This relatively humble, transparent variety of quartz has been used in jewellery for over 1,000 years – there are examples of 7th century Viking-era rock crystal pendants in the British Museum, for example. But Boucheron has a particular affinity with the mineral, having worked with it since the late 19th century, including a particularly rampant period in the Art Deco years.
In more recent times, the Parisian house has been having serious fun with the stone, carving it into hollow balls and filling them with bursts of diamonds, ship-in-a-bottle style, and contrasting transparent, polished crystal with a brushed, matte version. The latter looks like sea-tumbled glass, while the former is completely clear and translucent. They’ve set diamonds into its surface, or secreted them underneath it like buried treasure. In short, it has become one of Boucheron’s go-to high jewellery materials.
It wasn’t too great a surprise then that this year’s high jewellery collection Hiver Imperial (Imperial Winter) made serious use of the colourless stone. Inspired by the vast swathes of snow-covered land in Imperial Russia, and Boucheron’s relationship with the country (it was the first French jewellery house to open a store in Moscow in 1897), the collection is an ice queen’s dream. From icicles to miniature snow globes (rock crystal, of course, only stuffed with tiny loose diamonds), frozen leaf skeletons and snowflakes, Hiver Imperial turns a frozen landscape into precious jewels.
The hero piece here is Flocon Imperial (Imperial Snowflake) which, in its most complete form, is a whopping great necklace that encircles the entire neck, nape included, with stylized snowflake segments, all made from panes of crystal decorated with diamond patterns inlaid underneath them. The result is like looking at diamonds through frozen water, and the 360-degree element of its form demands a strapless dress.
But, like all great early 20th century necklaces (two of which, created for an important Russian client, inspired this one), the Flocon Imperial is no one-trick pony. Instead, it breaks down into multiple elements – a pair of earrings, a ring, a brooch, and four exquisite hair pins, which can be worn scattered through one’s mane, post walk-in-a-snow-flurry style.
Shades of wintry white and grey are conveyed by other mediums, too – mother of pearl, cultured pearls, large diamonds, pale moonstones, and even pale, petrified wood. Ice blue runs through the range also, of course. The L’Anneau D’or story within the collection uses large pear-shaped tanzanites surrounded by carved blue chalcedony, diamonds and pearls, while a ring in the same story gives a deep blue Burmese sapphire of nearly 11 carats a pair of rock crystal and diamond wings.
Less ethereal items become high jewels here, too – a tiny platter of caviar in the form of a diamond and onyx ring, or snow-going animals like huskies, snow owls, polar bears, raccoons and lynx turned into rings and exceptional timepieces.
Hiver Imperial is a vast array of winter-inspired work with an impressive variety of materials, capturing all the glory of frozen lands.