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From Hermès, Jewellery That Listens to the Body

By Alice Cavanagh

Hermès’s Mono earring.
 
Ange Leccia
Hermès’s Mono earring.

Jewellery has long been a tool for self-expression, but what if a necklace or bracelet could translate the inner workings of the body, tracing and making visible to the outside world the subtle changes brought about by our sensations and emotions? This was what Pierre Hardy, who has been the creative director of jewellery at Hermès since 2001 — and of the brand’s high jewellery line since its inception in 2010 — asked himself when he began to imagine the Parisian house’s latest collection of precious, gem-adorned pieces, which debuts today. “I wanted to be as close as possible to the skin to try to show on the outside, in a very sophisticated and discreet way, what is happening on the inside,” he explained during a video call from his studio in Paris earlier this week. He was inspired by instruments such as stethoscopes that amplify physiological vibrations, turning the faintest traces of life into something almost miraculously legible.

Ange LecciaHermès’s Contre La Peau necklace.
Hermès’s Contre La Peau necklace.

Accordingly, the 45-piece collection, Lignes Sensibles, is both expressive and intimate, often sensually so. Fluid and light, Hardy’s creations are designed to lie against their wearer “like a caress,” he said. One necklace, a lace-like rose-gold woven collar, sparkling with 867 brilliant-cut diamonds, gently envelops the entire neck and both collarbones in a glistening lattice, while a white-gold chain and diamond cuff earring tenderly follows the curve of the ear, a single larger diamond dangling at each end like a dew drop. Geometric forms and a sense of symmetry, both integral parts of Hardy’s aesthetic vocabulary, appear to echo the meridians of the body, while some pieces are more directly anatomical: a weighty, solid cuff bracelet in satin-brushed rose gold inlaid with quartz and pink cabochons looks almost skeletal in shape, its contours mapping the ridge of the radius.

Hardy selected materials in colours that he felt would harmonise with wearers’ complexions, or even echo skin tones themselves. He was also interested in referencing the hues of irises and lips, whose appearance can change according to how we feel or the hour of the day. As a result, the collection privileges rose gold and diamonds, which Hardy chose for their ability to amplify natural radiance, as well as cabochons in nuanced, mutable tones: blue tourmaline, smoky quartz, greenish-yellow prehnite and cream moonstones. In the collection’s lookbook, shot by the Corsican artist Ange Leccia, who is best known for his evocative photographs and video works, the pieces are overlaid with projected images of clouds, trees and seascapes that enhance the designs’ own interplay of brilliance and shadow and blur the boundary between metal and skin. “They are like chakras, the body’s energy points defined in ancient India,” Hardy suggests of jewellery pieces in an accompanying text. “In my own way, and without any form of mysticism, I have sought to reinvent these sensitive areas that the light glides over.”

Ange LecciaHermès’s Faire Corps bracelet.
Hermès’s Faire Corps bracelet.

In his role as creative director, Hardy also oversees Hermès’s biannual fine jewellery collections, which are luxurious enterprises in and of themselves but unfold at a slightly quicker pace than this endeavour, whose results are unveiled only every two years. Many of the maison’s high jewellery creations take hundreds of hours to construct and this, Hardy offered, is exactly why the art form continues to enchant: “It took millions of years for these stones to exist, and then years for them to reappear in the aspect they have now, and then it takes hours and hours to mount and mould and make each piece.”

Still, while he conceived of this collection a while back, its concern with physical contact and bodily sensations feels especially poignant at a time when touch and togetherness are limited. “Maybe that is something that this anticipated,” Hardy said, “but I needed to have this quiet collection, these objects that listen to you, that pay attention to you — almost like pieces that care about you.”