The camellia blossoms once again at Chanel within the 1.5 high jewellery collection
In full bloom
A symbol of the women's suffragette movement in New Zealand. A subject of inspiration for poets and artists alike. A political statement in imperial Brazil. The camellia has played many roles, but perhaps its most famous in recent times is that of muse of Gabrielle Chanel. The flower first appeared in the Chanel lexicon in 1913. As with all hearsay, reports vary about how the camellia came to be such an icon for the maison: some attribute it to her first love, Boy Capel, while others allege that she became entranced by the flower when she read Alexandre Dumas' La Dame aux Camélias.
Regardless its origins, what we know for sure is that the camellia was Gabrielle's favourite flower: she'd surround herself with the flower at home, dotted on her coromandel screens and perched upon her chandeliers. At work, too, the camellia would bloom as a button, a brooch, or embellished on a dress. Legend has it that she also loved the fact that the flower was scentless, and would not distract the nose from the fragrance of Chanel No 5.
The flower can be seen throughout the different product ranges at Chanel, and even takes on a precious form within its fine and high jewellery. Launched in 2013, the Jardin de Camélias high jewellery collection paid tribute to the flower with an explosion of colour expressed through vibrant precious stones. This year, the maison revisits this muse, and has released the 1.5 collection comprising 50 high jewellery creations, of which 23 are convertible. The name, for all its mystique and mystery, simply alludes to the fact that the jewels are transformable and can be worn in different ways: "1 single flower, 5 ways to wear", says the press release.
In stark contrast to the Jardin de Camélias high jewellery collection, the 1.5 highlights the simplicity and symmetry of the flower, especially in its white form that Coco would often wear on a black dress.
Using a monochromatic palette of white gold and diamonds for the majority of the pieces in the collection, the savoir-faire acquired by Chanel's haute joaillerie team truly shines through. Each petal is hand-crafted and individually set with diamonds, appearing almost lifelike. Whether on a necklace, earring or ring, the camellia takes on different personalities, adaptable to the uniqueness of the woman wearing the piece.
The rose gold versions are mostly set with diamonds, but with a pink sapphire or red ruby adding a pop of colour. On the Rose Tendre suite, the camellia is crafted in rose quartz, a delicate rendering of the resilient bloom - an ode, perhaps, to the strong women of today, and Gabrielle herself.