Tiffany & Co.’s 2017 Blue Book Collection enthrals with its beautiful homage to Mother Nature.
The elevator doors ease open and I find myself faced with a looming wall clothed in lush tropical foliage; an armour of green so vivid and dense that I stop in my tracks. It’s as if I’ve stepped from the modern world straight into the Garden of Eden, when I’m actually seven storeys above Fifth Avenue, New York. I am here to preview Tiffany & Co.’s “The Art of the Wild” 2017 Blue Book Collection, in the building of the brand’s famous flagship store.
“For this year’s Blue Book, we really wanted to push [the collection] a little bit and experience nature in a wilder state,” says Chief Gemologist and Vice President of Tiffany & Co.’s High Jewellery, Melvyn Kirtley, when we meet. “So we thought about the rainforest, because there’s so much colour, so much foliage, so much brilliant sunshine and all of these natural elements combining together. That was really the inspiration.”
Glancing around the room, filled with palms, bird of paradise and peace lilies (among many others), it seems the design team — who flew to the Central Pacific island of Kauai to garner inspiration two years ago — carted the entire rainforest back to the Big Apple. It’s a beautiful setup, astonishing because of its urbane location, and it’s the perfect backdrop to this year’s bountiful Blue Book creations (in fact, a couple of the pieces have already been purchased by the brand’s international list of VIP guests who have flown in for the annual event).
This is a far cry from the first Tiffany Blue Book that was launched in 1845. Then, the Blue Book was conceived as a mail-order catalogue of Tiffany’s wares—just eight years after founder Charles Lewis Tiffany threw open the doors of his small stationery and fancy goods store. Today, the annual Blue Book is filled with spectacular one-of-a-kind high jewellery designs that are worth numbers with many, many zeros behind them.
Take the “Whispers of the Rainforest” necklace, for example; easily one of the stars of the collection that made its debut on Jessica Biel at the Oscars earlier this year. Inspired by the indigenous hula grass skirt, the necklace comprises over 350 gold fronds that have been hand-sculpted to have slightly different curvatures and finishes: High polish, satin polish, matt and diamonds included. The fronds are then attached in layers onto a dazzling five-row diamond collar of calibre-cut baguette diamonds; and they are articulated. Meaning, the fronds tinkle delightfully with the body’s every move.
“This year was quite different to prior years [because of] the complexity of the designs,” Kirtley explains. “From a technical aspect, we really pushed the boundaries of craftsmanship… there were a lot of areas that we hadn’t really fully worked through; and we had to, [from] a research and development standpoint, build the product while we are developing it.”
Another jewellery piece with deceptively simple looks? A yellow gold bird that gazes at you with a marquise-cut tsavorite eye from amidst its fiery feather plume of red and pink spinels, and white and yellow diamonds. It’s beautifully detailed and textured, thanks to what seems to be thin gold wires that line each feather against its body. An articulated tail-fan completes the design.
Highly technical pieces aside, this year’s Blue Book Collection is also a showcase of magnificent gemstones (this is a jeweller who introduced the world to never-before-seen gemstones such as kunzite, morganite, tanzanite and tsavorite, after all.) As Kirtley tells me, the collection showcases around 25 different gemstones, including white and coloured diamonds. But the stars of the show are a 52-carat oval cabochon rubellite (the collection’s biggest stone); a 51-carat unheated Ceylonese sapphire of “absolutely gorgeous saturated blue”; a 15-carat D, internally flawless diamond, which is the collection’s most expensive piece at US$4.3 million; and a 26-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond that has been set with a US$2.75 million price tag. “We also have some beautiful rubies, esteemed emeralds from Colombia, very rare coloured tourmalines and spinels, and beautiful tanzanites, the legacy gemstone of Tiffany. So we really have used a vast selection of colours,” says the gemstone expert with pride.
And there is a lot to be proud of. From the fantastical bird creations in the form of brooches and cuffs, to the more minimalist rings that cradle their treasured gems with flora-inspired prongs, the 115-piece collection offers an impressive breadth of designs—be it a pair of Art Deco-ish earrings with a cascade of diamonds, or an Art Nouveau-esque leaf bracelet to wrap around your wrist.
Through it all, woven into the design fabric of every creation, is the strong, unwavering homage to nature that has been a pillar of the American jeweller since its founding. As Tiffany’s Design Director Emeritus John Loring observes: “In Tiffany’s history, right up to the Blue Book Collection today, there is this motto: Mother Nature is the best designer; she knows how to do it better than we do. And it has worked because [Tiffany] has built on things that are observable by everyone. Everyone is going to understand it; nature is a part of everybody.”
Mother Nature may be the best designer, but this “The Art of the Wild” collection has shown Tiffany as a prodigious student that nature would be wonderfully proud of.
Photographed by Michael Avedon
Styled by Joanna Hillman