel, with a diamond gripped between its teeth, will make quick a real the statement when placed on on your arm.

The rebellious one

Gaelle Khouri is not your typical jewellery designer. But then, as Sarah Maisey discovers, hers is not your typical jewellery

Beirut-born Gaelle Khouri (pictured above) was working in New York as an economic consultant when she realised that something was amiss. Despite having graduated top of her class at New York University, she was slowly coming to the realisation that finance was not for her. She wanted to do something more creative.

“In Beirut and Lebanon, the mentality is a bit conservative, and justifies success in a limited number of ways, which is why I went into economics. But when I was in New York, the energy of the city, and being older, really gave me the confidence to know what I wanted, and to actually have the guts to say it. It wasn’t an easy switch. It really takes guts to just let go and leave everything to move into a completely different field,” she tells me when we meet in Dubai.

She began an internship with designer Oscar de la Renta, but quickly realised that if she was going to make the switch, she wanted to do something of her own. She returned to Beirut to try her hand at jewellery making. “I decided to take lessons with a jewellery designer, and within the first two months I had a portfolio of over 100 designs,” she says. “My teacher said: ‘You have to take it to the next level.’

“At the time it was just for fun; I didn’t know where it was going. So he took me to the Armenian region in Lebanon, Bourj Hammoud. The people there migrated to Lebanon in 1915 and brought their jewellery-making skills with them.”

Khouri creates bold pieces that rock convention, such as these earrings shaped like spiders.

Khouri creates bold pieces that rock convention, such as these earrings shaped like spiders.

Although no stranger to hard work, Khouri was unprepared for the scale of effort involved in entering a new field and starting from scratch. “I was so excited the first time I went [to Bourj Hammoud], but when I came back I was super depressed. It was so overwhelming. I just thought, ‘I could never do that’. But the next day, I went back, and the third day, and I think that when you are trying something, you just bump into people along the way who help you and push you. It was a long journey. Those were two very tough years, and my parents were completely against the move. Now they are very proud but, at the time, they were absolutely not.”

Khouri now has a small but devoted following. Her work is unique for its use of space and challenges how jewellery is meant to sit on the body. Creating bold pieces that rock convention, ironically Khouri feels that her late start has worked to her advantage.

“I don’t have a background in jewellery and design,” she says. “I think that sometimes education can be your worst enemy. It’s a great thing, of course, but it teaches you rules and you feel you have to follow them. Because I didn’t study, I had the freedom to think and create and to do things however I wanted.For me, it wasn’t really about the jewellery; it was about the creativity. I think it’s not even that jewellery specifically interests me, but more the artistic, creative side, and I have always had that in me.”

Centipede necklace.

Centipede necklace.

Although her best-known pieces are relatively delicate, such as the Constance bracelet that hangs from the thumb to bisect the hand with a line of blue sapphires, or the Triple Infinity Ring, which begins as a ring on the middle finger but extends outwards to become a series of oversized, diamond-encrusted bands that loop over three fingers, Khouri’s first creations were rather different. From the head of a dragon worn so that the finger lies in the maw of the beast, to a ring cast to look like wood, the pieces sometimes come across as crude and raw, but are liberating because their design is so atypical.

“The very first pieces I made were from bronze and gold,” she explains. “They are not very wearable, and are more pieces of art than jewellery. They are harsh and dark but I love them; they are still my favourite pieces. My creativity evolves with my personality, and during this time, I think I hadn’t found myself yet. I didn’t know what to do and I think there was a lot of anger, a lot of darkness in me, which was reflected in my work. Now, it is subtler.”

Nonetheless, she continues to draw from the natural world to create bold, unapologetic pieces that challenge traditional forms. Her Silver Wings cuff is crafted from yellow gold and blackened sterling silver, dotted with blue sapphires. There is a hardness to it that sits at odds with the tiny blue gems and it calls to mind the powerful wings of an imaginary flying beast, rather than those of a delicate feathered bird. Her Self Portrait earrings take the form of an amorphous, fish-like creature that has been partly reduced to skeletonised form. They are at once appealing and slightly macabre.

Hand jewellery.

Hand jewellery.

Today Khouri’s work is stocked by leading retailers around the world, including Auverture, Moda Operandi, Net-a-Porter and Sylvia Saliba in Lebanon – but she remains pragmatic. “I got directly picked up by Harvey Nichols, and when I launched in 2015, I went into Browns,” Khouri says. “So when I launched, it really went very fast, but it’s not because I got lucky; there were years of work.”

As we talk, Khouri pulls from her bag a large silver cuff in the shape of a spider, its spindly legs designed to wrap around the wrist. “I was scared that customs would stop me, so I put it in my bag,” she reveals. This is not delicate and feminine; it is big and slightly scary. Yet it is beautifully made, with just enough articulation to give it life.

“It was extremely hard to do, because silver is hard to produce,” she says. “The stone in his abdomen is quartz, and left rough. So there is always a mix. Gold and silver, elegant and rough. It’s all in the detail.
“My work is very much 3D, and very complex, and this is one of the reasons why I started learning in 2010 and launched the brand in 2015. It was five years of going to the workshop and sitting there until two in the morning, wanting to learn every detail, every technical complexity, before I launched.”

