As Dior Joaillerie celebrates its twentieth anniversary we take a look back at the journey of Creative Director Victoire de Castellane as she presents a new collection to celebrate the history of the jewellery maison
Since the first inception of Dior Joaillerie twenty years ago Creative Director Victoire de Castellane has been at the helm of this luxury sector of the French Maison. Over two decades, she has designed thousands of high jewellery and fine jewellery pieces included dozens of collections and many one-off bespoke jewellery pieces for individual clients. Castellane is a legend in the jewellery making business and has loved jewellery since she can remember.
As a young girl, Victoire de Castellane admired the flamboyant jewels of her grandmother who she remembers “changing her jewels several times a day so that they match with her outfits”. At the age of five, she took apart a lucky charm bracelet to make it into a pair of earrings. And at twelve years old, without telling her mother, she melted down her gold medallions and accordingly created her first ring. Castellane was brought up with tales about her great-great-uncle, the French politician Boni de Castellane, who was never seen without his pocket watch, cufflinks and signet ring.
Castellane’s creative influences were with her through her whole childhood and her love for jewellery was undeniable. Her career in jewellery began with Chanel, where she joined as a studio assistant working alongside Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld soon asked her to oversee the development of costume jewellery designs and her passion grew and grew. Castellane worked with Chanel for fourteen years until in 1998 a brand new jewellery department was created by the Maison Christian Dior. Victoire de Castellane was appointed Artistic Director.
From this moment on, the invincible quartet of precious stones – diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires – were to keep a lower profile amongst the chromatic richness of coloured fine stones. Now everyone could discover the infinitely shaded hues of the tourmaline, spinel and morganite or even the opal, Castellane’s favourite.
Castellane has had many sources of inspiration over the years. From Manga cartoon characters and Alice in Wonderland to the Grimm brothers and Walt Disney movies to carnivorous flowers, candies, the visual excesses of Bollywood, the obscure depths of the subconscious and her own childhood memories.
Victoire de Castellane has a unique way of designing jewellery. She creates narrative jewellery revealing poetic and fantastic tales centred around the house of Dior. Each theme represents the codes of Maison Christian Dior and translates them into a treasured language. She has recognised Mr Christian Dior’s love of gardens and roses in particular with the Bal des Roses, Rose Dior Pré Catelan and Rose Dior Bagatelle collections. She acknowledged his love for architecture with the High Jewellery collection Archi Dior. And she looked to the the Château of Versailles, the very symbol of the French-style art of living, to inspire her High Jewellery trilogy, Dior à Versailles, Dior à Versailles, côté Jardins and Dior à Versailles, pièces secretes.
She also celebrated the Maison’s Haute Couture collections with the talisman medallion Rose des vents and the Dior Dior Dior collection of High Jewellery, unveiling precious lace, its unique properties scrolling freely unfolding on necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. Dior Joaillerie’s symbolic creations are worn like lucky charms imbued with a message of eternity.These jewels also reflect the standards of the jewellery-making metiers, always developing new kinds of know-how at the service of boundless creative freedom.
Now twenty years later Victoire de Castellane takes inspiration from her own previous collections to create an anniversary collection that celebrates everything Dior Joaillerie has become today. Gem Dior brings to life poetical and whimsical pieces that feature the most exquisite coloured stones. A collection that is a declaration of love for gemstones and their beautiful colours and infinite hues, glorified by intense monochromes and subtle shadings or by virtuoso visual impact.
The collection consists of ninety-nine pieces – the biggest by far of any of the house’s High Jewellery collections. The pieces are abstract yet geometric and express Victoire de Castellane’s universe and vision with their poetic settings, asymmetrical effects creative colourways and futurism. Behind this tribute to the gemstone is the exceptional know-how of the craftsman, stone cutters and polishers that come together to create these elegant pieces. Gem Dior shows the finest in jewellery creation and highlights the attention to detail that goes into the production of high jewellery pieces.
As the collection is revealed A&E speaks to Victoire de Castellane about the inspiration behind this collection and some of her fondest memories of working with the Maison.
How do you think Dior Joaillerie has evolved over the past two decades?
I like to constantly change the concept and I think that’s how the collections have evolved throughout the past twenty years.
Do you still remember the first piece you designed for the brand?
Yes, it was a ring called Incroyable et merveilleuse.
What can you tell us about the Gem Dior collection – how does it differ from previous collections?
I wanted to play with the idea of looking at all of my previous collections and zooming in, so the stones become pixelated. I call it abstract, but it’s also organic because nothing is symmetrical or geometrical. It amused me to imagine that I was putting all my previous very figurative collections into a shaker, then throwing them on a table and they would just abstractly recompose themselves. I like to work with shapes and colours and I found it fun to make monochrome and polychrome jewellery. The collection starts with monochrome that goes through gradients and that ends with multicolour. It’s a game with all the colours that we find in the world.
The collection is a lot about colour – what for you is the perfect colour combination?
I like to assemble colours in a way that they do not kill, but magnify each other. It’s like a party when a mix of the right people make it a success.
When you are designing a piece where do you start? Is with the colours of the stones or the shape of the piece etc.?
It can happen either way but mostly it starts with a design. I have the image of the finished jewel in my head. I explain the different ideas to the studio who at the end, are able to produce a gouache drawing (a drawing in the real dimensions of the jewel, often from various angles) of each piece of the collection. We then submit this design to the ateliers in Paris. Then following that there are many comings and goings between the atelier and myself so that each stage – from the green wax for casting to the setting or polishing – complies with the original image that I had of the jewel.
What is your favourite stone to work with?
Opal because they contain all colours in one.
How do you want women to feel when they wear a piece of your jewellery?
I like to think that I make jewels that are friends to the women and they protect them. I want women to hand their jewels down to their daughters, making them eternal. When I wear a piece of jewellery that my great-great grandmother wore, I feel her presence. She continues to live through me. In four thousand years, if an asteroid has not wiped out the earth, jewellery will still be here! It’s a bit of eternity. I would also like my jewels to give women the power of escaping from reality.
What is a piece of jewellery you designed that is special to you?
I do not have a favourite one, they are like a family, I like them all.
What was the first piece of jewellery you were gifted?
As a child, I admired Cleopatra and all her world and my father gave me a golden snake-shaped bracelet that was made of plastic with green stones as eyes. That was my first piece of jewellery.
Do you have a favourite collection since working with Dior Jewellery?
I’m fond of each of my collections, they are all special to me, each one has led me to the next.
How important is storytelling within jewellery?
I like the idea that each jewel and every stone is related to a story.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Feel free in creating.
How would you describe Dior Jewellery in one word?
TIMELINE OF DIOR JOAILLERIE COLLECTIONS
Christian Dior’s garden and the very idea of Couture and fancy dress were the inspiration for Dior Fine Jewellery’s first collections. The colours and volumes of Incroyables et Merveilleuses can be found throughout the collections.
The couturier’s favourite flower the rose is composed of coral roses with a bee gathering honey for the Rose Dior Pré Catelan and paved with diamond and pink sapphire for the Rose Dior Bagatelle.
The passion of Christian Dior’s muse Mitzah Bricard for the leopard inspired patter inspires Mitza where the animal’s paw becomes a yellow gold and black lacquered ring. This was also the year of the one-of-a-kind pieces in the boundlessly creative Coffret de Victoire.
The Precieuses reinterpret the solitaire in a fairy-tale décor while the bouquet stays eternally fresh in lacquered gold for the Diorette collection.
For the first time Dior Fine Jewellery takes part in the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires. For the occasion new acidulous and carnivourous flowers inspired Milly Carnivora a Techncolour Eden.
My Dior presents a gold-like mesh or a precious ribbon.
High Jewellery collection Cher Dior opens a new chapter. Precious stones take pride of place and the back of the jewels are elaborated like dotted netting on a veil.
For the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires, Archi Dior, the high jewellery collection and one-of-a-kind High Jewellery pieces paid tribute to the first collections designed by Christian Dior.
Colour plays a starring role for Victoire de Castellane’s 2016 fine jewellery collection. The way in which the pieces are assembled creates a sense of equilibrium that means no colour dominates and each has its equal chance to shine.
The opal, Victoire de Castellane’s favourite stone is the centrepiece of the Dior High Jewellery collection Dior et d’Opales.
Archi Dior is enriched with two pairs of Milieu du Siecle earring. One asymmetric and the other graphic, both in finely polished rose gold with diamonds.
The Rose des vents collection has grown to include new variations designed for stacking and mixing together offering a personalised way to wear jewellery.