EXCLUSIVE: How Vhernier Is Creating the Diamond Jewelry of the Future
Vhernier’s Deputy General Manager Isabella Traglio takes us inside the maison’s cutting-edge collection.By Christelle Lafin |
The diamond jewelry from Vhernier is about surprise, creativity, innovation and, of course, art. In an exclusive interview, the secrets of the craftsmanship mastery behind Vhernier are revealed.
Uncompromisingly modern, Vhernier diamond jewelry is at the forefront of design. Its use of natural diamonds and extraordinary sculptural lines is hailed for elegance. In an exclusive interview conducted in Vhernier’s Paris boutique, Isabella Traglio, the company’s Deputy General Manager, reveals the secrets of the craftsmanship mastery behind the house’s unique reputation and offers Only Natural Diamonds an exclusive peek at the new Aladino ring in Vhernier Classic Pavé.
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How would you define Vhernier diamond jewelry in one sentence?
Isabella Traglio: Since our beginnings in 1984, we have been designing jewels that don’t exist yet—with our codes. Vhernier is about surprise, creativity, innovation and, of course, art. Our ongoing research is aimed at creating unseen pieces with a strong identity. Timeless yet appropriate for our contemporary lifestyle. So, we make them very comfortable and highly wearable. From dawn to dusk and throughout the night, our jewelry can be worn on any occasion.
So, where do you draw your inspiration from?
IT: We have always drawn inspiration from nature. Not only from flora or fauna elements, but more along the lines of concepts. From nature’s energy and movements. Take our high jewelry Blue Velvet necklace, for instance. Made of titanium and natural diamonds, it is meant to remind us of the waves. It took our craftsmen more than three years to design and produce it! The Coucher du Soleil bracelet recreates the impressions of the sunlight at dusk with bronze, gold and diamonds.
Tell us more about Vhernier’s very special relationship with contemporary art and architecture?
IT: The house was co-founded by an architect and a female jeweler with great knowledge of the most sophisticated techniques. So, we have always drawn our influences from architecture and contemporary art; our pieces reflect this fascination. Artists’ masterpieces trigger our imagination and our creative process. With our Calla collection, you can feel the influence of sculptors like Constantino Brancusi or Jan ARP. The sense of movement in Giacomo Balla’s futurist paintings animates our Tourbillon Ring. The avant-garde design of one of our most iconic rings, the Pirouette, is influenced by modern architecture, like the curved volumes of Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid. And look at our Sorpresa bracelet, with the diamonds peeking out of large square or rectangular bands of gold. We somehow see the slashed canvases of the Argentine-Italian painter Lucio Fontana.
Vhernier is renowned for their unique sense of diamond. Can you tell us more about your diamond philosophy?
IT: We exclusively use natural diamonds in a very understated approach. Not show-offy, but we like to be playful. The diamonds are more for the wearer’s delight than the other people. But above all, our diamond philosophy is design-driven. We always want them to place the diamonds where it is the most relevant. So, when we have a flawless D color, 12 carat Golconda mine diamond, we set it in a high jewelry ring and let it take center stage. We set the gem free!
Is this understated sense of luxury a cultural trait?
IT: It is Northern Italian, for sure. This discretion has a lot to do with our Milanese culture. Very much about restraint and sophistication. This subtlety is what we find “chic.” It also feeds our creativity and nurtures a fun sense of surprise.
Innovation is at the core of your DNA. So, what sets Vhernier’s craftsmanship apart?
IT: First, all our pieces are handmade in Italy because we champion our craftsmanship. Also, we like to challenge ourselves and our craftsmen because we don’t like the obvious. It’s always a mix of age-old tradition and avant-garde innovation. Because we think that we can only innovate once we master the traditional techniques. I pride myself in collaborating today with the sons of the craftsmen that began working with Vhernier when the brand was established.
What is Vhernier’s Classic pavé specificity?
IT: We like to think of our pavé pieces as very bright and super smooth carpets of diamonds. We only craft them with the highest quality natural diamonds. Vhernier diamonds never have less than an F color and VVS purity level. All with the same cut to ensure symmetry and proportions. The uniformity, luminosity and softness of the pavé make it unique. Our classic pavé originality lies in using only two prongs instead of four to set the diamond for ultimate diamond brilliance. But what’s even more unique is that we set diamond pavés on curves—an almost impossible achievement. But we do it because we don’t want to break the lines of our design; it is a challenge we are extremely proud of meeting.
Now, how does Vhernier’s other signature pavé, the Eyeliner Pavé, sets itself apart from the others?
IT: For the 20th anniversary of our iconic Calla line in 2019, we wished to raise the bar of the classic pavé and give it a new twist. This pavé technique gives each diamond the right make-up, hence the “eyeliner idea”: the black line surrounding the stones. The Eyeliner Pavé allows for different sizes of diamonds; their disposition seems random, but they follow a very specific sense of rhythm that makes the piece look “alive.” It reminds us of a manta ray skin. A good example of our Eyeliner Pavé is the Calla bracelet: the gold surfaces are colored using an innovative technique of rhodium plating. It stunningly enhances the brightness of the diamond in a smooth and flawless manner.
Tell us about the intriguing “pantyhose pavé test” that your clients came up with?