Her pieces are labours of love – honed over time and painstakingly perfected to the nth degree. “Making something for the first time can take anything up to a month ,” Khouri says. “I am very picky, and I sit with the wax carver, and tell him do this and do that, so it really takes a lot of time. Everything is carved in wax, and it is like small pieces of sculpture.

“I don’t want to do anything simple, this is part of my personality. Even with making, it is the technical challenges that really draw me. I am one of those people who doesn’t want to live in my comfort zone. Now, I admit, I am thinking: ‘OK, I have done jewellery, what’s next?’”

I can’t help but ask: does she enjoy making life difficult for herself? “That’s what everyone keeps telling me,” she responds with a laugh. “My artisans are always asking: ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’ If they could put me in prison, I think they would. They work on a piece and if I don’t like it, we break it. And it will be something small, a tiny little thing that no one sees but me, but I can’t ... I just can’t.”

‘Living, moving history’

Selina Denman attends the Cartier Travel with Style Concours d’Elegance and discovers vintage cars that were as prized as precious gems by the maharajas who once owned them

“I have been obsessed with classic cars my whole life,” Yasmin Le Bon tells me as we sit chatting on the terrace of Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace. “I love this idea of living, moving history.”

We are looking out over the hotel’s expansive lawns, where rows of lovingly restored cars gleam in the sun. There’s a 1906 Renault Freres 8HP Runabout, affectionately referred to as “the lady in red”; a 1921 Fiat 501S Corsa Speedster that once belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala; hulking Rolls-Royces in varying hues; a white 1960 Ford Thunderbird that is the property of the current Maharaja of Jaipur; and a seven-seater 1934 Daimler limousine ordered by the Princess of Kolhapur, a young widow who demanded that every element of her “purdah” car be customised in pearly white, including the interior, wheels, brakes, chassis and steering wheel.

Passion. Emotion. Stories. These are the things that set the Cartier Travel with Style Concours d’Elegance apart, according to its high-profile panel of judges. The classic car event was launched in 2008 to highlight India’s rich automotive history and, over the subsequent decade, it has been instrumental in encouraging a younger generation of Indian collectors, enhancing vehicle restoration standards in the country, and showcasing its remarkable motoring heritage to the rest of the world.

Yasmin Le Bon was a judge at the Cartier Travel With Style Concours d'Elegance.

Yasmin Le Bon was a judge at the Cartier Travel With Style Concours d'Elegance.

“The level of passion I’m seeing is really extraordinary,” Le Bon, former supermodel, car fanatic and concours judge, says of the 2019 edition of Cartier Travel with Style. It’s a sentiment that’s reiterated during my conversations with the event’s curator, Manvendra Singh Barwani, and chief judge, Simon Kidston.

Long before it became a trend in Europe, India’s maharajas were collecting cars – mainly because they bought so many and never really got around to selling any. Kidston points out that today, in the West, the value of a classic car has been reduced to a monetary sum – these four-wheeled investments are shipped off to be meticulously restored and then rolled out at concours around the world, in the hope they will pick up a prize that will, in turn, boost their commercial value. The cars on show at the Rambagh Palace, meanwhile, are prized because they are shrouded in history, sentimentality and nostalgia – these are cars that were once driven by the country’s royals, that in some cases lay forgotten for years in the garages of ancient palaces. They are  vehicles that recall a bygone era and, in many instances, have been in the same family for decades.

Barwani, the man credited with bringing India’s automotive history to the attention of the world, happily recounts the story of a car he once owned but has since gifted to his daughter, Vidita Singh of Barwani. On display at the Jaipur event, the red 1955 Ford Thunderbird first belonged to Prince Shiv of Palitana, a renowned playboy with a penchant for actresses and showgirls. The prince would drive all over Europe in his fiery red convertible, leaving a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Vehicles that showcase India's rich automotive heritage are displayed on the grounds of Jaipur's Rambagh Palace.

Vehicles that showcase India's rich automotive heritage are displayed on the grounds of Jaipur's Rambagh Palace.

These classic vehicles hark back to a simpler, more authentic time in automotive design, suggests the acclaimed British product and transportation designer Peter Stevens, another judge at this year’s concours.

“I think that, to a great degree, honesty has become lost in modern vehicles. In the past, a simple low-cost car for people of restricted means did not pretend to be an off-road adventurer’s car or an ultra-high performance car when it clearly was nothing of the sort. Similarly, a luxury car was, in the past, an elegant statement of style and quality, not something to belittle or intimidate other road users. Marketing has become the major influence on car design, rather than the creativity of the designers.”

There are 86 vehicles on display in Jaipur, as well as 26 motorcycles, in 14 classes that include Pre-War Classics, Post-War Classics, Indian Heritage (which covers cars made and assembled cars in India from 1947 to 1965), and a new Ford Thunderbird class.

But it is the launch of a Pre-War Transportation category that really brings a new dimension to proceedings. Stevens is delighted by the inclusion of this new class, rightly pointing out that while many of the other cars on show would only have been seen and used by the very upper echelons of Indian society, the trucks and buses that are featured in this new category would have touched the lives of countless people around the country.

Collier Rajastan from Cartier's Tutti Frutti collection.

Collier Rajastan from Cartier's Tutti Frutti collection.

