High jewellery weathers the global uncertainty

by Admin
High jewellery weathers the global uncertainty

Despite the sense of uncertainty and geopolitical tension around the world, fuelled by multiple elections and ongoing wars, the market for high jewellery remains buoyant. High jewellery clients are among the most resilient luxury customers, especially in Asia.

Erwan Rambourg, global head of consumer and retail research at HSBC, says that, while the fashion industry is undergoing a hiccup, “buyers of high-end jewellery are proving to be a lot more resilient than the average luxury consumer”.

Growth in the first half of 2024 was notably muted and under pressure, but Rambourg expects the second half to improve. “Wealthy individuals are still doing incredibly well,” he says. “The party is still going, but you need to be more discreet about it, because some people are hurting.”

Over the past few weeks, the top houses have unveiled their latest high jewellery collections in Europe. Most collections will then travel to Asia.

Cartier’s Nature Sauvage collection, unveiled in Vienna at the end of May, celebrated the brand’s long-standing affinity for fauna themes and featured the highest number of animal motifs ever in a Cartier high jewellery collection. Outgoing chief executive Cyrille Vigneron echoes Rambourg’s view on the resiliency of high jewellery customers, describing high jewellery as “one of the fastest growing segments”.

Nine octagonal emeralds from Colombia feature in Cartier’s Amphista necklace from its Nature Sauvage collection © Cartier

Vigneron says there are more companies in the market than ever, thanks to a growing number of fashion brands turning to high jewellery, which is further driving growth, especially of new clients.

These clients are increasingly global — Vigneron cites those from Japan, Thailand and Australia — and younger, with more men buying jewellery for themselves. “Jewellery is seen as a sign of self-identity,” he says. “It’s become a signifier to wear high jewellery.”

Customers may be younger and more diverse, but they seem to be aligned in their sophistication. “Clients are very knowledgeable and they’re paying attention,” says Benjamin Comar, chief executive of Piaget which, in June, celebrated its 150th anniversary with a commemorative high jewellery collection in Paris.

Cartier and Piaget are owned by Richemont, which reported a 3 per cent increase in sales to €20.6bn for the year ending March 31 2024. That was driven by jewellery maisons and retail, which accounted for 69 per cent Richemont’s sales. Revenues at three houses in particular — Buccellati, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels — reached “a new threshold” of €14.2bn, said the group. It cited high jewellery collections as a big driver of sales. Notably, the Asia-Pacific region represented 40 per cent of the group’s sales, while the US became the largest market.

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Piaget launched its 150th anniversary commemorative collection in June © Piaget

LVMH-owned Bulgari also observed buoyant sales of its Aeterna high jewellery collection, which launched in May in Rome, to coincide with the Italian maison’s 140th anniversary. “In the past three years, there has clearly been a further acceleration in the demand for high jewellery and high-end watches,” says Bulgari chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin, who defines such pieces as those priced above $90,000.

He concedes that, in tougher times, clients are “more picky and demanding [and seek] authenticity, quality and timelessness” in their purchases, but says spending has been “resilient”.

Bulgari’s average high jewellery ticket price was higher in the past year than it had been in the previous two years, notes Babin, while the brand doubled the number of $1mn-plus pieces sold compared with the previous year. Clients, generally, are also buying on average two pieces at a launch. “We see a shift towards more expensive and extraordinary pieces,” he says.

High-octane launch events in glamorous locations are also increasingly part of the high jewellery world. “The quality of events has gone up dramatically,” says HSBC’s Rambourg. “There is a step-up in investment, visibility, and the quality of events. The end consumer is seeing a lot more jewellery than they used to, and there’s a lot of recruitment of new consumers into the category as a consequence.”

These Instagram-able events are designed to make an impact. Tiffany & Co’s launch of its latest Blue Book high jewellery collection — Tiffany Céleste, unveiled in April in Beverly Hills — was accompanied by a star-studded guest list that included actors Anya Taylor-Joy and Reese Witherspoon and musician Usher, all dressed in Tiffany jewels. Last month, the house also showed the new collection in Paris couture for the first time.

In Milan, Pomellato celebrated its fifth high jewellery collection, The Dualism of Milan, with a special evening gala. It was the first of its kind for Pomellato, but “crucial”, says chief executive Sabina Belli, who likened such events to attending an immersive art or museum exhibition that offers deeper storytelling behind a piece’s creation.

Chaumet chose Venice for its launch — the first time the Place Vendôme house has hosted a high jewellery event outside France. The Chaumet En Scène collection takes it cue from dance, music and magic, with chief executive Charles Leung calling Venice “a stage in itself — perfect to export the French taste abroad”.

A ringfeaturing a geometric design with red enamel accents and sparkling diamonds set in a white gold framework
Chanel’s chronometer-inspired ring incorporates the iconic “No.5”

With more fashion houses — namely Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton — trying to differentiate themselves from the established watch and jewellery specialists, there is an increasingly strong emphasis on distinctive design. Chanel decamped to Monaco for its Sport high jewellery collection, which parlayed key codes of the house — quilting, gold buttons, the lion and the “No 5” — into scintillating, original pieces such as a chronometer-inspired ring or a lion embellishing a gem-set shield. Design was the focus, with important stones acting more as accents.

Gucci’s rebrand to a more pared-back fashion aesthetic is making its way into high jewellery, where its Italian garden-themed collection Labirinti put design front and centre. Codes of the house were introduced, such as new dragonfly brooches and interlocking-G motifs in pavé diamonds, which culminated in significant stones, including an incredible 62.58-carat octagonal-cut aquamarine and a 113.35-carat green tourmaline in an elongated shape.

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Gucci’s garden-themed Labirinti collection © Gucci

Louis Vuitton’s latest collection pays homage to 19th-century French craftsmanship, channelling the mood of parent company LVMH, an official partner of this year’s Paris Olympic Games. These collections increasingly incorporate bespoke-cut diamonds in the shape of the brand’s monogram flower motif. This year, it expanded on that expertise with its first yellow diamond in the monogram star shape, sized at 3.02 carats, which adorns a magnificent, architectural necklace inspired by the Eiffel Tower.

Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of watches and jewellery, says customers are “totally seduced” by the custom-cut stones. “They’re the perfect signature for the high jewellery,” she says. “There is nothing better for me to use as our logo.”

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Louis Vuitton’s Coeur de Paris necklace is inspired byt he architecture of the Eiffel Tower © Louis Vuitton

LVMH stablemate Dior, meanwhile, infused its Diorama & Diorigami high jewellery collection with nods to couture. At the launch in Florence, models were sent down the catwalk in stunning parures but also bejewelled belts, hairpieces and anklets that can also be worn as bracelets.

Transformable jewellery — which enhances a piece’s wearability, thereby giving the buyer more bang for their buck — is another trend picking up steam. It was seen at Piaget, Chanel and Boucheron. Or Bleu, Boucheron’s new collection, features multiwear pieces, such necklaces that transform into rings or earrings, and an Akoya pearl head jewel that doubles as a brooch.

In line with transformability is sustainability, an ongoing trend across luxury, and Boucheron’s high jewellery presentation, held in its flagship on Place Vendôme, also included a presentation by parent group Kering’s sustainability programme director.

To Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s co-president and artistic director, transformable jewels seem increasingly popular with a globetrotting clientele. “I’m always challenging my atelier on transformability,” she says. “It’s good because the jewels are worn more. Travelling is complicated.”

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