Carolina Herrera on Jewellery Heritage, Legacy & Style

By Sotheby's

Ahead of the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels (15 May, Geneva), Sotheby's Andres White Correal sat down with Carolina Herrera to look at the star pieces from the sale, discuss her approach to personal style and explore the history and legacy of these exquisite jewels. 

Andres White Correal: As a creative director of one the world’s leading fragrance houses, Carolina Herrera Fragrances, you collaborate with the best creative minds in the world. Where do you draw influence from and what inspires you?

Carolina Herrera: Perfumes are ethereal; there's something not concrete about them. Inspiration comes from things that you unconsciously put in your brain. I have an imaginary chest where I store everything, either noise or sounds, words, images…and this is what I draw on for the creative process. It could be a conversation that I have, or a colour I see, and that can return to me later as the inspiration for a scent.

AWC: You travel extensively. Are there particular styles that you find interesting in different parts of the world?

CH: Definitely. For example, in Latin America people wear more jewels and more make-up than in America, where people tend to be more casual and wear sneakers. I take them for granted though because there are really no fashion rules.

AWC: What is the one piece of jewellery you would always take with you when you’re travelling?

CH: I have a few and they sometimes change. I take a little pouch and I put the things I think I'm going to use. Depending on the trip sometimes I take one thing that I can wear from day to night, I have these little pearl and diamond earrings that a friend gave me which I love, and sometimes I take those for both day and night. At the moment I’m travelling with a lapis lazuli frog bracelet that I had made in India. In Latin America, frogs symbolise fertility, motherhood and wealth.

AWC: Do you have a favourite gemstone?

CH: I love emeralds and rubies. I know some people love rubies and some people don't; some people think they're bad luck, but I love them. Emeralds have always been worn in my family; from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother — we've all worn them. I love their fragility. I prefer to wear traditional fine jewels in the middle of day paired with casual clothes, and then completely dress down the look in the evening and wear understated simple gold jewels for evening wear. I remember seeing Jade Jagger at a picnic on the beach in LA when she was doing a line for Garrard and she had on a huge diamond necklace with jean shorts. It looked fantastic, very casual.

AWC: Do you think historic jewellery has influenced style today, in terms of what you wear?

CH: It's nice to be able to wear your jewels. To not always keep them in the safe but to actually wear them, and not only just for special occasions. People are much more relaxed nowadays so it's nice to be able to wear them when they don't seem like they are what they really are.

AWC: Knowing you well, I feel that earrings are your trademark look. What inspired this?

CH: I've worn mismatched earrings since I was young. In fact, I'm making an effort to wear matched earrings right now, and I have to say, it feels a little odd! I would even wear only one of these yellow diamond drops, which I have to say are pretty spectacular.

AWC: So if you have a pair, you often just leave one at home?

CH: Yes. And when I was young I would experiment; I had mismatched feathers, studs, all kinds!

AWC: I remember you telling me you even pierced your own ears?

CH: It’s true! I did them a little too close together, and my mother was not impressed.

AWC: So, onto more important things! Which of these pieces from the sale are you drawn to?

CH: I absolutely love this art deco diamond bracelet. It’s from the 1920s and jewellery from this decade always looks very modern. It has an elegant symmetry and geometry that is completely timeless and very contemporary to this day.

AWC: I couldn’t agree more. And meant to be worn exactly as you are right now, stacked in abundance like they did back then. 

CH: I also love this onyx necklace by Cartier. It’s so wearable!

AWC: This necklace is from the 1930s and is also one of my favourites as it can also be worn as a clip. Jewels from that period were designed to be multi-functional, and this is a beautiful example of bold colours, design and transitional style.

CH: Jewellery should be about the everyday. It should be fun. I much prefer to wear bold statement jewellery, like this necklace, in the day and then completely scale it back at night. We have a friend that is totally covered in jewels by day, and you don’t even know if they’re real or not, they could be costume jewellery. A lot of people make an assumption about when you can wear things. You have to know the rules in order to break them. I think I would wear this ring hanging on a chain. It is truly spectacular and has to be one of my favourite jewels in the auction.

I like mixing up the use of different objects. For my wedding I wore two diamond brooches in my hair, for example. I like to be inventive and challenge tradition.

AWC: Absolutely. And which of these would you say is the most wearable, for you personally?

CH: It’s so hard to choose. I definitely adore the carved emerald bangle. What’s the story behind this?

AWC: This is a beautiful and very clean and meticulously carved emerald, most likely suggesting that the carving dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. It is mounted now as a bangle/brooch combination, which dates stylistically to the 1860s. I have never seen an emerald carving in such pristine condition with all its features intact. For me, it is also fabulous to see how a jewel which is more than 150 years old can still look and feel so contemporary. 

CH: I agree, I love it. But I am also really drawn to the Farnese Blue; the colour is so intense and I love it because it’s one jewel on its own. It would make a beautiful ornate earring — but just one of course! That’s my style.

AWC: The story behind the Farnese Blue is fascinating; when King Felipe V of Spain, a grandson of Louis XIV, married his second wife, Isabella Farnese, he commanded all his domains around the world to present him with gifts on the occasion of his marriage as the royal coffers were empty due to the crown fighting the wars of succession for twelve years. So, over one year, they dutifully gathered all sorts of gold bullion, emeralds and precious jewels from around the world. Amongst these treasures was the Farnese Blue, which came as a gift from the Governor of the Philippines.

These gifts were being shipped to the King in what was known as “The Golden Fleet”, but sadly all the ships but one sank, with the surviving one carrying this jewel. It’s a very lucky stone.  Through marriage, this special jewel as well as other famous diamonds formerly in the collection of Madame Royale — the only surviving daughter of Marie Antoinette — came into possession of the Bourbon Parma family, direct descendants of King Felipe V and Isabella Farnese.

CH: This really is a stone of resilience. It’s the colour of the ocean and it was rescued from the ocean. It’s a survival stone.

AWC: Before we finish, I just wanted to mention that you are a member of Sotheby’s White Baaz; a group of distinguished women with ambition, vision, courage and style. What does it mean to you to be a part of this?

CH: I love the symbolism behind what it means to be a White Baaz, in itself, a white falcon which I love because for me it's a symbol of freedom, strength and beauty. I love the company of the other Baaz. Strong, independent, feminine women who appreciate beauty, and have imagination and curiosity in abundance. These women all possess grace, style and determination and I am incredibly honoured to be included in this incredible group of inspiring women.


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