Taking pride of place in the foregrounds of the Rambagh Palace are a 1930 Chevrolet 1½ tonne Series LS Truck used by the Dyer Meakin brewery to transport Lion beer to British soldiers; and a 1934 Chevrolet 1½ tonne Series PA Truck that started its life as a water tanker for the Mandsaur fire department – this particular vehicle was retrieved from a scrapyard and rebuilt almost from scratch in only six months.

“The reason for promoting this new class of cars is that, if not showcased, they will go into scrap,” stresses Barwani. “These are typical Indian things, which have Indian heritage, an Indian connection, have been used only in India and display the distinct culture of how we travelled. This is one of the main reasons that this concours is unique.”

Also unique is the car that wins the concours’s Best of Show trophy: a commanding green and white 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Streamline Coupé. “There were three things that made the Gurney Nutting Rolls-Royce stand out,” Stevens explains. “First was the two-tone colour scheme, which exactly duplicated the original colours.

“Then, the detailing, all those little things that are of the same design style and feel, so that all look like they belong on the car. Thirdly, the ‘stance’. This is a difficult thing to define, but is basically the relationship of the body to the ground. It is too easy for a restored car to be a bit low at the back – so it looks like the boot is full of potatoes. Or the front looks a bit too low, as if the front springs have become tired. To set the stance properly, the owner managed to get copies of the original build sheets from Rolls-Royce. It is this kind of painstaking research that contributed to the perfect presentation of the car.”

Jacques Cartier with Indian gemstone merchants, 1911.

Jacques Cartier with Indian gemstone merchants, 1911.

For Cartier, the concours is a chance for the brand to restate and reinforce its relationship with India. Jacques Cartier, grandson of the founder of the famed jewellery house, first travelled to the country in 1911, in search of the finest gemstones, and returned regularly thereafter. On that first trip, he met the Maharaja of Patiala, who would go on to give Cartier one of its largest ever commissions: the resetting of his crown jewels in the 1930s. A highlight from that collection is the famed Patiala necklace, which features nearly 3,000 diamonds, as well as the 234-carat De Beers diamond at its centre.

Besides commissions, Jacques returned from India brimming with new ideas. He was exposed to a new aesthetic – colourful, vibrant and unfettered in its approach to mixing shapes and shades. He brought this back to the West at a time when Orientalism was gaining traction and he introduced it into the Cartier oeuvre, most famously in the form of the colourful, exuberant Tutti Frutti collection.

“This was the starting point of a genuine relationship where maharajas entrusted the maison’s creativity, expertise and craftsmanship to magnify their gemstones into marvellous designs,” says Christophe Massoni, chief executive of Cartier Middle East, Africa and India.

“Today, with the Travel with Style exhibition, these unique and historical cars are precious treasures of India, just as Cartier jewels were to maharajas. This magnificent event highlights the heritage, the transmission and a unique sense of beauty – values that are so dear to this beautiful country and deeply carved into Cartier’s DNA.”

Baselworld surprises

Visitor and exhibitor numbers may have been down, but the biggest event in the luxury watch world’s calendar proved one thing: Baselworld is still the harbinger of all things haute and horological. Alex Doak and Laura McCreddie-Doak present 10 of the best launches for both men and women

The rickety tram ride from Basel’s old town to Messeplatz, or Exhibition Square, is a curious tableau. Medieval quaintness and winding streets quickly yield to the mighty Rhine, with the chimneys of big pharma spiking its banks in the distance. Over the river, the urbanity picks up again, but with city-limits mundanity and an edge of seediness. Then, suddenly, a sharp corner and you’re plunged into it: Baselworld, the world’s biggest watch and jewellery fair for more than 100 years.

Venturing inside Herzog & de Meuron’s metal-clad mothership of an exhibition hall, you’re swept along into a cavernous space roughly comparable to three Abu Dhabi mega-malls – all bolted together for seven days of wheeling and dealing to the tune of billions of dollars of trade.

Nonetheless, this year’s Baselworld should have been a far more subdued affair than ever, despite the bling-bling hyperbole. With the traditional trade-fair format (and even fashion-show formats) acquiescing to social-media-fuelled “see-now, buy-now” urgency, the show has haemorrhaged exhibitors in recent years, including its biggest, the Swatch Group. As expected, visitors were down by a hefty 22 per cent.

Put it down to the wall-to-wall sunshine or the surprisingly varied and gender-balanced novelties on show – whatever it was, this year’s fair still managed to defy all odds and prove to be a marquee year. Both product and industry optimism were in full bloom, and it was difficult to imagine any other event, webcast or hashtag replacing the buzzy relevance of Basel. Allow us to present the evidence.

Men's: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic

The Roman jeweller’s watch division has proved its Swiss-made credentials with formidable aplomb in recent years – not just through in-house factory autonomy, but also by establishing its Octo’s squashed ziggurat of monumental facets as the most important watch design of the 21st century (so far).

On top of all that, Bulgari has the cheek to smash every ultra-slim record going. Tourbillon, automatic watch, manually wound watch, chiming minute repeater, and now the least predictable yet: the thinnest-ever mechanical chronograph in watchmaking history, both manual and self-winding.

