On a globetrotting adventure though Paris, New York, London, Bali and Rio – to name but a few of the glitzy destinations – a new documentary series about fine-jewellery houses gives access to a world that is as secretive as it is glamorous. Masters of Dreams goes behind the scenes of 13 iconic houses, including Bulgari, Chopard, H Stern, Boucheron and De Beers (selection of rings, third picture) to explore the stories, inspirations and craftsmanship that inform their design legacies.
Trips into the various archives uncover 300-year-old designs that inspire new collections (Chaumet’s hall of tiaras is a treat). Journeys around workshops reveal exactly why a piece of jewellery can take a master craftsman hundreds of hours to complete. After months of “will it, won’t it” deliberations as to whether the design will come together, Chopard’s Marilyn Monroe Tribute necklace (first picture, price on request) is shown making its red-carpet debut at Cannes in 2012, worn by Eva Herzigova.
As well as introducing viewers to more traditional practitioners, the film also gets up close and personal with designers who buck convention: for example, affable Brit “bad boy” Stephen Webster creating a tattoo-inspired, dragon-shaped brooch (£325,000), and the team at John Hardy operating from a socially and ecologically self-sustaining Balinese idyll (a piece from the Naga Collection, second picture).
But my favourite aspect of the films is the anecdotes, which range from the dramatic (“This business is for me a love affair. I was born to be among diamonds,” says Laurence Graff) to the astounding (Bulgari’s Lucia Silvestri’s purchase of a 165ct sapphire that becomes the centrepiece of a $10m necklace).
The debonair Ward Landrigan, CEO of Verdura (whose jewels have adorned the likes of Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich) has the interviewer in stitches as he recalls hunting on hands and knees for a 500-year-old pearl in Elizabeth Taylor’s “Pepto-Bismol pink” shag-pile carpet and rescuing it from the jaws of a peckish Lhasa Apso. A story is also told about the weave of Verdura’s Panama hat, which inspired him to criss-cross strips of gold on a cigarette case given to Cole Porter on the occasion of the opening of his 1940 Broadway musical Panama Hattie. Today, the Criss Cross Cuff (in 18ct palladium white gold, $18,750) is one of Verdura’s most popular designs.
The timing of this series could not be more apt, as growth in the global luxury goods sector, including fine jewellery, continues to defy downward economic trends. Combined with increased consumer interest in a “buy less, buy better” philosophy that’s driving a desire for craftsmanship, heritage and investment in items that hold their value, it’s no wonder that the magical world of high jewellery continues to hold its allure.