Louis XVI, the French monarch who famously took seven years to consummate his marriage, had a thing for keys, particularly studying how to create locks they might fit into. Apply amateur Freudian analysis to that as you wish—many already have. Victoire de Castellane, the wickedly creative mind behind Dior Fine Jewelry, winks at this footnote to history, both verbally, as she recounts it to me in a room filled with her new Dior à Versailles, Pièces Secrètes High Jewelry collection, and, more subtly, in hand engravings of locks on the underside of some of the fantastical pieces she has created for it.
Precious does not have to be boring. —Victoire de Castellane
This is de Castellane’s third artistic voyage into the French palace; having previously allowed the public rooms and gardens of Versailles to guide her vision, she decided this time to pursue a darker path. “It’s a place filled with the unknown,” de Castellane says, “all those secret passages, and the ghosts of the past, and questions about who was seducing who.”
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What lies beneath Each of the Dior à Versailles, Pièces Secrètes has a mystery hidden inside, be it a clandestine compartment or a ruby tucked beneath a diamond. Dior Fine jewelry pink gold and diamond ring; white gold, yellow diamond, and emerald ring.
The jewels are marked with mystery. A necklace is, at first glance, a delicately pretty assemblage of rose-cut diamonds finished with a delicate bow, but behind the pendant lurks a beaded oval lock, and beneath the center stone a hand-engraved skull awaits. The yellow diamonds of a cocktail ring swivel to reveal a hidden compartment of sun-brushed white gold and a closed-set ruby.
Intricate hand engraving is cleverly hidden under an exceptional stone. Dior fine jewelry pink gold, diamond, and tanzanite necklace; yellow gold, pink sapphire, and lacquer ring. Dior Diorific haute couture lipstick.
“Precious,” de Castellane says as she reveals the hologram inscribed under an 8-carat emerald, “does not have to be boring.” She picks up a ring of rare blue spinel, showing the secret gold and diamond compartment beneath it to illustrate her point.
As a jeweler de Castellane is revered for her sense of color and whimsy. There is a childlike wonder to her pieces, though she is quick (and correct) to note that they are the product of “play, but serious play.” The stones are first-rate (Zambian emeralds, Type IIa diamonds), and the craftsmanship comes from some of the best workshops in Paris. “Each piece is absolutely complete,” she says. “Nothing is left undone.”
Dior fine jewelry white gold and diamond necklace; diamond and green beryl earrings.
But it is de Castellane’s signature, her knack for weaving narrative in gold, diamonds, and sapphires, that defines it: “I love stories. My memories are very visual. Not every collection has a story; sometimes the stones tell their own tale. But with this collection I had to imagine Versailles: What happened there?”
The royal apparitions come in secret messages throughout the collection, in details inside, and under, almost every stone. A pair of green beryl earrings topped with a crown design represent a king and a queen. The bezels on each center stone are composed of acanthus leaves sculpted in gold. The ear rests are sculpted in a heart shape. And there, in a small corner of an earring, is a tiny homage to Versailles’s doomed but devoted king: a secret lock engraved on the lever.
Only the wearer of this necklace would be aware of the lock and key engraved behind the emerald's setting. Dior fine jewelry yellow gold, diamond, and emerald necklace; diamond, moonstone, and sapphire earrings.
Dior fine jewelry yellow gold, diamond, and emerald necklace; diamond, moonstone, and sapphire earrings. Thomas Legrand. Christian Dior was notoriously superstitious. Note the lucky four-leaf clover on the underside of the earring. Dior fine jewelry white gold and diamond timepiece; white gold, aquamarine, and sapphire earrings. All jewelry prices on request, 800-929-dior.
Photographs By Thomas Legrand
Set design by Hélène Leverrier at Walter Schupfer Management.
This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.