It also manages to throw a second time-zone GMT function into the mix for good measure. Unpredictable because, despite its ubiquity, a stopwatch function is particularly hard to master – and Bulgari hadn’t even tried before, let alone down to wafer-like 3.3-millimetre slimness.

Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT

This extraordinary, H R Giger-esque cyborg of a watch is the latest result of Hublot and Ferrari’s hand-in-hand design approach. Like 2017’s extraordinary Techframe, which celebrated Ferrari’s 70th anniversary – a watch whose attention to detail extended to screw recesses that echoed the rear diffuser of an F12tdf – this latest bit of epic horological experimentation has been conceived and designed by Ferrari itself, under the leadership of head of design Flavio Manzoni.

It looks to the sinuous forms of Maranello’s finest Gran Turismo road cars for design inspiration, rather than the businesslike edge of the Scuderia’s F1 racers. For the new Ferrari GT, the starting point for Manzoni’s team at Centro Stile Ferrari was the Hublot Unico chronograph movement – the engine of the watch.

Around this, they freely designed a high-performance, biomorphic chassis,a concentrical suspended element that enhancesthe sophisticated mechanics whirring away beneath.

Junghans Max Bill 100 Jahre Bauhaus

Junghans Max Bill 100 Jahre Bauhaus Like fellow countryman Nomos Glashütte, Junghans’ Max Bill collection is defined by the minimalist modernity of Germany’s Bauhaus movement – the difference here being direct pedigree. The titular Herr Bill, a protégée of the influential school of design’s founder Walter Gropius, created an alarm clock for Junghans in 1956, its crisp dial sashaying into wristwatch form in the 1960s.

Like Nomos’s Tangente, its design language is so on point, it has remained untouched for more than half a century. To mark Bauhaus’s 100th anniversary this year, a cocktail of flourishes have been worked into Junghans’s purest Max Bill, all of which pass muster: a prime-red date display, contrasted by a strap and PVD case coating in grey that emulate the concrete cladding of the school building in Weimar.

Flip side, Junghans has sought special dispensation to reveal the mechanics through the clear caseback – a flourish of technical pride that certainly wouldn’t pass muster at the Weimar school.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5212A-001 Weekly Calendar

Winner of Baselworld 2019, hands down. Which is ironic, given the sheer number of actual hands: five, all pivoting from the same central point with an elegance that belies the feat of micro-engineering required to Russian-doll so many axes.

Take a look at the typography – created explicitly for this watch, the text is based on the handwriting of an in-house designer. It’s a poetic flourish recalling a time when many of us wrote notes in paper journals – a clever touch for what is Patek’s first calendar watch to indicate not only the day, date and month, but also the week. Despite being a bit of numerical info restricted to the disparate worlds of accountants, diary publishers and pregnant women, it works on an esoteric level.

Sure, the mechanics benefit from Patek’s technical élan – anti-backlash seconds wheels made by lithography and the like – but it is the dance of the dial that really steals the show.

Zenith Defy Inventor

Before bowing out of daily responsibilities heading up LVMH’s luxury watch division, Jean-Claude Biver’s last act as the genius of watchmaking’s modern age was to consolidate the technical minds of Tag Heuer, Zenith and Hublot.

Meaning 2017’s far-out Defy Lab concept from Zenith has indeed defied the naysayers, by seeing the light of day in marketable form within less than two years – demonstrating what happens when a normally closeted industry pools its R&D resources. The renamed Inventor does away entirely with the traditional, tick-tick-ticking assembly of balance wheel, hairspring and lever escapement, replacing its 30 parts with just one: a single wafer of silicon, stencilled into Mondrian abstractness.
It twitches at 15Hz, bringing the whole, openworked dial display to life, measuring an error of just one second across 70 hours’ autonomy. Nothing else mechanical comes close to that.

Women's: Chanel J12

The J12 is back (not that it ever went away), but in a more refined guise. Arnaud Chastaingt, the director of Chanel’s watchmaking studio and the brains behind the likes of Monsieur, the Boy.Friend and the Code Coco, has said that he changed everything by changing nothing. In practise, his gnomic statement means the almost-20-year-old ceramic icon is sleeker and more refined, with some fascinating mechanics ticking inside.

The team have sourced from the newly revealed Kenissi Manufacture – the industrial arm that Tudor established about five years ago to gain independence from mothership Rolex, 20 per cent of which Chanel acquired in January this year. Called the 12.1 calibre, the J12’s movement appears to be based on Tudor’s MT5621 chronometer, now boasting a slickly designed circular winding rotor emulating the bridges beneath.

Chanel is clearly making a renewed, highly fashion-forward bid for a slice of the ticking women’s timepiece pie. Omega and Tag Heuer might want to watch out.

Gucci Grip

Until now, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele has contented himself with revamping old watch styles, such as the G-Timeless and G-Frame, but this year he has branched out into entirely new territory with this 1970s skateboard-inspired design. And it’s the wonderful mix of contrasts that we’ve come to expect from this risk-taking designer.

Firstly, it doesn’t really look like a watch at all, more like a parking metre, with its cushion-shaped case – a stylistic nod to the places on a skateboard where your feet are placed. Deceptively, it resembles a jump hour; however, the circle at the bottom reveals the date, while the two apertures at the top show the minutes and hours.

