The Chanel Coromandel High Jewellery
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel lived at the Ritz in Paris for 34 years, from 1937 until her death in 1971, but she also owned an apartment nearby at 31 rue Cambon, where she spent her daytime hours working, entertaining patrons, and receiving guests.
By Carol Besler
The apartment and its contents have been rigorously preserved, serving as a space of inspiration for the company’s design team. It is a sanctuary of beige carpets, Venetian mirrors, Baccarat chandeliers, and objets d’art, including a Giacometti sculpture, a Dali painting, a pair of gilded Chinese horses, and two life-size wooden elks. Surrounding it all are some 30 Chinese black lacquer coromandel screens that cover every wall of the apartment. Most are decorated with her favorite flower, the camelia, a symbol of purity and longevity in Asia. The screens have been the inspiration behind many of the maison’s creations, including the upscale Chanel Mademoiselle Privé watch collection with enameled dials and, most recently, the Coromandel High Jewellery collection of 59 pieces, 24 of which are one-of-a-kind.
The imagery of the screens is everywhere in the collection: camelia flowers, birds in flight, even the geometric structure of the screens themselves. A cuff is set with a yellow diamond that pivots so as to always be visible from the desired angle. A ten-carat diamond ring imitates birds taking flight. A blaze of gemstones, including rubies, emeralds, tsavorite garnets, and an impressive 37-carat tourmaline, reflect the colourful lacquers of the screens.
“I have loved Chinese screens since I was eighteen years old,” Coco once said. “I nearly fainted with joy when entering a Chinese shop, I saw a Coromandel for the first time. Screens were the first thing I bought.”