All along the Place Vendôme and Rue de la Paix here, roughly a dozen “haute joaillerie” jewelers showed off their latest wares last week, hoping to reach the rarefied clients who were in town to see France’s haute couture fashions.
The “high jewelry” business—the highest level of fine jewelry, where rings and necklaces can cost well into the millions of dollars—is growing quickly, drawing in brands that had previously pulled back and encouraging them to try new angles to reach younger, more diverse clients.
Christian Dior increased the size of its collection, dubbed “Soie Dior,” by one-third to 53 pieces from last year’s 40. Creative director Victoire de Castellane designed two necklaces—the house declines to share prices, but a knowledgeable person said they are well into seven figures—in the shape of ribbons, first sketching them on Post-it notes.
De Beers showed haute joaillerie for the first time, having taken a break since 2011. Business is growing by double digits among Chinese clients, said De Beers chief executive François Delage, even as many other luxury brands are suffering from a Chinese government crackdown on extravagant gift-giving. De Beers clients tend to buy diamond necklaces and bracelets for themselves, not as gifts, he noted.
High jewelry pieces get names, like pets. Bulgari’s colorful “Blue Iridescence” necklace contains 187.48 carats of sapphires that the house had been collecting for years, as well as 81.13 carats of pink spinels—a type of gem—and 24.75 carats of diamonds. The price, according to the company is “approximately more than $6.5 million.” (Currency fluctuations are giving brands fits, causing some houses to be reluctant to name prices on expensive pieces.)
DeBeers is reaching out for new, less traditional clients with unconventional pieces. The brand has long been known for its polished white diamonds, but 29-year-old designer Hollie Bonneville-Barden introduced rough, unpolished and wildly colorful diamonds in hues ranging from burnt orange to deep-sea blue. These pebbles, uncut—one 13-carat octahedron-shaped diamond would have been reduced to about 5 carats if cut—and roughly shaped, hardly look like diamonds at all. “To me, it was a crime that we were specialists in only white diamonds,” Ms. Bonneville-Barden says.
Piaget isn’t on the highly controlled official calendar but showed unofficially, introducing a €329,000 ($360,000) cuff bracelet encrusted with tiny actual feathers from birds including the Abyssinian roller, Lady Amherst’s pheasant and themagnificent riflebird. The piece was created Nelly Saunier, an artist in feathers whose work is often seen on runway apparel.
Feathers on jewelry may require special selling points. “What happens if it rains and it gets wet?” prompted Philippe Léopold-Metzger, Piaget’s chief executive, during an interview.
Ms. Saunier responded, in French and with a shrug, “Just let it dry.”