While there are myriad case and strap options to choose from, there’s something perennially elegant about a steel case pared with a green strap. Time to get a Grip.

Breitling Superocean Automatic 36

Breitling doesn’t really do cute; it does big, burly watches for men who do (or would like to do) daring things. Which is why this Superocean was such a surprise. Being Breitling, this is first and foremost a tool watch.

It has a unidirectional bezel, rubber strap and is good to 200 metres, so you can take it scuba diving. However, it also wins in the style stakes, with a baby-blue dial that immediately conjures thoughts of sun loungers next to a sun-glossed blue sea. This is one of those rare finds – a practical timepiece that won’t earn you disapproving looks from the fashion police.

Just pair with a Hunza G one-piece and some Saint Laurent shades for the ultimate summer look.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36

As day one of Baselworld dawns, all eyes are on the show’s biggest exhibitors, Patek Philippe and Rolex – both of which keep watertight embargoes prior to the event. So with the inevitable flurry of chatter regarding Rolex’s literally watertight Yacht-Masters, the women’s pieces were (typically) overlooked. But not here.

An all-gold Day-Date has always had a 1980s shoulder-padded glamour about it, but now it’s been given an extra dose of pizzazz, courtesy of diamonds on numerals and bezel, and a very eye-catching turquoise dial. Due to the nature of the stone, every dial will have a distinctive set of markings, making each one unique.

Powering it is Rolex’s new superefficient movement, with a three-day power reserve, so it will still show the right day and date on Monday if you take it off on Friday. Though when something looks as fabulous as this, why would you want to?

Reservoir Lady Longbridge

Driving watches tend to be geared more towards men – probably something to do with their links to automotive sport, which historically didn’t have a place for women, unless they were scantily clad and draped on a bonnet.

That’s what makes this watch from France-based but Swiss-made Reservoir so refreshing and so cool. All of its watches have a jump hour at six o’clock and retrograde minutes, and take inspiration from either car or airplane dashes. As the name suggests, this dial is inspired by the dash of a vintage Mini (Longbridge being the name of the plant where the first Mini was built), complete with light indicators – only decorative, unfortunately.

With its pale-pink dial and mint-green strap, it looks like the type of watch Thunderbirds’s Lady Penelope would wear. Parker, ready the Rolls-Royce.

Smart jewellery

Sophie Prideaux picks out some high-end accessories that look good, but will also look after you

Bellabeat Leaf Chakra

The Leaf Chakra from Bellabeat is the subtle way to wear smart jewellery. The pendant, which comes in a natural rose quartz with silver hardware, or natural onyx framed in rose gold, could easily be mistaken for an elegant jewellery piece, but in reality is much more than that.

The Leaf Chakra is a natural wellness tracker that is especially attuned to women’s health. The pendant allows its wearer to keep tabs on all aspects of their wellbeing, such as sleep patterns, stress levels and reproductive health, helping to create a unique algorithm that will let you know when you are physically more susceptible to stress.

The tracker syncs with the Bellabeat app, which offers daily motivation and advice on dealing with stress, as well as connecting users with the Bellabeat online community. The Leaf Chakra can be worn as a necklace or a brooch.


Talsam charm

The smart technology in Talsam jewellery is less about practicality and more about passion. In terms of functionality, this pendant does not have the same specs as others on the market, Instead, it focuses on the romantic sentiments traditionally associated with jewellery, allowing two wearers to connect through a series of subtle and intimate communication signs.

Talsam’s founder wanted to design a piece of jewellery that he could use to send his loved one a signal every time he was thinking of her, and that is how the charm was born. It will flash whenever a signal is sent to it via a connecting app, as well as containing a secret message sent from a linked Talsam charm. It also allows a signal to be sent if a wearer is ever in trouble, providing an instant location and SOS alert.

The inaugural charm collection comes in a number of colours, including Lapis Lazuli and Amazonite. The detachable object can be worn as a pendant or bracelet, and can be purchased as a standalone item or as part of a linked pair.


Oura ring

Oura describes itself as “the world’s most advanced wearable” and is packed full of complex sensors to help its wearer develop a deep understanding of their body. The thick metal bands could easily be mistaken for a wedding ring and, in fact, was, when Prince Harry was spotted wearing an Oura on his right hand during a royal visit to Australia in October.

But the smart ring is actually an advanced sleep tracker, which tunes in to even the subtlest body changes to provide an accurate and clear picture of sleep patterns and the factors contributing to any changes. Oura ringsIt features a body temperature sensor that takes a reading every minute while the wearer is asleepsleeps, comparing these with stored data to create a temperature baseline and highlight any deviations from it.

It also it uses infrared LEDs to measure blood volume directly from the palmar arteries of the finger, alongside the usual activity tracking. There is little deviation in the Oura design, aside from shades varying from black, silver and “stealth”, although there is now a diamond-encrusted version on offer.

Dh 3,669,

Samsung Galaxy Watch 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch in rose gold offers a more feminine take on the traditionally robust-looking smart watch. It’s pretty, pinkish hue is matched with a gold face that realistically mimics the dial of a mechanical watch. In this instance, however, the display offers military-grade durability, swim-ready water resistance and Corning Gorilla Glass DX+ that prevents it from getting scratched.

