Chanel 80 Years Later: Coco’s First High Jewelry Collection Reimagined

In celebration of 80 years of high jewelry, the couture house reimagines Coco Chanel's timeless 'Bijoux de Diamants' collection for today

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In 1932, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel imagined and designed the Bijoux de Diamants collection, a fine jewelry series that captured the essence of the Great Depression-mired time period with exquisite designs and a unique perspective — that of looking upward. With pieces that focused on the beauty of the sky — featuring comets, stars and suns, three everlasting symbols of Chanel’s high-jewelry collections — Bijoux de Diamants was unlike anything that had been presented at the time, much less by a fashion designer, and was  thus met with a grand soirée of which only Chanel is capable.

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“I want the jewelry to be like a ribbon on a woman’s fingers,” Mademoiselle Chanel told the French daily l’Intransigeant of her inspired collection, which was presented on life-like wax busts, as opposed to the trays that were common at the time. “I wanted to cover women with constellations.” And needless to say, she did.

Bijoux de Diamants was the first high-jewelry collection for Chanel — and the only for Coco — and in celebration of its 80th anniversary, the couture house is reinventing the storied series with “1932,” a new variation on the classic jewels originally designed by Mademoiselle Chanel. With spectacular white, black and yellow diamonds, as well as stunning blue sapphires and cultured pearls, lightly framed by flawless platinum or white and yellow gold, the vast collection of 80 pieces—one of every year—is stunning in both design and quality, while keeping in tune with Mademoiselle Chanel’s original vision.

(PHOTOS: Flashback: Chanel Style by Paul Schutzer in LIFE)

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The Etoile Filante necklace may be the most breathtaking piece of the collection, and the one most fitting of Coco herself. With a large diamond anchoring the center of a star, which falls to a cascade of loosely hung diamonds and even more that encircle the wearer’s neck, this piece is the reinterpretation of the 1932 Comète necklace. It has no clasp — just like the original — and the star can be removed to be worn as a brooch, just as Coco would want it, as she thought that jewelry should not hinder a woman’s freedom. Coco freed women in other ways as well, famously using jersey to create looser silhouettes that were devoid of the frills and tight corsets of styles at the time.

The 1932 collection features its fair share of brooches, though, including the gorgeous Céleste, with an unbelievable 881 baguette-cut diamonds swirling around an immense 79-caret cultured pearl, and the Soleil, with 1,765 brilliant cut diamonds joined by 16 sunny yellow diamonds. Other highlights include the Franges cuff, with 26.4 carets of diamonds set in white gold, and the Etoile Filante head piece, which looks like stars raining diamonds the wearer’s brow.

Every item in the extensive collection is unique and will be on exhibit in New York City this month and Tokyo in November. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime display of beauty, dedicated to both the glamour of Coco Chanel and the whimsy of the cosmos.

MORE: Coco Chanel in the All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons

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