A dazzling appointment with Lalique

Perroquet Ring

WAG was recently invited again to meet with the head designer of Lalique Jewelry, France.

This time, Quentin Obadia was in from Paris to introduce “La Divine” fine jewelry collection, created in tribute to company founder René Lalique’s historic collaboration with Sarah Bernhardt.

Of course, the devoted jewelry lover that I am, I jumped at the chance to stop by the Madison Avenue boutique on a summer morning.

And, as expected, I was not the least bit disappointed in the thoughtfully crafted collection.

“Sarah Bernhardt used to be a very close friend of Lalique, and she was a muse,” Obadia told me.

And, he added, Lalique, whose daring Art Nouveau designs and groundbreaking combinations of materials had made him a standout in his time, would create jewelry for both the stage and personal wear of Bernhardt, herself a theatrical groundbreaker nicknamed “The Divine Sarah.”

“She realized jewelry could help a woman express her character,” Obadia said.

To create the contemporary collection, Obadia shared, it took a combination of many things, including visits to The Paris Opera and, as always, Lalique’s own archives.

Lalique was, Obadia said, known for a singular approach during a time when many women simply wore a large stone hung from the neck.

“He was mixing precious and nonprecious materials together,” he said, to dramatic effect. “La Divine” collection is filled with such echoes, from blue chalcedony to carved onyx to engraved pearls decorating elaborate necklaces, intricate pins and earrings and statement rings.

As Obadia talked me through case after case, he described the pieces and their motifs, noting the connections to the Bernhardt story. I saw earrings and necklaces dotted with lily of the valley, a Lalique signature and here a nod to Bernhardt’s early life in a convent school; the crown motif of the Lys pieces, a tribute to Bernhardt’s role in “The Princess Far-Away;” the vibrant colors of the parrot, in Perroquet jewelry, which recognize Bernhardt’s love of exotic animals; and Vesta, which draws a parallel between Bernhardt, whose story continues to inspire, and the goddess symbolized by a sacred fire.

Throughout, Obadia said, the goal was clear.

“I’m trying to do jewelry that is wearable,” he said, though it does have that dramatic touch.

It’s ideal, he added with a laugh, “If you want to get onstage during the day.”

And I know exactly what he meant.

At one point, which will long remain a memory, I leaned toward a case for a closer look at the Adrienne necklace, an elegant study in white gold paved with 161 (3.67 ct) diamonds and 345 ct carved onyx.

It is named, Obadia had told me, in honor of Adrienne Lecouvreur, an 18th-century actress who died a mysterious death. Her story, first interpreted by Bernhardt, would inspire a play, an opera and several films.

The details — the tiniest diamonds on the filigreed scallop-shaped links — were just breathtaking.

As I commented such to Obadia, he immediately asked if I’d like to try it on.

Um, OK…

He drew it out of the case and placed it around my neck, and as I neared the mirror, I felt myself stepping onto a stage of sorts, a virtual link to another world, another time.

With a knowing smile, Obadia uttered a single word: “Voilà.”

Indeed.

For more, visit lalique.com. – Mary Shustack

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