Photographs courtesy Lalique.
WAG was recently invited to meet again 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 actress 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 recent 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 of his time, would create theatrical and personal jewelry for Bernhardt, herself a theatrical groundbreaker nicknamed “The Divine Sarah.”
“She realized jewelry could help a woman express her character,” Obadia said.
And to create the contemporary collection, Obadia shared, it took a combination of many things, including visits with The Paris Opera and, as always, through Lalique’s own archives.
Obadia, now four years into his tenure with Lalique, says that as he has become more and more familiar with Lalique’s approach, he has become “less literal” in his inspirations.
But it’s never a cocky approach, he assured. “I respect the way he was working.”
And that, he continued, was to create a singular style at a time when many women simply wore a large stone hung from the neck.
“He was mixing precious and nonprecious materials together,” Obadia 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; the crown theme 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. Jewelry is for “different moments.”
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, carved onyx and diamonds.
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, opera and several films.
The necklace’s 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.
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.”
For more, visit lalique.com.