The Spirit of Camellia

Annie Darling

April 18th 2017

It is rumoured that fashion designer extraordinaire, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, first fell in love with the camellia after reading Alexandre Dumas’s adventure novel, La Dame aux Camélias.

First published in 1848 and subsequently adapted for the stage, it’s one of the greatest romance stories of all time, in which the heroine wears an exquisite ivory camellia, evoking the play’s principal theme – love’s ultimate sacrifice.

The sweetest of flowers have acted as a muse for countless creatives throughout the time-worn centuries. For Chanel, the shapely and immaculate camellia, which is also commonly referred to as the Chinese rose, became a significant symbol of everlasting love and affection. The motif’s geometric roundness and symmetrical petals are unmistakable in the Maison’s latest fine jewellery collection, titled Bouton de Camélia, as well as the late-couturier’s Parisian apartment at 31 Rue Cambon.

The spectacular space, which has been left intact since Chanel’s death in 1971, abounds with the brand’s signature style – from the glossy, lacquered black surfaces to scrumptious, cognac hues. Crystal chandeliers and antique Coromandel screens are generously interspersed with ‘des fleurs de Camélia’, taking pride of place in the illustrious icon’s coveted home.

Blooming occasionally in late winter, but usually in spring, this exceptional flower is notoriously tricky to grow, but the blossom’s rarity and otherworldly beauty aren’t the only characteristics that captivated the world’s most famous fashion designer. The camellia’s emblematic value also proved important to Chanel. In Eastern culture, the bud has long been established as an emblem of longevity and purity, having been thought by Buddhists to protect households from evil spirits.

One of the most instantly recognisable pennants in all of the brand’s wares, the Maison’s Bouton de Camélia fine jewellery collection celebrates Chanel’s adoration for this celestial flower. Each alluring piece beautifully showcases the simplicity and delicacy of the camellia in every capacity, with fully-paved and brilliant-cut diamonds that exude a radiant femininity. Exuberant and modern, the collection’s brooches, rings, pendants and earrings evoke the sumptuous spirit of Chanel herself, by showcasing the indelible mark that this underestimated flower left on both the couturier and her distinguished designs.

Collier Bouton de Cam lia necklace set with 79 brilliant-cut diamonds CHANEL
Collier Bouton de Camélia necklace set with 79 brilliant-cut diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELLERY

Karl Lagerfeld famously acknowledged in an interview with Vogue that his label’s founder had “strong icons such as the tweed jacket, the little black dress, the two-tone shoes, the camellia, that transcend time and are regularly reinterpreted”. Bouton de Camélia substantiates just that, by once again utilising a flower that has been featured on a range of lambskin pouches and wallets, as well as decoration on sunglasses. Since the Twenties, the floret has appeared regularly on Chanel’s quintessential little black dresses, been meticulously embroidered into signature collections, and embellished in the exemplary beading of Chanel slippers.

The clarity and universal appeal of this motif is most likely why Chanel chose to wear the camellia so frequently, as if it were a statement jewel. Additionally, without scent or thorns, it never interfered with Chanel’s most notorious and sought-after perfume: N°5, the ultimate in elegance and luxury. Among Bouton de Camélia’s phenomenal pieces, notable creations include the Collier Bouton de Camélia pendant necklace, which is set in 18-karat white gold along with 79 dazzling brilliant-cut diamonds for a total weight of 1.69-carats. Additionally, the clean-cut and unassuming Bo Bouton de Camélia earrings make a tremendous statement, and boast 82 stunning brilliant-cut diamonds for a total weight of 0.65-carats.

Lead Image Caption: Collier Bouton de Camélia necklace in 18-karat white gold, set with 79 brilliant-cut diamonds, worn with the Bague Bouton de Camélia ring in 18-karat white gold, set with 41 brilliant-cut diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELLERY