Louis Vuitton’s Francesca Amfitheatrof On The Brand’s Unique Approach To High Jewellery

Lara Mansour   |   11-03-2024

Louis Vuitton has always been a brand to go against the mould, even as far back as when its founder, Louis Vuitton himself, was a game-changer in the luggage industry with the introduction of flat-topped trunks for the first time ever.

So it perhaps comes as no surprise that the brand’s latest experiment, this time in the universe of high jewellery is once again a world first. Led by jewellery industry veteran Francesca Amfitheatrof whose creativity, out-of-the-box approach and passion for what she does was a perfect match when she joined the Parisian maison in 2018. This year, with the launch of LV Diamond she has far surpassed expectations of what is possible, creating special and unique diamonds, cut exclusively for Louis Vuitton, inspired by the house’s iconic monogram. 

The LV Monogram Star, which debuted in Dubai last month, is a revolutionary cut inspired by the LV Monogram. Using the highest levels of creativity and savoir-faire, this unique diamond features fifty-three facets with pointed ends, and is instantly recognisable as the star-shaped monogram flower that has become synonymous with the house, since its inception in 1896. The Monogram Star is the starting point for the LV Diamonds collection which features rings, earrings and pendants that are as timeless as they are modern. Here we find out more about the latest collection as it makes its debut in Dubai. 

Today, we are exploring the LV Diamonds collection, which revisits the roots of the brand; tell us more about this…

When I first started at Louis Vuitton almost six years ago, I saw there was the possibility of creating this [Monogram Star] cut. We have an amazing team – our gemmology team is astounding – and being a very adventurous brand, we decided to embark on the possibility of creating our own cut. So, obviously, having the monogram with the flower and the star, we started to investigate whether we could cut diamonds into these shapes. Now, what’s incredible here is that we mixed technology and craftsmanship, which is really at the route of the brand. We used technology to be able to analyse rough diamonds, and only one to two per cent of the rough can be cut into a star or a flower without too much wastage. So we had to very carefully select the rough which we buy directly from the mines, and then we had to teach cutters, groovers and polishers to work on this cut. It’s been a huge education because the cutters have to be able to cut without wastage. The groovers have to cut these complicated grooves, and the groove is the hardest thing to do in a diamond; a diamond does not want to be cut in a groove. Similarly, a heart-shaped diamond is super hard to do because of the groove at the top, and we have four of them on each cut! Then, for example, on the star, the points have to align perfectly, if not, the diamond shatters. So we have many challenges with this cut.

We wanted to create cuts that weren’t ultra-faceted – we didn’t want to add more facets, which is what a lot of people have done over the years. We wanted to keep it very elegant but to have maximum light reflection. So, it has a high refractory that amplifies the light. 

Tell us about the transparency element of this collection.

Each stone also comes with its own blockchain certificate so that we can trace it to the rough stone, to the mine and all the way to the finger. So we’ve been very ambitious, but the interesting thing is, because we are doing it from the beginning, we could do it how we wanted to do it. We have agreements with a mine in Botswana that’s run by women, for example, we’ve chosen our partners very particular. And I think when you look at diamonds, this is the holy grail of diamonds. To be able to do this in such a short period of time and launch it, and be that ambitious and adventurous, it’s a very Louis Vuitton thing to do! 

If you look at a diamond today, you can’t tell whether it’s manmade in a lab, or it’s fake etc., and with this, you can guarantee straight away from the cut that it is of the highest quality and it’s stunning. 

I have been using them a lot in high jewellery right from the beginning, and now you can buy them individually. So if you are looking to buy an engagement ring or a diamond for yourself, if you go to any other brand, you will still get the same product – a round diamond is a round diamond – but here you have something that is so stratospherically different, that it really is to me a revolution in the jewellery industry, 

How much do you think today’s consumer is aware of the importance of traceability?

I think they are, and I think people still have this notion of blood diamonds that do not really exist anymore and haven’t for more than a decade. I think there is this bad narrative around diamonds because they trade hands so often, so it’s difficult to trace them back to their source, and therefore, people are concerned about that, and I think having that know-how is important. You can never quite know the story of a stone and so to be able to do it from the beginning was very important to us, and I think people are concerned with this. 

What is your take on investing in white diamonds vs coloured diamonds today?

If you’re looking to buy an important stone (above 2 carats), diamonds are still amazing because they will not be available forever. There is a very definite amount of diamonds that we can mine. For example, when you look at yellow diamonds, which are the most common of the coloured, the Argyle mine in Australia is now closed down, but there are still a lot of them on the market. Pinks, blues, greens, and oranges, are extremely rare – you can see at auction that they have been selling for 30, 40, and 50 million dollars. So they are an amazing investment – I believe they are one of the best investments you can do today, better than property, stock market, cars – coloured diamonds are increasing in value enormously. But they cost an absolute fortune, so it’s a different type of investment, but I think that it’s very much your own personal choice. 

What fuels you, and when are you at your utmost inspired?

I think I have the ability to go into a house and understand it. I don’t have the ego that wants to overpower the brand that I work for. I think I am very good at understanding the relationship, the intentions, and the codes of a brand and so I’m very able to adapt. I think it’s because I’ve grown up all over the world and I have a very big vision. At the same time, I think I’m at my most successful when I have complete freedom to do what I think should be created for that maison. At Louis Vuitton, I am extremely happy because I’ve been given that trust and freedom, and I’ve really built the team and the category with a phenomenal group of people, and at this brand, there are exceptional, intelligent people who allow you to have the freedom to create, and I think creativity is really valued at the brand, they’re not scared of ideas. If it’s risky, we love it!  So, the challenges and the ambition are huge. I have the passion and the joy of being able to love what I do and to have the freedom to create such amazing pieces. 

How do you balance creativity with keeping the codes of the maison and being relevant for today’s consumer?

I think even more than tradition, with jewellery, you have the challenge of making something that has to be new, relevant, and timeless. So that’s really the challenge that I’m always pulling and pushing with, and I think the idea that we create high jewellery pieces that are the only one in the world already makes them masterpieces. I think the fact that we choose the best materials, we have the most amazing craftsmanship and daring designs, makes everything work together, and this allows me to push it to be something that feels new and youthful. My biggest challenge with high jewellery is that I don’t want it to be ageing, but if it’s trying to be too modern, it becomes cold. So I have the challenge of keeping it really seductive and warm, a little bit fashionable with flair, and still timeless. That’s the dance that I have to do. 

What’s something you still aim to achieve with Louis Vuitton?

There are many things. I definitely want to do more high-jewellery watches. I would love to make more men’s high jewellery. I also want to work with the way that we engage with customers to invite them to understand that we do jewellery and that jewellery at Louis Vuitton is not a uniform. I think a lot of jewellery today can become a uniform because it’s being produced in such high volumes, and I think that should never be the case with jewellery, it should be personal. So I would love to invite people to come to the brand for jewellery and find ways to wear things that feel original and individual and know that they won’t see it on everyone else. 

What’s the motto you live by?

Only do what you absolutely love and feel passionate about. 

What is something you would still like to do on a personal level?

I want to mentor up-and-coming designers and work within the education field. I feel very passionate about mentoring, teaching, helping, and allowing people into the world of understanding and what you really do in a creative studio. I want people to realise that whatever level you are at in your life, you should still do a job that you love, and you should be willing to do any part of it to get your creative ideas across. 

How does the Middle East region resonate with you?

I think this is a really happy region. There are brilliant people, I love anything that allows lots of nationalities together. I think that makes it very open-minded and a lot of people choose to be here and I think they have an amazing time here; it’s a great place.