Jewellery can be a powerful thing for a woman. Not least because certain pieces can hold within them the power of our matrilineal stories. For Céline Assimon, the jewellery box was the way she got to know her mother and her grandmother. “My mother has an incredible and unique sense of style and during my childhood, I used to always find her putting the finishing touches of her silhouette with a piece of jewellery: her sautoir made of pearls, her brooches,” she recalls.
“To this day, she still mixes accessories and fine pieces, which I think is a very contemporary approach to styling.” “A jewellery box is often enchanted,” she continues. “One can know about each milestone in life by going through pieces of jewellery. As a little girl, I used to sneak into my grandmother’s jewellery drawers, and ask her to tell me more about each of her treasures. She would patiently share her life story.”
Of course, jewellery can reveal not only the heritage of the wearer, but the story of the person that crafted it. “Watching artisans patiently carve, mould and polish has brought me utmost joy,” says Céline. “It is magical to me to watch their hands at work. They master such an ancestral savoir-faire, give shape to some of the most precious stones in the world.”
It’s this combination of craftsmanship and sentimentality that first attracted her to the jewellery business. “This is a very special industry; it combines precious materials, miracles of nature, the gift of creativity and the painstakingly intricate art of crafting jewellery,” she explains. “Some of my favourite moments to date at de Grisogono are with our gemologist and jewellers, watching them look for the perfect stone for a design and carving the wax model of a new creation. It is mesmerising and at the same time inspiring – it makes me want to ensure that it is chosen, worn and loved as it transfers its owners’ silhouette, night and day.”
Céline joined the Swiss luxury jeweller as their first female CEO in December 2018, “a dream job and an achievement I’m extremely proud of,” she says, after stints at both Piaget and Louis Vuitton. “It has always been pretty clear to me that I was going to dwell in jewellery and watches,” she explains. “I never thought of a plan B. While I was in business school in France, I must have written to everyone in this industry. I kept a list – which I recently stumbled across while clearing out a cabinet. It made me smile. I was – and still am – so determined to find my way in this world.”
Last year, de Grisogono celebrated its 25th anniversary, but despite its heritage, Céline says it’s a brand that’s very much looking to the future. “De Grisogono is a young and vibrant maison, contemporary to the men and women who connect with its values and designs,” she explains. “I am very honoured to have been chosen to lead the brand onto the next chapter. My ambition is to keep building on the foundations of the maison. High jewellery was, and always will be, at the heart of the brand but today’s customers also want more versatile pieces – pieces which can accompany them from day to night, from breakfast to the boardroom and then on to cocktails. My approach is to put the client at the centre of the strategy and keep pushing boundaries in terms of product design.”
It’s a forward-thinking approach which chimes with changes in the industry. “I think watches and jewellery is now more inclusive and feels more ready to be challenged,” she says. “Technology and evolutions in lifestyles push the industry to think and act differently.”
But in the age of Insta-trends, Céline says that fine jewellery retains an appeal quite apart from the rest of the fashion industry. “There is an emotional component and an everlasting beauty that keeps jewellery and watches timeless and fresh,” she says. “To create them one needs to have a passion for the exquisite, this emotion is transmitted through the designs, the attention to detail of the craftsman, and finally in the emotional connection of the person who wears the piece. Beauty is timeless.”
Céline’s favourite de Grisogono piece is the Ventaglio earrings in black and white diamonds. “I love their appeal for generous and sensual volumes and curves,” she says. “Ventaglio are part of the de Grisogono creations: sculptures made of audacious architectural aesthetics, vividly expressing the “chiaroscuro” signature of the maison.”
But the most treasured item in Céline’s jewellery box is a very different type of earring. “I had some turquoise and gold earrings my mother gave me after my ears were pierced,” she says. “I lost one years later in the Mediterranean; so now, to remember this unique piece in my life, I keep the other as a lucky token.” When we imbue our jewellery with a story, they become a precious talisman to take on the journey, passed down to the next generation.
- Words by Kate Wills