For “Deep Time,” her fifth high jewelry collection for Louis Vuitton unveiled Tuesday in Greece, artistic director for watches and jewelry Francesca Amfitheatrof went to “a time and place that is so remote and perhaps even difficult to comprehend.”
That would be billions of years ago, when the Earth was just a ball of molten rock floating in space, about to undergo the tectonic movements that gave the world the configuration we know today, led to the appearance of life — and created the gemstones featured in this largest-yet jewelry collection of 95 pieces organized in 13 themes.
Vuitton’s presentation at the Amanzoe resort, attended by the likes of Ana de Armas and Léa Seydoux, was the latest in a set of unprecedented itinerant high jewelry presentations over the last month that illustrated the strong appetite for connection in the post-pandemic era, as houses sought to reinforce their connections with clients keen to get up close with the designs and those who make them.
For Amfitheatrof, the designs and in particular the gemstones used for them represented “a conversation about unity, [a reminder] that we are all connected [at a time] where we live in such a disconnected world.”
“The fact that [clients] meet the person — and it’s not an institution — creates a very special connection with the client, because I then go and really talk to them about why a piece was created that way, what the theme [is], what the real symbolic meaning [is],” resulting in clients feeling touched and as if the piece were speaking to them, she explained.
To that end, “we always try and bring a certain modernity to what a jewelry presentation is, which is not just having props. We really want to be immersive,” she continued, with a setting that was “meant to transport you.”
Hence a showcase imagined in collaboration with the Estudio Campana design practice that saw jewels paired with artifacts sourced by Emma Hawkins, a curator and collector of natural antiquities. There also was a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens that had dancers performing a work by Greek choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou to a score created by star violinist and orchestra conductor Renaud Capuçon.
Modernity again is the impression Amfitheatrof wanted to impart with the geometric shapes and organic lines of the Deep Time collection, “an epic journey about the fragility of life and the birth of life but it’s also a way for us to talk about unison because the continents were once connected.”
Plus all those tectonic movements explain the similarity between veins of rubies found in Burma and Africa, and eventually were what brought gemstones closer to the surface, where humans were able to access them in the first place, she pointed out.
Cue the progression of the collection, which starts with the diamond-and-emerald Gondwana set, named after one of the original landmasses encompassing what is today South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica; continues with the Volcano collar necklace with its stylized array of cushion-cut Mandarin garnets and tourmalines that make the wearer look like they are emerging in a spray of lava; sees the planet’s geological upheavals in the three-metal transformable Rupture set make way to Myriad, with a double-helix design reminiscent of the shape of DNA strands, and ends with Seeds and Flowers, evoking nature teeming with life and blooms.
At the heart of the collection are the stones themselves, such as the royal blue 40.80-carat sapphire from Sri Lanka, the centerpiece of the Wave necklace, a high collar that curls just under the chin to evoke the cataclysmic water movements that cooled down the planet after its formation and took some 2,400 hours of work.
Another standout is a juicy set of 17 rubies and emeralds, along with some 16 carats of LV Monogram diamonds, taking pride of place on the open-work Plants necklace. The latter are unusual for their brilliant cuts, since such stones don’t usually retain the same depth of color in these shapes, Amfitheatrof explained.
Along with other gems ranging from tourmalines and rubies to Mexican opals sourced from a dried-up river that hasn’t yielded stones for 100 years and naturally occurring zircons, “one of the oldest minerals that predate even diamonds,” she wanted to highlight the idea that “the materials we are using are bigger than us” in their rarity and eons-old pedigree.
For all that time, Amfitheatrof is adamant that “we are not into reproducing the past — we are moving forward,” not least adapting to current desires, such as transformability.
Being a relative newcomer amid the historic French jewelry houses is also a boon to Louis Vuitton’s high jewelry line.
“We are a company that was born with the creation of the trunk and I always keep in mind who we are. The pieces have to feel strong and bold and graphic and protective. And we are a fashion brand so I’m always looking at making the pieces a little bit theatrical,” she said.
“We don’t have an archive, we have an identity — I am very much aware that we’re living in this archival era — and I’m happy that we have this freedom where we know who are and therefore we can do what we want” she said.