A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my design heroes, Elie Top, in the elegant surrounds of Moda Operandi’s Belgravia showroom. Looking dapper in a grey jacket and fine-checked shirt and tie, the jewellery designer had an unassuming confidence that made him both approachable and engaging.
Top is perhaps best known for the magnificent costume jewels he creates in collaboration with Alber Elbaz for Lanvin. But, fuelled with the desire to channel his creativity into something “more personal”, this January he launched his eponymous fine jewellery collection, Mécaniques Célestes – a logical step for a designer seemingly destined for success.
Needless to say, on that balmy summer afternoon, it wasn’t long before I ditched my (rather delicious) peach bellini in favour of securing Top’s undivided attention and asking him to talk me through the collection – which he did with passion and conviction. “The technical challenges, sophistication and emotional dimension make fine jewellery an exciting new genre for me,” he says.
At first glance, the pieces appear to have a futuristic, tribal aesthetic with sickle-shaped patinated, oxidised silver surfaces forming the backdrop for delicate, gold structural frameworks, glistening diamonds and exotic semiprecious stones. Particularly striking are the gold Pluton earrings (£8,000, first picture), pendant (£9,000, second picture) and ring (£10,000, third picture) – the focal point for each of which is a sphere rotating to reveal a globe, either diamond-studded or onyx, and yellow and white gold satellites. I was soon immersed in shiny orbs and secret compartments that radiated a sense of mystery and wonder.
Top’s exquisite attention to detail and love for storytelling is captured in each piece; “The jewels have to have a life of their own, something long lasting and perennial,” he says.
Working from a small office and salon on Paris’s fashionable Rue Saint-Honoré, Top is fascinated by new technologies and industrial machines, which shines through in this debut collection. “Some movements, articulations and rotations aren’t that far from clockwork and wouldn’t have been possible without 3D printing and its precision, detail and sharpness,” he emphasises. “But this collection couldn’t have happened without the detailed care and craftsmanship of each worker who polishes, brushes, assembles and sets each piece, breathing humanity and life into each of the jewels.”
Merging these two worlds lies at the heart of Top’s fine jewellery aesthetic and is what makes him a visionary. If Mécaniques Célestes is anything to go by, fine jewellery has found itself a precious gem…