The Galaxy Watch pairs with both Android and iOS smartphones, via Bluetooth. It will track workouts automatically, monitor your heart rate and detect when you switch from one activity to another.

It also allows you to check your schedule, make and receive calls with an integrated speaker and voice microphone, respond to texts, and access scores, headlines and playlists. The watch is available in two sizes and three colours, with a range of interchangeable bands.


Tag Heuer Connected Modular

Smart watches have traditionally been more about technology than style, moving away from the typical look of a classic timepiece. But Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer has bridged the gap with its Connected Modular.

The smart watch comes with a powerful Intel processor, giving the wearer up to 512MB of main memory and 4GB of storage, and is compatible with smartphones running Android 4.4+ or iOS9.3+. But it’s the design of the Connected Modular that really sets it apart. The watch is crafted in Tag Heuer’s La Chaux-de-Fonds Swiss workshop, using the same standards the brand applies to its mechanical chronographs.

The Connected Modular is designed with a black matte ceramic strap capped with an 18K 5N bezel, although the model is compatible with a number of strap textures and colours.


Unisex statement rings

Nadine Kanso

Big rings are big news for men and women alike. Nadine Kanso inlays vivid blue enamel and diamonds into rose gold for this eye-catching piece, which is purposefully chunky but still very feminine.

Roberto Cavalli

The florid Roberto Cavalli logo sits perfectly atop this upsized woman’s coin ring, which has an altogether rather regal feel to it.

Louis Vuitton

Like a gleaming knuckle duster, the intertwining letters make Louis Vuitton’s Louise a woman’s ring, in spite of its size.

Dolce & Gabbana

A Dolce & Gabbana man’s signet ring in gold is inlaid with jasper for a squared-off feel. It’s an interesting twist on an old classic.


The Florentine fashion brand ditches gender stereotypes altogether with this unisex ring. It is designed to be worn by absolutely anyone.

True blue

Tiffany & Co’s chief gemmologist Melvyn Kirtley discusses all things diamonds with Sophie Prideaux

There are few brands as instantly recognisable as Tiffany & Co. The storied jeweller’s signature blue boxes have become a symbol of both love and luxury, their contents longed for by romantics  across the globe.

And it’s that trademark hue that fills the presidential suite at Jumeirah Al Naseem in Dubai, where Melvyn Kirtley sits, looking out over the Arabian Gulf. “We’re completely blue today. We’ve got everything, from the ocean to the pillows,” he says, as I join him to take in the view.

“To Melvyn’s eyes,” interjects a colleague from across the room. And she’s right. The gemmologist’s eyes are as on-brand as the room’s decor, sparkling just like the diamonds he describes as he gets into one of the countless tales from his 30-year career at the luxury jewellery brand.

“It never gets old for me. Never,” he says, talking about the first moment he lays eyes on a newly unearthed gemstone. “I’m looking for the stars of the line-up. Really, we are auditioning these gemstones, and I am looking for those that really have that special something … a personality. The way they speak to you, the way they interact, the way they return the light – I’m looking for a lot of things.”

As chief gemmologist, it’s Kirtley’s job to source the stones that are Tiffany-fit – standards that 99.96 per cent of gem-grade diamonds fall short of, the brand says. And for those elite stones that do make the cut, Tiffany & Co will soon be adding another layer of quality assurance. The jeweller announced the launch of the Diamond Source Initiative in January, which will trace each of its diamonds of 0.18 carats or more. A unique serial number, invisible to the naked eye, is etched into the stone by laser. The initiative goes beyond the company’s existing no-conflict guarantee, allowing customers to trace the exact provenance of their individual stone. 

“It’s important to really know the beginnings and the pathway of the diamond through its life, all the way until it ends up on your finger,” Kirtley says. “It’s particularly important to our younger customers who really find that whole notion of provenance and origin a very important one to the story of their ring.”

Kirtley’s visit to Dubai coincides with the regional launch of Tiffany True – the first new engagement ring design from the company in 20 years. The True – in comparison to the signature Tiffany Setting sixprong – is subtle, while still maintaining a sought-after sparkle. The True cut was developed in-house, with the help of Kirtley, and combines a brilliant-round and emerald cut, in a world-first design. “The True has great power,” he says, rolling the band of the ring between his fingers, the light catching on the diamond as he does so. “It does have a lot of sparkle and scintillation, but it also has a lot of subtlety to it.”

At first it’s hard to understand what Kirtley means when he describes this ring as subtle. It’s a beautifully wide, soft square diamond – a piece of jewellery that would simply be impossible to miss, even on the coyest of hands. But when Kirtley presents the ring in the line-up of Tiffany’s entire engagement collection, I take his point. “It’s a slightly more subtle light return, but, for a square diamond, it gives it a lot more character,” he says, unable to take his eyes off the ring he helped to create.

For a man who sees and handles diamonds day in, day out, he still appears mesmerised by every stone he touches. Naturally, though, there are some that, for Kirtley, are truly unforgettable.

Worth an estimated $30 million (Dh110m), it’s not surprising that he cites the Tiffany Diamond as his most memorable gem. The rare yellow gemstone is so valuable, it has only been worn three times in history, one of which, incidentally, was by Lady Gaga in this year’s Oscars ceremony.

