Creative Director of Watches & Jewelry at Piaget, Stéphanie Sivrière regularly collaborates with feather artisan Nelly Saunier for the Swiss brand’s Creative Collections. She describes its latest piece, Majestic Plumage, an articulated necklace studded with precious stones and a rainbow of feathers designed to resemble a bird in flight.
Piaget’s Design Studio has integrated feather marquetry into its pieces for several years now. What was behind this aesthetic choice?
Associating high jewelry with feathers demands the precision of a watchmaker and historically feathers were used as ornamentation in jewelry instead of enamel and other materials. On my part, there was the desire to give this feather craftsmanship a contemporary context, to modernize it. When I saw Nelly Saunier’s work it was obvious to me that she wasn’t simply a plumassière, (a feather artisan), but an artist in her own right.
We work in tandem: I come up with the drawings and together we decide on the feathers and motifs we want to create the piece as a whole.
What is unique about Majestic Plumage, your latest co-creation?
The necklace uses feather marquetry and gem setting to evoke the plumage of an exotic bird. But it is also a piece designed to be transformed. We created a system that allows the bottom portion of the necklace, which features the feather marquetry, to be detached and worn as an ear cuff; the part can even be divided a second time to be worn on both ears. As this system had to be lightweight, I opted for titanium, a material that we could also dye to match the color of the feathers. The detachable feather marquetry element is articulated, so there can be some movement as it rests on the breastbone or as ear cuffs.
The feathers are glued onto the support and then embedded around the edges to make them a bit less fragile. Needless to say, it was a very meticulous process.
The transformational aspect of this kind of “exceptional” product—only one piece was made—is quite interesting as it means that the client has the option of making it into something a bit different.
What stones did you work with?
We selected graded shades of sapphires, red spinel and diamonds with the centerpiece being a 7.49-carat Paraiba tourmaline. It took us close to a year to find the perfect stones and the right color gradation; the project demanded real teamwork between the gems, the feathers, the design and the jeweler.
Your partnership with Nelly Saunier has been ongoing.
Yes, our first project together was a pair of cufflinks for our Venice collection where feathers were inserted with stones and since then, every year for our Creative Collection I try to create items featuring feathers, such as our “secret rings”, where the top of the ring opens up to uncover a motif made of feathers. Using feathers is also a way to create an element of surprise; one can look at a pattern and not realize at first glance what it is actually made of.
Is there a “target” consumer for these types of products?
These pieces are geared to someone who is truly initiated in the arts, and an aesthete. They are more a work of art than a piece of jewelry, which is why they are one of a kind.
What other materials are you exploring in the Studio?
Associating jewelry with other materials makes things really interesting as it means we are going a step further than what is typically seen in the world of jewelry and at the end of the day we all do very similar things. I feel that my true calling is to bring these artisanal crafts back into the limelight in a more modern way. We have done pieces in wood marquetry, using not just wood but also other materials like leather, mother of pearl and stone. This makes the product even more impactful. Other houses call on artisanal crafts, but they remain very traditional, whereas at Piaget the goal is to push the experiment even further.
We are currently working on a new collection, but in light of the current crisis, it will be a bit more classic, more ‘reassuring’. In each collection I try to explore a new profession or craft because working alone has its limits. When everyone brings a particular expertise to the table, the end result can be very strong.
See the Fall issue of our sister magazine Formes de Luxe for a portrait of Nelly Saunier.