Steeped in exoticism and rich with symbolism, the work of Parisian jeweller Lydia Courteille is a delight to the senses. She brings together a heady mix of colour and culture, often inspired by her travels, with meticulous attention to detail and an intricate understanding of her craft. Her latest collection is a shining example, influenced by a visit to the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, near St Petersburg.
What struck Courteille above all about the rococo summer residence of Catherine I of Russia was the Chambre d’Ambre, so called for its intricate amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors. Designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter, the panels were installed in the Berlin City Palace but gifted to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716. While the room was disassembled by the Nazis during the second world war and the whereabouts of the panels remains a mystery, the reconstructed room was inaugurated in 2003 after decades of work.
The room’s history and intrigue, colour and design details all make their way into Courteille’s new Chambre d’Ambre collection. Gems range from fire opals to citrines, red jaspers, yellow sapphires, orange garnets and chalcedony. Set in gold and titanium, they replicate the glistening, warm quality of the room and mimic the 350 shades of amber said to be present in the original space. As on the panels themselves, carvings are also included in Courteille’s jewels, such as the “R” and “F” monograms (for Roi Frédéric I) wrought upon the transparent and opaque gems of the mismatched chandelier earrings.
Further captivating elements include an antique micro-mosaic of a castle, set like a cabochon stone amid swathes of golden feathers in the cascading neckpiece, and a winged angel carved into the shank of the multi-stone ring. A closer look at the asymmetric girandole earrings, meanwhile, reveals an eagle-like structure engulfing the fiery stones on one side, and a cherub supporting a stone cluster on the other.
Juliet Hutton-Squire is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (adorninsight.com).