For the Love of Camellia

David Yip
keira knightly in Chanel jewellery

Chanel brings back Gabrielle’s much-loved muse and emblem

Which bride has not agonised for weeks, or even months, over the right bloom for her bouquet, or fussed over the floral arrangements on her big day?

Gabrielle Chanel
Gabrielle Chanel on the beach at Etretat, circa 1913 © CHANEL

Weddings and flowers are always mentioned in the same breath. They are made for each other — much like Chanel and camellias. The flower of her passions, Gabrielle Chanel discovered the camellia in the pages of Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias — whose heroine always wore a white camellia to signify her purity — and became fascinated. And when her beau, Boy Capel, presented her with her first bouquet of camellias, she was smitten.

Without thorns or fragrance, Gabrielle found in the camellia’s geometric roundness and the classic and perfect symmetry of its petals a simple exquisiteness. The flower became one of her lifelong emblems and muses, especially the white camellia, which she would wear like a jewel in stark contrast against her little black dress.

keira knightly in Chanel jewellery
Keira Knightley wearing the Rouge Incandescent transformable necklace in white gold, rubies, and diamonds

This year sees the Maison transforming this key inspiration of its founder into one of the most creative and experimental suites of Chanel High Jewellery ever — the 1.5 Collection. Gabrielle was a believer in numerology, and ‘5’ was her lucky number. Her twice-yearly fashion shows were held on the fifth day of the month. The 1.5 — ‘1 Camélia. 5 Allures’ — High Jewellery collection presents 50 pieces, about half of which can be taken apart and converted into at least five other variations to give the wearer amazing freedom of choice and unprecedented possibilities to express her personality. Numerology and transformability converge here in pursuit of the liberation and empowerment of women through fashion — exactly the life’s work of Mademoiselle Chanel.

The camellia silhouette is the inspiration of every design, expressed in a multitude of forms and accented with pink sapphires, red rubies, and modern rose gold. To achieve seamless transformability, Chanel’s jewellers had to devise discreet clips and fastenings that allowed parts to be removed and reattached with ease, so that women would readily wear the pieces in the way they wanted. And also, designs had to look complete and beautiful even after parts had been detached.

Chanel tranformable necklace in diamond and gold
Révélation Diamant transformable necklace in white gold and diamonds

The results can be seen in the collection’s most technically challenging — and valuable — piece, the Révélation Diamant necklace. Priced at S$6.5 million and requiring more than 1,400 hours of work, the necklace’s versatility starts with the detachable camellia motif that can be worn in multiple ways, including as a hairpin and a brooch, and continuing with the necklace, which can be worn long or short, as a choker, or even cascading down a bare back.

Another convertible piece, the white gold Rouge Incandescent necklace with rubies and diamonds, reveals another openwork camellia motif encrusted with baguette-cut rubies. When detached, the camellia can be worn as a brooch.

Chanel diamond watch
Eclat de Diamant watch with its 8.02ct rose-cut diamond

The Cristal Illusion watch, on the other hand, uses rarely seen material in high jewellery — rock crystal or colourless quartz — in domes set with white gold cut-out camellias. Its dial flips to reveal a camellia, transforming the watch into a bracelet.  Another watch has a design that showcases a diamond cut that was popular once, but now seldom seen. The Eclat de Diamant watch with its 8.02ct rose-cut diamond atop the watch dial, partially concealing its face, brings back the warm, antique quality of the rose cut and evokes the feel of an item meant to be passed down the generations. Its camellia motif can be detached and worn as a brooch as well.

Small as they are, the rings are transformable, too. The Rouge Tentacion ring, crafted in pink gold, red spinels and diamonds, has diamond petals that are removable to reveal a spinel ring, and can be attached to a small pink gold and diamond Camélia brooch for an oversized effect.

Camelai treasure box by Chanel
Camélia Treasure Box in white gold, mother of pearl, diamonds, cultured pearls, and tourmaline

Rounding off this constantly surprising collection is the Camelia Treasure Box, an ornate pillbox made of white gold, mother of pearl, diamonds, cultured pearls and tourmaline. The camellia motif that sits atop the lid can be detached and worn as a delightful brooch — a ‘secret’ in keeping with the free-spiritedness of Gabrielle Chanel, who once said: “You live but once, you might as well be amusing.”

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