IT: It’s to assess the outstanding smoothness of our signature pavés. Our customers have come up with this “pantyhose test.” They brush the ring or the piece against a thin pantyhose to make sure it won’t rip. And I am proud to say that it never does!
Calla is by far your most iconic collection. What can you tell us about it?
IT: Very recognizable for its calla lily shape, Calla is very special to us because we launched it in 1998 with Vhernier’s first necklace in gold and ebony. The collection is our best seller. Despite the surfaces’ boldness, the Calla is minimal and understated. So, over the last twenty years, we made several variants with diamonds in different materials: ebony, aluminum, black titanium and pink gold.
Now for Vhernier’s Only Natural Diamonds exclusive preview! Tell us everything about this exceptional piece.
IT: The Aladino ring is one of our Sculpture rings. It is an exclusive preview in our Paris boutique for Only Natural Diamonds and will be in store from late Summer 2022 on. Two arches enhance its sculptural shape, and it is the perfect example of our classic pave technique. The ring has 841 white diamonds for a total of 5.70 carats. The setting is so minuscule, that it is done through a microscope; no more than a few dozen gemstones can be set in a day!
It takes our craftsmen two months to make an Aladino ring in full diamond pavé. The cut is in bias, which makes it more distinctive and more wearable. Extremely smooth and bright, thanks to Vhernier’s classic pavé specificity I mentioned earlier, it is set on curves, allowing the pavé to glitter within the diamonds. It is a softer, more organic design and a true prodigy of our master craftsmen!
Vhernier has pioneered pairing unusual, lesser noble materials with diamonds. Why this creative choice?
IT: Indeed, Vhernier diamond jewelry craftsmen are specialized in working with all sorts of materials. They master the classic union of diamonds with gold, of course, but also with rarer materials like rock crystal, stones like kogolong, bronze and aluminum—to name a few. We’ve been using woods—ebony, jet— since the very first years and are especially fond of titanium, which we’ve been using for some years now perfecting research on how to set diamonds on it.
Part of Vhernier’s extraordinary sense of innovation also has to do with your use of materials in an innovative way. Titanium, for instance… Why did you start using it in your collections back in 2015?
IT: Vhernier diamond jewelry must of course be wearable, and the titanium’s lightness is amazing! It allows us to create bold pieces without compromising on wearability. It gives us the stylistic freedom to create bigger yet lighter jewels. Titanium is enigmatic because it is a hard metal with a memory. If excessive force is used, it could break—something to be avoided at all costs since the titanium jewel cannot show signs of welding. It is a nightmare but well worth the effort. It gives great wearability to earrings, to bold volumes for rings or bracelets. This creative choice has led to very long research on how to perfect the setting of diamonds in titanium. Also, it can be colored! An attractive feature of our unconventional approach to jewelry.
You have also been pairing diamonds with ebony (two natural materials). What does your fondness for this rare wood reveal about your approach to sustainability?
IT: The ebony we use exclusively is carefully and ethically sourced from Africa, from the state of Gabon. Vhernier has great respect for the environment and natural resources; we make sure that the wood comes from old or fallen trees.
As Vhernier’s legend goes, you crash-test every prototype before launching a new line—truth or myth?
IT: True! Because I am a busy working mom, like many of our customers, we want our jewelry to be relevant for today’s life—versatile and for every occasion. So, I try our new models for a week before we give them a go. I wear the piece every day, with my kids, at work, riding bicycles, horse riding, traveling, etc. It’s an actual crash test! At Vhernier, they say that if a piece “resists Isa,” it will last forever.
We see celebrities from Rita Ora to Jane Fonda wearing Vhernier diamond jewelry. Who do you have in mind when you design a piece?
IT: The person we think of when we conceive our creations is ageless. They have an innate sense of style and a strong personality they wish to underline with their jewels. They are willing to stand out from the mainstream and don’t seek approval at all costs. Our ideal consumer is fascinated by subtle references to art, architecture and design. Wherever in the world, they are from, they love the expressiveness and sensuality of the Italian style.
Vhernier’s ideal customer also seems genderless: Calla, for instance, is neither feminine nor masculine in its design.
IT: Absolutely! Before inclusivity and diversity were “cool,” Vhernier diamond jewelry has always aimed for a genderless style. Our designs are always very clean—never girly—for assertive men and women alike. The jewel that does not exist yet is for everyone, regardless of gender and conventions.
What is the price range for your diamond jewelry?
IT: Our collections with diamonds may seem unaffordable, but they are not! Our prices start at € 2,600 and go upwards, depending on the creation.
From your first boutique in Valenza, a small city in Piemont, Northern Italy in 1984, to your high street stores and online shopping, tell us more about Vhernier’s international expansion.
IT: Our first flagship store opened in Milan in 2002, then in Paris in 2007—63 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Other boutiques are located in Rome, Capri, Venice, Geneva, Monte Carlo, Athens, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuwait City, Beverly Hills and Bal Harbour, Miami Beach. E-commerce is available on selected items for customers whose delivery address is in the UE or the US.
And we know that you are particularly fond of your US customers…
IT: Yes, our American customers are very loyal to the brand. They love our full diamond pavé pieces and reach out for sophisticated tailor-made jewelry.
Now, what’s next for Vhernier?
IT: To be honest, when we look at the future, we just want to surprise ourselves. So, as always, to create the jewel that doesn’t exist yet.