There have been books published about Chanel—and Chanel jewelry—in the past. But at 500-plus pages, a new title from Thames & Hudson may be the definitive (and most deluxe) volume yet. The book is the size of a breakfast tray, but functionally serves as a portable archive of the maison’s transcendent designs and editorial moments, while also showcasing the more recent creative contributions of Patrice Leguéreau, director of the Chanel Fine Jewelry Creation Studio since 2009.
Covering 100 years of the maison’s most iconic motifs, Chanel High Jewelry tells a story of timelessness, whether it’s a photo of a young Christy Turlington wearing a diamond star brooch pinned to a sleeveless gray sweatshirt in 1994 or a tuxedo-clad Kristen Stewart flaunting a giant diamond cocktail ring in 2019.
Archival photos of Gabrielle Chanel (the text refers to her in this way in text—never Coco—or as simply, Mademoiselle) and some of her famous bon mots related to jewels and adornment weave in and out of the narrative. Meanwhile, readers will revisit the faces of Chanel over the years including Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, and Keira Knightly—alongside a parade of international fashion models such as Kate Moss, Adut Akech and the late Stella Tennant. The fashion photographer credits are also top-shelf: Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, François Kollar, Roger Schall, George Hoyningen-Huene, André Kertész, Sarah Moon, Koto Bolofo, Karim Sadli, Dominique Issermann, among others.
The book’s lavishly illustrated content and ample size will add some sophisticated wow factor to the seating area of a contemporary jeweler’s store or atelier and will be like catnip to a jewelry designer seeking inspiration. But the text, written by Julie Levoyer, beauty director at Bazaar France and Agnès Muckensturm, an independent editor and copywriter, also delivers Chanel-curious readers a fine education on the historical origins of the brand’s fine jewelry DNA and its enduring legacy.
The book kicks off with a deep dive into Gabrielle Chanel’s seminal high jewelry series from 1932, known as Bjoux de Diamants. It encompassed about 50 pieces with white and yellow diamonds and embraced a galaxy of celestial motifs: comet tails, five-point stars, and blazing suns. There were also couture-inspired feathers and bows, fringed bracelets, and diadems.
Inherently glamorous, graphic, and scintillating (especially when encrusted with diamonds!), Bijoux de Diamants’ reigning star motifs, in particular, continue to enchant Chanel’s fine jewelry artisans.
Compare, for example, the Méte necklace, our first iteration of Mademoiselle’s fascination with the cosmos, to the Cométe Volute transformable brooch/bracelet from 2022 (both pictured below).
And any student of Gabrielle Chanel knows that she had a deep affection for symbols (like the number 5), some of which she treasured on a personal level.
Among these are shafts of wheat, which reminded her of her childhood in the country, and are symbols of plenty and good fortune. She displayed wheat in a vase in her apartment and were the subject of a painting she commissioned from Salvador Dali.
Others, like Mademoiselle’s famous coromandel screen, her great affection for camellias, tweed, quilting, pearls, Byzantine motifs, and the now-iconic, geometric shape of the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle, have come to define the current design codes of the brand’s fine jewelry creations. As the book highlights, the fine jewelry atelier continues to mine these stimuli for inspiration, reimagining the themes anew.
Our advice: Come for the visuals, stay for the information, and see if you don’t emerge more enlightened to the world of Chanel and more inspired by the world around you: that is, your own aesthetic, and your most treasured possessions, textures, and talismans…
Top: Horizon Lointain necklace from the Coromandel Collection (2018) Photograph Julien Claessens and Thomas Deschamps. © CHANEL 2018