“Rarity, scarcity and beauty make something that is truly, truly special,” Victoria Reynolds, Chief Gemologist and Vice President at Tiffany & Co., tells GRAZIA. “But a piece is not finished until it’s worn. When you put a creation on, it’s really transformable. It’s what my role is all about.”
Reynolds – who has been with the New York luxuriate for 35 years – is of course borrowing a sentiment from the iconic Tiffany & Co. French jewellery designer Jean Schlumberger who is famous for transforming wonders of nature – read: gemstones – into objects of alluring beauty; strong, sculptural, original, and unparalleled.
I’m lucky to be joining Reynolds in Tokyo for a four-day press tour as she launches the third and final chapter of Tiffany & Co.’s BOTANICA: Blue Book 2022, a high jewellery collection which draws its inspiration from timeless floral motifs from the Tiffany Archives – wisterias, magnolias and orchids – and concurrently celebrates the works of some of the brand’s great makers: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Paulding Farnham, Schlumberger.
The fall iteration – which Reynolds presents to international press inside a greenery-filled room at Kudan House in Chiyoda City, one hemmed in by an apt blue curtain – showcases the very best works from Tiffany’s artisans and their astonishing ability to transpose the naturalistic world onto high jewellery.
“When you have a company that’s a Maison, it’s 185 years old, you have this wealth of things you can pick and choose from,” Reynolds says as she touches the ornate Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti snake necklace around her neck, an 18k gold serpentine piece she counts as an everyday staple. (Reynolds later nonchalantly notes she styles her outfits around her jewellery every morning.) “But the key is having a brilliant design team. We really have a group of designers that are simply extraordinary.
“We actually designed the entire collection all at once,” she continues. “It was the complexity of the pieces – and/or if I’d found the stones for them – that dictated BOTANICA. We had a very clear vision, based on what the design team gave us for the colour palette and it was fun launching it in three different parts because you could enjoy it over the course of the year, versus launching it at one time. I think that’s been lovely because we’ve had many people follow the collections.
“To be able to launch it in these three beats has been really gratifying for my team and myself. You get to enjoy it, you get to really look at the unique chapters. It’s like the seasons.”
Reynolds’ job is to travel the world sourcing the best diamonds and precious stones to set into Tiffany & Co.’s jewellery collections, but her curiosity for the magnificent stemmed early in her childhood. As a nine-year-old, Reynolds made her first visit to a Tiffany & Co. store and, while looking at a brooch for her mother, she recalls today how mesmerised she was by the diamonds within it. It is now the gemologist’s will to capture that same emotion in the Tiffany client.
“I hope people fall in love with this collection. It’s what we aspire to – that they go on a journey with us, that they really fall in love with a piece of jewellery,” she says. “Whether it’s the brooch that my dad got my mum or a piece my grandmother gave me, jewellery is very personal and represents a special moment in time. And that then stays with you for the rest of your life.”
Reynolds also tells me about her engagement ring, a diamond with two tsavorites either side. Sourced in Kenya, a tsavorite is “a beautiful stone which is commonly mistaken for an emerald,” says Reynolds. “It’s more nuanced than an emerald, however, it’s a bit brighter, and it has a very, very clean crystal as it’s a garnet. So it holds a polish and is a bit more crisp and brilliant.
“When I was engaged in 1991, I was working in the lab as a diamond grader. I was surrounded by these incredible diamonds and coloured gemstones,” she adds. “There was just something that really resonated with me about tsavorites. I was lucky enough to be able to pick a pair that we had and incorporate them into my engagement ring. They are special and unique. They have their own DNA and they are really quite rare.” The magnolia theme of the latest BOTANICA collection includes tsavorites, which along with morganites, are known as Tiffany & Co.’s “legacy gemstones” as the House proudly introduced these stones to the world at the turn of the 20th century.
The wisteria theme of this third BOTANICA collection is one to be marvelled as it pays homage to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s iconic table lamps. There is one in the room where Reynolds and I are speaking, a leaded-glass kaleidoscope of colour that she tells me is one of two that travels with the team everywhere.
“Re-envisioning works of Louis Comfort Tiffany [and then transposing them onto wisteria pieces] is especially daunting because he was such a genius,” explains Reynolds. “How do you improve on these incredible lamps that really bring out the best of nature? When his lamp was created in the 1920s, people couldn’t believe that it actually improved on the beauty of a wisteria flower.
“The reaction of people to the necklace has been, in a way, the same,” she adds of the Tiffany artisans re-envisioning of the wisteria’s petals with a blue, hand-carved chalcedony and layers of diamonds, sapphires and faceted gemstones.
The Orchid Curve theme sees the House reinterpret its historic floral motif into a myriad of diamond-intensive pieces and extraordinary gemstones.
“I would say what really presents a challenge with the orchid is the delicacy and lightness of the flower,” Reynolds explains, pulling out old sketches of orchids as illustration of their shape and form.
“It’s almost impossible to best nature,” she continues. “Because nature is the lightness, it’s the beauty, it’s the colour. But nature is perfect so when you’re inspired by it, you have to do it better. You have to figure out a different way that you can somehow look at it with a different lens. When you look at a flower as perfect as an orchid and one that has really been a major source of inspiration for Tiffany for 185 years, you better do it really, really well. Were we humbled? Yes, we were. I think we also really believe in our design team, in our jewellers and the newness – it’s what makes Tiffany & Co. so great.
“Was it difficult? Yes, it was,” she adds. “Did we do it? Yes, we did.”
As Reynolds and I walk through the collection, we enter the Schlumberger room where she kindly lets me try on a couple of different diamond rings; one platinum with a red spinel and pink sapphires, another platinum with a ruby. (If a piece of jewellery isn’t finished until it’s worn, please let its journey end here on my left hand!) Schlumberger was known for modernising stately jewels and was particularly famous for his legendary design such as the Bird On The Rock brooch, pieces Tiffany artisans have recreated for this collection.
“More than any other question, I get asked, ‘where did the bird come from?’ Is it a pigeon? Is it a cockatoo? What is it?” laughs Reynolds. “The truth of the matter is, it’s perfect Schlumberger, it’s a combination of many different birds. There’s a sweetness and a wit to it that’s makes it so him.”
He died in Paris in 1987 at the age of 80, the same year Reynolds started at the House.
“As a gemologist, what I loved about Schlumberger was he was bound by nothing,” she says. “He would take turquoise and mix it with diamonds. He would take rubilites and put rubies next to them. They were these unexpected colour combinations that nobody really dared to do because it broke convention. At the heart of what he did, however, was use gemstones, not for their value but for their beauty.”
In a nod to Reynolds’ and Tiffany’s iconic designers’ career-long worldwide plights in sourcing only the most spectacularly precious stones, we present to you Shadow Of The Nymph. Shot in a studio in Paris and lensed by Umberto Gorra, a fanciful creature wanders the natural world collecting only the most rare and treasurable jewels. And when she wears one of her finds? Well, that’s when she truly transforms.
CREATIVE DIRECTION: DANÉ STOJANOVIC & MARNE SCHWARTZ
PHOTOGRAPHY: UMBERTO GORRA
IMAGE DIRECTION: GIANMARCO CHIANESE
FASHION DIRECTION: ANNA CASTAN
HAIR: EDUARDO BRAVO
MAKEUP: MAGALIE MARKAN
MANICURIST: ADRIENNE SOTER
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: JEAN-MARC MONDELET
MODEL: YULIYA B / ELITE