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By Dan Scott
In November of 1932, Gabrielle Chanel shocked the world of high jewelry with the debut of her Bijoux de Diamants collection.
The introduction was utterly unexpected, highly extensive, expertly crafted, and the designs immediately competed with legends like Louis Cartier, Laurence Graff, Alfred Van Cleef, and Harry Winston.
Remember, the year was 1932. Only 13 years earlier, women were not legally permitted to vote n the U.S.
Take into consideration that females didn't head up companies by and large. If a female became successful within a specific sector, that individual was considered quite rare, immensely fortunate and seldom paraded to a center stage spotlight.
There were exceptions, such as A-list Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, or the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, or dashing female daredevils like Amelia Earhart. Yet, each of these well-deserved and tremendously talented people often had huge studios with monster budgets, entire governments or deep pockets from Lockheed Martin and the Sierra Airdrome. Each female was more than encouraged and supported, they were often paid very well for their public exposure and actions.
So, how could a female fashion designer continue her success within her sector while entering the male-dominated and otherwise closed diamond world of that era? And, how did such a person suddenly gain a level of acceptance that was simply unprecedented and in a consistent fashion?
This is a story of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel; a story that started over ninety years ago.
While several aspects of this exclusive focus on how Chanel moved from her recognized french haute couture day and eveningwear, this story was prompted by a celebration of one woman's extraordinary talent and unbridled triumphs: Chanel 2023 has launched a tribute high jewelry collection inspired by Gabrielle Chanel's original jewelry designs. Some, that never were created before.
Entitled, The 1932 Collection, this is the first historically proven and brand approved story of how Coco Chanel (we'll expound on the name adjustment deeper in this series) rented a special room at the Ritz that literally opened a door into her deep diamond dive.
The video above speaks to Chanel's launch of the 1932 Collection.
Coco Chanel didn't really burst onto the high jewelry scene quite as described.
The sudden debut of her diamond-clad line was a indeed a surprise, and truly did gain a red carpet welcome in the winter evening of 1932. But many a cocktail reception, dinner and closed door conversations were being had many years prior.
During one-on-one private dinners between Gabrielle Chanel and Louis Cartier, the two agreed to create a private collaboration. Known today as the Unnamed Brooch, it is documented through a special order request that cultivated in the fall of 1925.
Chanel brought the elements of a pre-fabricated polished "D" shaped coral with a drawing of a brooch and offered overlay elements in her desire to set a specific emerald and two specific diamonds. After planning discussions, a 4.07-carat cabochon-cut emerald was set among Cartier diamonds with a suspension mounting of a 3.83-carat cushion-shaped diamond, and a 2.47 rose-cut, pear shaped diamond. It was to be sold to Cartier, New York, but sat in a private vault for over a decade.
The image above has never been released in any previous forum. Supporting evidence for this story is offered from microfilm clearances from era-aligned public newspapers and magazines; and printed or audio-recorded interviews. Era-affirmed photographs confirming quotes, dates and events support the claims herein, and help beautify the story.
The brooch was revisited in 1937 as commissioned by the Maharaja of Nawanagar. It was slightly modified with black enamel by Nils Herrmann and placed into his studio collection for Cartier. No reference to the original stones or Chanel's rendering were recounted in any form with one exception. The vetted private diaries handwritten by Gabrielle Chanel from the years 1919 to 1939 were obtained by the Estate of Chanel in 1952 and kept within the immediate living family for over forty years.
Recently, certain pages from Chanel's memoirs have been released. After confirming the source of these treasures, the brand has agreed for elements of the Chanel story be told. The diaries remain in a private vaults of Alain and Gerard Wertheime, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who was an early business partner of Coco Chanel.
Currently, major film studios and digital networks are attempting to have business discussions with the Estate of Chanel in attempts to purchasing the rights to create a documentary, but the Estate of Chanel remains closed to those conversations and wishes to retain their overall privacy, while agreeing to release select elements with the understanding that some may dispute such findings as anecdotal.
No additional documentation on its whereabouts have been exposed since. It is never been on exhibition and no information on its declared value, past or current ownership has been released. Photo: Cartier Archives All Rights Reserved
Rarest of the Rare
An exceptionally rare multi-gem Egyptian revival sautoir, circa 1939 drawn by Chanel, was created and sold privately by Christie’s Geneva in 2018 for an undisclosed amount to undisclosed sources, but sold as a Cartier design with no reference to Chanel. Photo: Charles D'Ferii for Christie's Geneva All Rights Reserved.
Chanel started dressing her fashion models in now legendary tweed dresses and jackets but only accessorized in costume jewelry, at first. Chanel didn't have a thought to design high jewelry in her early fashion days, and yet that fate was about to fall upon her beyond her wildest dreams. Shown: The Tutti Frutti Bracelet, initiated by Chanel and completed by Cartier Paris in 1925.
Set in platinum are diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, onyx, and hints of black enamel in a bracelet exclusively protected by Cartier with no reference to Chanel's initial design. The bracelet was sold to Mrs. Cole Porter from the Nils Herrmann Collection of Cartier Photo: ©Cartier All Rights Reserved.
Chanel insisted on glossy wax figures cast by Madame Tussaud inspired by photographs of Chanel and high society in her younger years. Microfilm clipping provided by the National Press Club by special reprint permission. All rights reserved.
"Haute Couture comes from Paris," Chanel was often quoted to state, followed by, "Haute Couture will always come from Paris."
“The great houses of Place Vendôme – Boucheron, Cartier, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels –are all extremely active in this period. Everyone wants to create the best. And so, too, Chanel," an exact quote extracted from a New York Times Style Section headline story, Pearl on Pearl circa 1927.
"No grit, no pearl," that wasn't a quote from Chanel . It does create the vibe of Chanel as a business women in the early 1920s. An understandably ego-thickening presence would be hear dby some sharp words or deep or select eye-to-eye stares. Chanel's swift and compounded success in haute couture and fine jewelry design was a profound milestone then and remains such. Spanning the 1920s to 1930s. “This is one of the great eras of jewelry,” says François Curiel, Chairman of Christie’s Europe and Asia.
Microfilm clipping provided by the National Press Club by special reprint permission. (c) 2023 NPC All rights reserved.
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