Gaga, he tells me, is a friend of the house, and her awards-season haul through the Tiffany archives is part of an ongoing narrative and “organic partnership”, lending opportunities for collaborations on a regular basis – an alliance Tiffany enjoys with a number of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But the house loaning Gaga its most treasured stone was the mark of an extra-special relationship, since the diamond last graced the neck of Audrey Hepburn in the promotional posters for the now seminal movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“I used to handle that diamond almost on a daily basis,” he says, remembering a time when he was manager of Tiffany’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York. “It’s a really special cut, a special stone. It’s got a beautiful brilliance; it’s a wonderful yellow. The Tiffany Diamond will always stick with me.”

While Kirtley now spends much of his time travelling around the world in search of gemstones, for him, there’s nowhere quite like that New York store.

“It’s an incredibly special place. Sometimes during Christmas, I would come down to the main floor and the activity going on would give me goosebumps,” he says. “For me, it’s a very emotional place. Everyone is there for a special reason. Even if they come in just to look, they are there to soak in the atmosphere – there’s no place like it in the world.”

Base line

Sarah Maisey looks at how humble materials such as wood and concrete are being transformed into precious pieces of jewellery

Silvia Furmanovich’s earrings are crafted from tiny pieces of wood salvaged from the Amazon - a pair of earrings can take up to two weeks to create.

Silvia Furmanovich’s earrings are crafted from tiny pieces of wood salvaged from the Amazon - a pair of earrings can take up to two weeks to create.

When we think of jewellery, the mind invariably turns to precious materials such as gold, platinum and diamonds. From the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and Mughal rulers of India to Europe’s ruling classes, the human race has long valued that which sparkles. Even in today’s digital age, betrothals are made with white diamonds and marriages sealed with bands of gold.

However, this was not always the case. In prehistoric times – before humans learnt how to extract metal from ore – our early ancestors adorned themselves with shells, bones and pieces of stone, as talismans and markers of status. The humblest of materials were imbued with beauty and treated with reverence.

Now, a small but growing number of jewellery designers are revisiting this mindset – seeing potential in materials with a value that goes well beyond weight and carat-count. One such pioneer in this part of the world is Azza Al Hujairi, a Bahraini jewellery designer and founder of Azza Showroom. Under this umbrella, Al Hujairi seeks out small, exciting designers from around the world, and brings them to the Middle East.

“When I got into jewellery, I was obsessed with the idea of what happens if we cease to exist as humans. What do we leave behind?” she explains. “If you go to a museum, you learn about how people lived, and who they were, from their jewellery. It’s so personal; it’s on your skin. So I am hunting the world for people who are focused on creating jewellery that immortalises things,” she says. “With Silvia’s pieces, they are immortalising nature.”

The aforementioned Silvia is founder of the Silvia Furmanovich jewellery brand, which is located in Brazil and crafts adornments from wood. Having grown up in a goldsmithing family (her father had his atelier in the family home, while one of her grandfathers was a goldsmith to the Vatican), Silvia Furmanovich launched her own company in 1997.

Jarina seeds drilled with tiny gemstones.

Jarina seeds drilled with tiny gemstones.

Keen to utilise the riches of her home country, she began to combine gold with Brazilian semi-precious stones, such as tourmaline and blue topaz, as well as salvaged woods, shells and even coral. She also began to use pieces she collected during her extensive travels, such as antique hand-carved Japanese netsuke. She created pieces such as cuffs made from tiny porcelain beads, strung on super-strength Kevlar for practicality. Elsewhere, she added brilliant-cut diamonds to tiny Rajasthani miniatures, while a necklace that looks like ivory is actually seeds from the jarina tree, buffed to a milky shine and inlaid with tiny gemstones.

Today, Silvia is helped by her son, Alexandre, who I recently met in Dubai. Walking me through the collection, he is quick to describe the painstaking process behind each piece. “This company was started by my mother 20 years ago, and we used to work with different materials all the time,” he explains. “We like experimentation and taking ideas from nature.”

Four years ago, Silvia came across artisans from northern Brazil who were specialists in wood marquetry. Intrigued by this delicate skill of patching tiny slivers of wood together to form an image, Silvia persuaded them to shift from making furniture, and focus instead on decorating a range of wooden clutches for her. The resulting pieces were so beautiful, she asked the workshop to reduce the scale even further and decorate earrings.

An ancient artform (the earliest surviving example of marquetry dates back to 2600 BC), it requires immense patience and skill. First, wood is sliced into thin sheets. It’s then hand-cut to shape, before the pieces are carefully assembled into a final form. The resulting wooden, mosaic-like effect has been used to decorate furniture for centuries. Scaling it down to jewellery, however, was unheard of.

“Everything is made with little pieces. One by one, they are hand-cut. To make the butterfly earrings, it takes about two weeks to make one pair. It takes one week to carve the wood, then we send it to the north for the marquetry,” says Alexandre.

A pair of intricately designed earrings.

A pair of intricately designed earrings.

As it is made from wood, most marquetry comes in shades of cream and brown. However Silvia Furmanovich’s pieces are brightly coloured, with intense emerald greens, strong blues and rich, earthy reds. “These are all natural colours and not dyed. Some of the colours come from a reaction with substances, like gunpowder, for example, which turns the wood red.

