This is in response to Alex Popov’s recent blog post. What a great title for an article that — temporarily at least — lifts our horizon above the present difficulties,with Mr Popov reminding us of the extraordinary romance and significance that attaches to the history of diamonds and jewellery, as well as the artistic outpouring that India inspired (helped perhaps by the fact that the ruling families were the financial equivalent of today’s oligarchs in terms of spending power).
Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to visit the India —Jewels that Enchanted the World exhibition, but I was lucky enough to be invited last week to the opening of the wonderful Fabric of India exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert museum. This event that was sponsored by India’s Nirav Modi. Strange that a famous jewellery designer should sponsor an exhibition on textiles? Not really! After all, Ambaji Shinde, Harry Winston’s chief of design, transformed ancient Indian embroidery into delicate diamond necklaces and virtually all the major jewellers from Cartier to Van Cleef & Arpels were inspired by their Indian experiences.
Sometimes I wonder if some of today’s most renowned jewellers, with their diamond-intensive classical designs, are as in tune with the times as say Van Cleef’s art deco masterpieces were. I ask myself whether their dramatic and overwhelming statement pieces are not just a little formulaic in their design and lacking in something difficult to define.
I guess it will be up to the auctioneers as to how they present the story and provenance of these magnificent jewels as they don’t have glamourous back stories of the Indian courts to romance the jewellery. The owners of such pieces seem to prefer to remain low profile about both their jewellery and their art — in stark contrast to Damian Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, an unusually challenging combination of art and diamonds.
Recent blog posts on this platform have highlighted the importance of good design and its likely appeal to the growing sophistication of customers throughout the world. Today’s shoppers know their own mind in terms of taste and often want to express their own individuality and unique taste, perhaps less impressed by a famous name or smart shop. Many of the young designers of today increasingly benefit from this trend for bespoke designs to mark their own “rites of passage” in a distinctive way.
In the days that De Beers was the sole generator of generic advertising for the entire industry, it used to sponsor the bi-annual Diamond International Awards, a sort of Oscar for competing diamond design talent. Since then, there have been the occasional regional competitions, but none of sufficient stature to be the sort of catwalk of design talent that would help redefine the link between art and jewellery design and craftsmanship.
So are we going to sit back and let the slick marketing of the Swarovskis and Pandoras occupy a space were the consumer might be interested in more than mere baubles and beads?
Finally, on the subject of exhibitions, any one considering a visit to London should book admissions for another major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum starting November 19th, entitled Bejewelled Treasures, The Al Thani Collection.