For Gabrielle Chanel, the mighty lion was steeped in symbolism. The magnificent beast served as inspiration in her work and her spirit, touching many aspects of her life.
Chanel was born August 19th under the sign of the Leo, the fifth sign in the zodiac, a number Chanel believed would bring her good luck. The lion also happens to be the emblem of the City of Venice, a place near and dear to Chanel’s heart. Here she would find herself re-inspired after suffering the death of her lover Arthur “Boy” Capel.
The lion would adorn many of her creations, from suit buttons to bag clasps. The lion made it is first debut in Chanel High Jewellery in 2012 as part of the Bijoux de Diamants collection, one celebrating the 80th anniversary of the original collection bearing the name.
In 2013, the Sous Le Signe du Lion collection paid homage to Chanel’s ever-important symbol as her zodiac sign and as it represents her beloved city of Venice.
Based on the lions found in Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon apartment in Paris, located above the iconic original Chanel store, the 2018 L’Esprit du Lion began a new era of Chanel high jewellery.
She worked the image of the lion into all aspects of her apartment. Carved in gilt bronze or marble standing proud on tables and sculpted into the wood of the fireplace, the lion is there representing the spirit and spark of Gabrielle. The lion is featured in almost all the 53 high jewellery pieces, bold and bright with diamonds, sapphires, beryls, and topaz, all set in white or yellow gold.
To add emphasis to the power and authority of the beast, a chain is paired with the lion. The collection is vast: necklaces, chokers, bracelets, cuffs, rings, earrings, and even secret timepieces where a 37.41-carat beryl hides the watch face in the shape of a fearsome lion head. There is nothing subtle about this collection, and each piece is as mighty as the animal it features.
‘Coco’ Chanel was a woman known for her pride and strength of character. She overcame personal adversity, heartbreak, wars, and even self-exile with perseverance.
Her journey is much like that of a lion hunt. Hungry for success, she fought competitors for dominance in the fashion world. Chanel’s triumphant return to Paris in 1954 to revive her fashion house after WWII can be compared to a lion taking back control of its pride.
L’Esprit du Lion is the perfect homage to Chanel’s strength and bold Leo heart. The craftsmanship of each piece in this collection shows the expertise of Chanel high jewellery.
(All images by Helen Siwak)
- Mona Butler is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.
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