“Or the green, this comes from chrome. This is a chemical reaction that happens in the forest already. The trees pull up the minerals from the soil, and nothing is dyed. Nothing is tinted.” Alexandre holds up a pair of colourful earrings for me to inspect. “These are mushrooms that are found in the Amazon and we just took the colours from the original mushrooms,” he explains.

Not only is the palette entirely natural, but the wood itself is also salvaged from the rainforest. “The wood is all found and so is therefore sustainable, and that’s very important because it’s something that people will treasure. That these pieces are all made in the Amazon rainforest.”

Holding up a different pair of drop earrings for me to see, he explains: “This is made to look like the banana leaf. We used purple wood on the outside, and then see inside? The red part is inlaid with the marquetry.”
The workmanship is nothing short of extraordinary. One wooden clutch is faceted to look like a cut jewel, while a pair of fan earrings seem to be made of delicate yellow feathers.

Elsewhere in the brand’s collection, a large leaf wraps around a wrist, while a butterfly seems to have gently alighted on a necklace. “And it’s really handmade – from the cutting of the wood to the marquetry to the goldsmithing.”

A ring with a rose design.

A ring with a rose design.

Bringing together its skills, Silvia Furmanovich adds jewels to the marquetry, in spite of the extra challenges this presents. “The goldsmith has to be a real specialist to do this kind of work, so as not to damage the wood. He cannot put it into acid afterwards to clean the stones, for example, so he has to do it perfectly,” says Alexandre. “If the acid touches the wood it will stain it, so we have to make it again. It’s a huge process it takes about two or two-and-a-half months to get some of these pieces ready.”

An increasingly number of other companies are also embracing unexpected materials. Perhaps inspired by the Roman trend for portraits carved from shell, stone, glass or even lava, Italian brand Marni has been using resin and leather in its jewellery for some time. Its latest creations include the Lantern earrings, crafted from turquoise resin to create the shape of a fluted globe, and a pair of crystal-drop earrings with a mustard yellow leather stud.

Meanwhile, for autumn/winter 2019, Stella McCartney sent models down the runway with huge, oversized ropes of linen wrapped in silk thread, by textile artist Sheila Hicks, slung around waists and necks as exaggerated adornments. And it is not only high-end designers who are looking beyond the conventional. Canadian jewellery brand Konzuk Collections specialises in shaping concrete and stainless steel into sparse but delicate jewels. Frustrated with the narrow view of what constitutes jewellery, the brand’s founder, Karen Konzuk, looked outside the norm and began to experiment with a range of materials, which forced her to rethink her working methods in the process. The result is a collection she describes as “wearable architecture” and “Bauhaus-inspired geometric minimalism”.

Stripped entirely of frippery, the resulting pieces are starkly beautiful, with simple steel concave discs lined in black concrete presented as necklaces, earrings and even asymmetric rings. Mixing diamond dust into the concrete creates minuscule points of light that flash as the jewellery moves, calling to mind a dark night sky.

“The sparkle from the concrete and diamond dust evokes a velvety blackness,” Konzuk explains. “The concave dome-like pieces in this series are meant to evoke the magnetic power of black holes. Crafted from laser-cut stainless steel discs, the dome shape of each piece is hammered by hand with the use of only a dapping block.”

Inspired by a recent move, and the vast night sky that she now finds herself looking up at from her new home, Konzuk describes the collection as being an homage to “astronomy, nocturnal views and the timeless ritual of stargazing”.

While many are keen to invest in beautifully avant-garde jewellery that employs unexpected materials crafted into new shapes, Al Hujairi discovered that for others, old habits die hard.

“When I introduced Silvia into the region, it was at a big jewellery exhibition that was taking place, and other jewellers came up to see who the new competition was,” Al Hujairi recalls.

“When they realised the jewellery was made of wood, they looked at me with such sadness, that we were selling gold and wood together. They were almost angry, saying, how could I do that to people, selling wood for that price?

“But, actually, it is all just about expressing yourself. It is about using pieces of jewellery to highlight your own personality.”


... is the price of this watch vault and safe. Here's why it's so valuable

Vision, manufactured by Buben & Zorweg, ticks all the right boxes as far as luxury safes go. It is VdS-approved, a prestigious certification issued directly by German insurance companies, but is also handcrafted from the finest materials.

The stainless steel handles are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, while the semi-matte oak door frames a high-resistance security glass that’s variably mirrored, so you can choose to reveal or conceal the safe’s contents. The glass door is secured with a double electronic transponder lock, which can only be opened with an authorised digital passcode or emergency key.

Inside, the vault is divided into two sections. The top section is dominated by Buben & Zorweg’s patented 27 Time Mover, which provides a visually striking framework for watch collectors that allows them the freedom to choose how to present their precious possessions, and comes in-built with the brand’s signature clock.

The main safe, adorned with Orion stitching in plush black velour, sits below. It includes its own Time Mover watch-winding technology and holds a further eight timepieces. The interior also comes with a high-gloss Macassar finish, LED lighting with a fading function and two opaque storage drawers.

The Vision can be purchased as a standalone or inbuilt piece. The latter will be presented for the first time at the Milan Furniture Fair this month, while the former can be ordered now from Buben & Zorweg’s showroom in Dubai.

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