Detail of a Piaget necklace from its Extremely Piaget High Jewellery Collection, which will be presented at the Biennale des Antiquaires from the 11th September
I looked at the white clouds whipping across a sapphire-blue sky above the Place Vendôme in Paris — and I cursed.
It was not because of the construction work that had turned the square’s noble central statue into a skeleton of scaffolding, nor because the Ritz was still under renovation, or indeed because the elegant front of the Van Cleef & Arpels store was covered with a white plasterboard version.
construction work in the Place Vendome
My rage was because the Biennale des Antiquaires, the French fest of fabulous jewellery and decorative art objects, opens on September 11 — just when I would bein New York for the first round of the international fashion shows.
I gazed disconsolately at the Piaget windows as gusts of rain and wind started up again. And then a small miracle happened. A sales person beckoned me in, recognising me from my many journalistic visits.
"We have almost the entire Piaget collection for the Biennale – would you like to see it?" she asked.
What a joy! What an explosion of colour — the eye-popping mix of turquoise and lapis lazuli, inspired by the Sixties and Seventies and the glory days of Elizabeth Taylor at her most extravagant.
The boldest of the 125 pieces created for the Biennale all had something of the unexpected: Colombian emeralds with turquoise from Arizona; or a contrast of techniques, such as cabochon and cushion-cut emeralds; or similar variations with pear-cut Ceylon sapphires.
My grey Paris day was brightening up.
I picked up a gold cuff bracelet edged with icy diamonds like dangling stalactites, finished off with balls of turquoise in various sizes.
A gold and turquoise cuff with marquise-cut diamonds
Left: the finished necklace in 18-carat pink gold, set with 22 marquise-cut diamonds, eight brilliant-cut diamonds and 13 turquoise beads. Right: elements of the necklace resting on its original design
There were more turquoise bobbles in a sautoir necklace, its malleable gold strands set off by a starburst of gold and diamonds around a central turquoise flower. In another necklace, a dangling bauble opened to show a tiny timepiece.
By contrast, the necklets of diamonds, with their rounded collar shapes, seemed almost clerical.
Collar sautoir watch in 18-carat white gold Milanese mesh, set with 793 brilliant-cut diamonds and Piaget 56P quartz movement
Then, as the velvet-lined trays kept coming, there was a <pow!> of hyper-bright diamonds. Extremely Sparkling is the name Piaget has given to these fancy-cut stones. But as always with jewellery, the effect is not just a concept, but an expression of workmanship.
Here, it came from something that even I, as a fashion editor, had never heard of: <jupon> or “petticoat” settings. The baguette-cut diamonds are held in prongs with the effect of a bouncy, undulating under-skirt.
My smartphone camera went into overdrive as I tried to capture the beauty and craftsmanship. The exquisite work made me realise that the two years between each Biennale must be spent first scouring the world for exceptional stones, then mounting them with the most delicate handiwork.
As I gazed at the wonder of a Piaget earring, marquise cut for exceptional sparkle and bending around the earlobe, I was oblivious to a male client looking at Piaget’s signature Swiss watches.
An ear-cuff in 18-carat white gold, set with 28 marquise-cut diamonds and 20 brilliant-cut diamonds and designed to be worn behind the ear, as displayed by Mary Phélip
But maybe the crystal snow from the Swiss Jura had given some inspiration to the sparkle celebrating what is the company’s 140th anniversary. It made for a dramatic birthday collection.
The Biennale des Antiquaires or antique dealers - the collection of decorative arts held under the soaring Grand Palais, with this year’s fair designed by interior designer Jacques Grange — is open to the public from September 11 — 21.
I shall dream about it from New York.
Secret cuff watch resting on its original design, comprising 18-carat white gold set with one hand-engraved blue sapphire, 601 brilliant-cut diamonds and Piaget 56P quartz movement