Summer is finally here, welcoming nature at its very brightest. Against a woman’s skin or on her clothes, artful diamond birds look ready to take flight. Their diamonds refract the sun rays and sparkle.
Fly with us over the aviaries of Tiffany & Co., Graff, and Van Cleef & Arpels to celebrate some of the world’s most exquisite diamond birds of summer.
The Luminous Tiffany Diamond and Its Bird on a Rock
The scene is almost surrealistic. A diamond fowl is standing on top of the seventh largest yellow diamond in the world. The name of the piece of jewelry is Bird on a Rock, and the rock is the astounding 128.54-carat Tiffany Diamond.
The “King of Diamonds,” Charles Lewis Tiffany, bought the rough 287.42-carat gem in 1878. Excavated from South Africa’s Kimberley mines the year before, it was carved into a cushion shape. Instead of the traditional 58-facet cut, the Tiffany Diamond features 82 facets. This technical decision made a huge difference, allowing the Tiffany Diamond to shine as bright as the sun itself.
It took eight decades for the spectacular canary diamond to find its first – and most legendary – jewelry setting. In 1956, French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger created his famous Bird on a Rock, and his name will forever be attached to it. Schlumberger is one of only four artists allowed to add their names to their creations for Tiffany & Co. The designer’s finest work, including Bird on a Rock, was exhibited at his 1995 retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Each detail of Bird on a Rock is a work of art. The disproportion between the frail animal and the rock. The ruby red gaze, so confident and defiant. The plumage angled upwards to take flight. The origins of the bird are not documented, but Schlumberger was known for traveling the world in search of rare species. Bali, India, and Thailand were among his favorite destinations to find inspiration.
Over the years, several variations of the bird were created, some of them by Schlumberger himself. They all feature giant precious stones, such as a 63.91-carat emerald-cut kunzite. Schlumberger also designed one other setting for the Tiffany Diamond: the ribbon necklace Audrey Hepburn wore in 1961, in publicity shots for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The Tiffany Diamond has always attracted publicity. In 1972, one of the three times it was offered for sale, an ad in the New York Times announced that the asking price of $5 million ($26 million today) would have to be delivered within a 24-hour window. No one showed up in time, but the tongue-in-cheek stunt created an unprecedented buzz. Last year, the diamond’s appearance made headlines again, when Lady Gaga arrived at the Oscars wearing the Tiffany Diamond held by a diamond necklace.
Van Cleef & Arpels’s Celebration of Summer
Imaginative and dreamy, Van Cleef & Arpels’s designers know how to stop time itself, by capturing nature’s most delicate moments of grace. Les Inséparables, a famous clip from 1945, is an enduring symbol of the brand’s emotional style. Featuring conjoined twin diamond birds on a yellow gold branch, the piece shows how love is about looking in the same direction.
The brand has always designed with nature’s poetic, ever-changing rhythms in mind. Van Cleef & Arpels’s 2012 Birds of Paradise collection, though, takes things to another level. The earrings, in particular, are incredibly three-dimensional. The diamond setting of these curved lines are challenging, and the result is remarkable. Elongated by these shiny swirls, the delicate bodies of the two birds evoke a fantastic choreography. Dancing to the rhythm of the summer skies, they are a modern iteration of Van Cleef & Arpels’s recurring theme of ballerinas.
Another recent expression of this theme is the Oiseau d’Or. It is part of the 2018 high jewelry collection, Quatre Contes de Grimm. A fanciful take on the 19th-century “Golden Bird” fairytale, the brooch was designed as half-bird and half-dancer. Colorful yellow sapphires, spessartine garnets, and onyx adorn the white diamond clip. While the body features round stones, emerald-cut diamonds decorate the bird’s dancing legs. Two pear diamonds attach the limbs to Harlequin-like bell-bottom pants.
As the fable goes, an enigmatic golden bird steals one of the king’s golden apples from its branch every night. The bird is wily and quick, and so each detail is designed to outsmart those who try to capture the Oiseau d’Or. The clip is summer’s zest for life at its most poetic.
A Summer Pause with Graff
At Graff, the inspiration is naturalistic, and the style is figurative. Design aspires to honor the beauty and grace of nature. The brand has developed an impressive collection of diamond bird clips over the years. “They capture perfectly the wonder of nature,” says Anne-Eva Geffroy, Design Director at Graff.
Among them, the Graff Sapphire and Diamond Bird Brooch is a 19.51-carat white diamond work of art accented with 6.04-carat sapphires. Glancing skywards, the bird is quietly eating from a branch of flowers. In the summer, birds, like humans, need to make provisions of good cheer.