Design for jewellery can come from many places and in all cases the inspiration behind a piece is inexplicable. At least in so far as we cannot tell why we are drawn to the beauty of the ocean, nor can we say with any certainty why certain motifs cling to our hearts. If we can’t explain the inspiration, perhaps it might be easier to name and characterise the various different aspects of it. Take nature, for example, or more specifically – wildlife. This is the source of many variations of Art Nouveau design and the reason for a lot of the motifs that recur in Art Deco. If you took these two trees of inspiration and imagined the snaking roots beneath them, it’s likely that you would find a separate strand for the vistas and sources of wild beauty that seep into art – we’re talking about subsets of nature, like forests, mountains or fields. If you did this, and related your findings to art history, the ocean would certainly emerge as a significant muse and one which artists have often referred to for ideas, whether it was simply by sitting on the dock of the bay ‘watching the tide rollin’ in’, or by delving into the punishing realities of deep sea fishing, like Ernest Hemingway. The same theory applies to the recent trends in wearable art.
A number of the recent collections we’ve seen have been inspired by the beautiful ocean and its shimmering permutations. From the deep blue a certain aesthetic has emerged, washed with soothing tones and myriad effusions, all of which evoke an inner peace and quietude. The gemstones that decorate these ocean-inspired designs are often referred to as aquatic jewels and they have recently been popularised by the likes of Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Van Cleef & Arpels. We’re beginning to see more clearly how the ocean has influenced modern jewellery design. Now leading artisans are letting their imaginations drift into the offing, reaching further into the unknowable yonder and the wild therein. Maybe you could say it’s the call of the water, an inner yearning stirring our innate interest in the dark blue deep and the amorphous clutches of the ocean.
The first example we have of ocean jewellery is the Acte V/The Escape Collection from Louis Vuitton. These designs were made to instill a sense of escape in the wearer, transforming the act of wearing jewellery into a sea-bound adventure. Each jewel was named after an iconic resort or hotel, like Excelsior and Capri, calling to mind the travelling glamour of a bygone era. This was high jewellery let loose, with brave flashes of vibrant colour, mostly blue, white and green. We saw the interesting inclusion of sea-blue opals, cloudy pearls and other rare and exotic stones like Tourmalines and African Emeralds. One particular Capri ring features a black opal centrepiece encircled by diamonds that shimmer like flecks of sunlight caught on the crests of rolling waves. Supposedly this ring was made to evoke the rugged Blue Grotto of Capri, in Southern Italy, where beams of sunlight shine through the seawater, creating a blue reflection that lights up the entire cavern.
From Tiffany’s ‘Art of the Sea’, the 32.05ct Rubelite Bracelet
There was also the Seven Sea Collection by Van Cleef & Arpels, which paid tribute to the mystery of our Blue Planet. This collection an array of unique jewellery designs devoted to the matchless serenity and wonder of the world’s scattered oceans. We particularly loved the Arabian Sea Starfish brooches, encrusted with stunning Pink Sapphires and Diamonds. Then, from the Black Sea, there was the monochromatic Nageur Fish, with its elegant flowing fins of mingled Black Spinels and Diamonds. It was also great to see how the trademark Arpels Mystery-setting came into play for the Vagues Mystérieuses Clip, embellished with whorls of Sapphires crested with neat arrangements of Diamonds, Tourmalines and, of course, ocean-blue Sapphires.
We could take you a long voyage into the depths of both Vuitton’s Escape and Van Cleef & Arpels’ Seven Seas, but for this article we want to take some time to focus on the latest Blue Book from Tiffany & Co., also known as ‘The Art of the Sea’. This particular collection, more than any others we’ve seen so far, served to best explain the close relationship shared between high jewellery and the allure of the ocean.
“Our Blue Book jewellery honours the sea as the ultimate source of life and beauty,” said Tiffany’s Design Director Francesca Amfitheatrof, who oversaw the arrangement of the 2015 Blue Book Collection.
The ‘Art of the Sea’ collection included a large number of designs that are reminiscent of the ocean. We like Tiffany’s use of creamy South Sea Pearls and high carat Tanzanite for their rings. And who could resist the 32.05ct Rubelite Bracelet framed by latticed diamonds, writhing over a bed of Pink Sapphires (pictured above)? Overall we just loved the continuity and the way all the designs seem to take direct inspiration from the sea and the animals that dwell within it. They seemed to particularly favour the use of cut gold to mimic fish scales and the application of an array of lucid colours, matching the diversity of a tropical coral reef. At the same time these designs seem to express the urgent need for environmental protection and the importance of sustaining ecosystems around the world.
Another piece from Tiffany’s ‘Art of the Sea’, a Scaled Blue Spinel, Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet, adorned with a paving of Blue Sapphires that fade into Diamonds and curve to form the soft shape of the bracelet.
Under new design directorship the annual Blue Book has been beautified by the use of the ocean muse and the one-of-a-kind pieces it inspired. We’ve seen a bold mixture of graceful and lucid jewels, many of which are arranged and cut in ways that evoke the rolling mystery of the ocean deep. We’ve seen how Tiffany Diamonds can cascade like broken beads of water, tumbling from a fountain. The pages of the Blue Book have been awash with deep-blue Tanzanites, Tourmalines and Blue Diamonds, mixed with tropical shades of blue-green and yellow.
Ultimately what Tiffany have achieved is a reminder of the treasures that the ocean holds, not just through their use of South Sea or Black Tahitian pearls, or their contrast of swirling eddies of clear Diamonds with Black Opals, but rather through their promotion of the natural world. It’s clear that a great degree of care and attention has been put into this collection, with their keen use of archival influences and reference designs. It also seems apparent that this is jewellery made specifically for collectors and aficionados, promoting a conscientious style of design, to make this Blue Book an exciting and unique spectacle.
Francesca Amfitheatrof went on to say: “Blue Book is an important symbol of Tiffany & Co. Its rich heritage draws the finest artisans who create a world of luxury that no other jeweler can equal.”