All that sparkles
An international gathering celebrates Tiffany & Co. and the art and craft of jewellery design
Women, and the men who love them, flew into New York from cities like San Antonio, St. Petersburg and Toronto to show off wonderfully striking pieces of jewellery made by Tiffany and Co. On April 21, under an expansive white tent, the iconic American jewellery firm celebrated this year's Blue Book collection with a splash. Those in attendance were attired in their finest and had their eyes on one-of-a-kind pieces in the brand's latest collection, which was inspired by nature and aptly named the Art of the Wild, giving a whole new meaning to trophy hunting.
The event, hosted by Michael Kowalski, Tiffany & Co.'s chairman of the board and interim CEO, and held at St. Ann's Warehouse, a spice-milling factory turned arts hub in Dumbo, Brooklyn, saw guests in black tie doing their rounds at the cocktail reception before literally doing a round or two on the adjacent circa-1922 carousel that was bathed for the night in pale-blue light. After their travels on the merry-go-round, it was time for dinner. Inside the warehouse a sumptuous shade of green set the tone, and lush living walls and ivy-festooned chandeliers hung over tables of 10, each occupied by guests from a different country, making for a sort of United Nations of bauble enthusiasts. The shared international languages on this night were Dom Perignon, which flowed freely, caviar, which was in abundance, and diamonds, which sparkled brightly.
At Tiffany HQ a day earlier, I spoke with John Loring, the company's design director emeritus and a legendary figure on the New York scene (who was often out and about with social doyennes like Vancouver-born Pat Buckley and clothes horse Nan Kempner). He has an encyclopedic knowledge of Tiffany's heritage and the decorative arts at large, which has led to his authoring dozens of books. While nature is very much a focus of this latest collection, Loring says it's nothing new for the company.
"There's a saying at Tiffany and Company, that mother nature is the best designer," he says. "It's all there, you don't need to invent anything." Later, he brings to my attention the wall nearby where images and renderings from the company's archive have been hung. "Those are feathers from the 1890s," he says of a brooch with jetting plumes in diamond and platinum, and pointing to other archival clippings, "We've had dragonflies, berries and Queen Anne's lace, but now we've moved to the rainforest and it's far more exotic."
What struck me after seeing the latest collection was the way in which the pieces moved freely on the body. According to Melvyn Kirtley, Tiffany's chief gemologist and vice president of high jewellery, that's thanks to new feats in engineering, a practice that has become just as much a part of the brand as its storied history.
"The balance of how things are worn and the comfort, that's got to be one of the most important things," he says during our interview at the 5 th Avenue flagship store. "We can design the most incredible pieces but if you get them on and it's not flexible, then that's a problem. You have to wear jewellery, you have to relax in it and it has to become a part of you."
Upstairs in the workshops where the best of the company's offerings are still made, a bird brooch of magnificent orange spessartite and pink sapphires set in yellow gold was being finished – from sketch to glittering debut, it took 600 hours to produce. The brooch's maker showed off his finished creation, holding the piece with care in one hand while petting the diamond-dotted head and brilliantly articulated feathers with the other. The price to call this jewelled creature your own? Just shy of $250,000 (U.S.).
Back at the gala in Brooklyn, actors including Ruth Negga, Claire Danes and Reese Witherspoon looked lovely in their dresses and jewels on the blue carpet; Haley Bennett, a bright young thing of the screen, stopped me in my tracks with her Seberg-esque cropped locks, frothy pale blue gown and healthy dose of diamonds. Inside, Chinese actor Ni Ni, with her golden-era grace, was mesmerizing (one of China's biggest film stars, Ni Ni made a stop in Vancouver recently for the opening of Tiffany's newly refurbished Burrard Street shop). Also out was Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and his wife Callista, whose butter-yellow swooping do didn't budge – even after the pair hit the dance floor during Jennifer Hudson's stellar set on stage.
There too was actor Dominic West; Emma Ferrer, granddaughter of Audrey Hepburn; artist, curator and philanthropist Ydessa Hendeles of Toronto; Valleymede Homes founder Paul Miklas and his wife, Holly, also of Toronto; designer Reem Acra; models Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam and Hikari Mori.
Nolan Bryant travelled to New York as a guest of Tiffany and Co. The company did not review or approve this article prior to publication.