High Jewellery highlights 2020: a unique season of shining stars

06 Aug 2020 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Mhairi Mann

This season, feats of creativity include experiments with NASA-worthy materials, gravity-defying artistry and thousands-upon-thousands of diamonds

Ordinarily, the world’s fashion cognoscenti descend upon Paris in July for a flurry of haute couture shows and intimate high jewellery presentations, which take place behind the distinguished doors of Place Vendôme – High Jewellery’s historic heartland.

This year, Place Vendôme remained quiet. There were no haute couture shows. No private dinners, presentations, gilt chairs or galas. Ateliers have only recently returned to work following the easing of government lockdown restrictions and fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, have opted instead to reveal jewellery collections later in the year.

There is, however, still cause for celebration as the world’s leading jewellers unveil extraordinary new collections to be admired – albeit virtually, for now. Not even the pixilated restraints of a Zoom call could diminish the intricate handcraftsmanship and luminosity of this season’s rarest treasures from Boucheron, Cartier, Piaget and Pomellato.

True to form, these artisanal wonders capture the earth, the moon and the sky and offer a much-needed shot of glittering escapism, even if just for a moment.

Contemplation by Boucheron

When Claire Choisne, Boucheron’s creative director-cum-jewellery magician, began designing the 2020 collection, little did she know just how prescient it would be. Coined Contemplation, her celestial offering ponders the concept of solitude and transient moments, through ethereal and highly technical creations, inspired by the skies above.

For her first trick, Choisne tracked down physicist and visual artist Dr. Ioannis Michaloudis to create a pendant using opalescent aerogel, which is one of the lightest solid materials known to man. Developed by NASA, it is more commonly used to insulate spacesuits and capture cometary particles. Never before has it been encased in rock crystal and hung from a diamond choker, “like a piece of sky you can wear around your neck.” The result, shown in the video above, really is out of this world.

Flèche du Temps earrings in diamonds, mother of pearl and white gold; Weightless Cloud necklace featuring 4,018 round white diamonds and 2,000 glass beads

Elsewhere, the extraordinary Weightless Cloud necklace is made from an astonishing 4,018 round white diamonds and 2,000 diminutive glass beads, suspended as though floating in the air on 7,000 fine wires. The whisper-weight design, which took almost two years to complete, settles around the wearer’s neck and weighs less than 12 ounces.


La Gioia di Pomellato

Gourmette Caméléon and Gourmette Assoluta chain necklaces

Praise be to Pomellato for persevering with its debut High Jewellery collection, despite the challenges of a global pandemic. La Gioia di Pomellato, or The Joy of Pomellato, launches during a time when we could definitely all do with a little bit more delight. The ebullient collection takes the Milanese maison’s signature designs, including chunky Gourmette chains and rounded Nudo stones, and dials them up to 10 using extra-special materials.

Like a rainbow around your neck, the Gourmette Caméléon chain is set with an ombre of coloured gemstones in 27 luminous shades. A scintillating variation, Gourmette Assoluta, is frosted with no less than 3,000 white diamonds.

Nudo Collier Plastron with diamonds and Nudo gemstones

The bib-like Nudo Plastron necklace features tiers of distinctive Nudo stones, including Mediterranean blue topaz, sunny yellow quartz and raspberry garnets.

For more than 50 years, the prêt-à-porter maison has blurred the lines between occasion and everyday jewellery. Founded by Pino Rabolini in 1967, Pomellato pioneered the use of coloured gemstones and quickly became known for its rounded, tactile forms and kaleidoscopic palettes, which stood out against the more conservative Italian designs of the decade.


[Sur]Naturel by Cartier

The Hemis necklace evokes panther fur in kunzite, black opals and diamonds; the sinuous Opheis necklace restyles the serpent in onyx and diamond, with an emerald centre stone head

Cartier has long looked to the animal kingdom for inspiration, from its quintessential prowling panther to curling crocodiles and serpents. The new 93-piece [Sur]Naturel collection unleashes a new menagerie into the wild, distilled through an abstract lens. Flora and fauna take on a sinuous, surrealist form, in hyper-pigmented, psychedelic colourways.

The fur of Cartier’s emblematic panther unfurls on the Hemis necklace, set with pebble-like, polished opals in irregular shapes and sizes (no small feat for Cartier’s fastidious gem-setter). These gather around a 71.8-carat kunzite centre stone, interspersed with pavé-diamonds.

Panthère Tropicale watch in yellow gold with diamond, onyx, coral, aquamarine and tourmaline

The standout Panthère Tropicale wristwatch juxtaposes pavé-diamonds and feline onyx spots with delicate coral, which is carefully gadrooned to create a textured, curved effect. The bold design is topped with glowing tourmaline and aquamarine for a fresh interpretation of the traditional Cartier big cat, which is fabulously uplifting.


Wings of Light by Piaget

A gouache illustration of the Majestic Plumage necklace

Piaget’s new Wings of Light collection is evocative of a faraway, fairylike jungle. The star of the collection is the asymmetrical Majestic Plumage necklace, featuring an exotic bird in flight that rests asymmetrically on one collarbone. Piaget called upon esteemed Parisian feather artist Nelly Saunier to replicate the delicate nature of each plume, set with a rainbow of vivid sapphires and spinels. The wings can also be detached and worn as single or dual ear cuffs.


Red Carpet Collection by Chopard

Chopard Red Carpet collection

This season, Chopard traded the glamorous surrounds of Cannes Film Festival for a digital unveiling of its Red Carpet collection. Continuing the ever-popular theme of the natural world, the maison presents a playful cast of diamond-encrusted polar bears, wide-eyed owls and smiling seals, with piercing gemstone eyes.

Elsewhere, Ginkgo chandelier earrings introduce overlapping green tsavorites and yellow sapphires, hung with pear-cut emeralds. Another set, resembling two floating orchids, is made from light-as-air titanium. Black cabochon-cut opals emerge from sapphire petals, creating gentle movement with each turn of the head. While they may have missed their red carpet debut, these technically impressive, cocktail-ready earrings will no doubt get their moment in front of the flashbulbs later in the year.