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Stéphanie Sivrière: “Piaget finally loudly proclaims its distinctive, joyous self”

Kim Parker
April 22, 2024
6 min

Though she’s dressed for our interview in head-to-toe black, Piaget’s creative director Stéphanie Sivrière is a woman who thinks – and most likely dreams – in rainbow colours. “I love going to gem fairs with my colleague Guillaume (Chautru, Head of Gemology at Piaget) because I learn a lot from him. But whereas he chooses stones for their quality and value, I only see their hues,” she says when we speak over Zoom. “I’m drawn to singular stones in slightly unusual shades, and when I find one that I like, I feel instant emotion. It’s like joy,” she continues. “In that moment, I can instantly see a design for it in my mind and I must quickly draw it, so I don’t forget.”

Right now, the jeweller finds herself particularly enamoured by blues and greens such as indicolites and tourmalines. “They feel fresh and modern, especially if there’s something atypical about their colour. I also love emeralds with a touch of blue to them, but I’m not wedded to using only precious stones. Again, for me, it’s all about the rarity of the hue.”

Fittingly, the tradition of treating exotic stones such as lapis lazuli, turquoise, jade, opal and malachite with the same reverence as diamonds is something of a Piaget signature, one that stretches back to its heyday in the early 1960s, when Valentin Piaget (grandson of founder GeorgesÉdouard) instructed the watchmaking Maison’s designers to “do what has never been done before” and revolutionise its business. The result was a bespoke range of glamourous, ultra- thin watches crafted with precious metals and ornamental stone dials. This attracted a host of starry enthusiasts such as Sophia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol to the brand, who were eventually dubbed the ‘Piaget Society’ for their love of the bedazzled timepieces.

Naturally, their popularity was followed by Piaget’s first collection of equally stylish jewellery (aided by a new in-house gold workshop) and then, in 1969, to the release of its now iconic 21st Century Collection of sculptural cuffs, pendants and sautoirs (see pg. 31) that proposed a whole new way of wearing timepieces. It is to these archive collections that Sivrière turns when moodboarding her high jewellery designs. “It’s like a goldmine for me in terms of inspiration,” she enthuses. “Although we only started making jewels sixty years ago, there are so many beautiful details from our watch patrimony, like Piaget’s signature Palace Décor engraving, that I can incorporate to keep the designs feeling cohesive and true to the house. At the same time, I also have the freedom to move our designs on to keep them feeling modern, rather than remaining merely derivative of the past. That is important, and a luxury that not every creative director experiences.”

Piaget's white gold Foliatura ring with a Colombian emerald at its centre

Describing herself as a visual thinker – often mulling over possible combinations of gemstones in her mind so many times that she gives herself a headache – Sivrière begins each collection with a theme and then lets herself be guided by instinct. “I was lucky enough to be born into an artistic family,” she explains. “I believe inspiration is everywhere. I don’t tend to have to go looking for it.” Her one self-imposed rule is to never interpret a theme too literally. “I think figurative interpretations can be wonderful, but for me, they are a bit simplistic. I’m a painter in my spare time, so I tend to prefer a more abstract approach when it comes to jewellery – I think it feels stronger and more raw.”

One case in point is Piaget’s exuberant new Metaphoria collection, which launched during this summer’s haute couture schedule in Paris. Entirely crafted by in-house artisans – including goldsmiths, gem setters and stone-cutters – the 52 elegant pieces (comprising of 41 jewels and 11 watches) are an irreverent riff on nature, a recurring leitmotif at the Maison, with a kaleidoscopic assortment of materials assembled together in witty and surprising arrangements to represent swirling water, glowing light or flourishing plant life. One spectacular white gold necklace, named Mineralis, shimmers with a pale 13.25ct oval- cut aquamarine set amidst waves of blue sapphires and diamonds, some overlaid with slices of polished rock crystal, giving the impression of a roiling waterfall suddenly frozen in time. Another gleaming suite, Alata, includes a dramatic ear cuff and cocktail ring that pay tribute to the life-giving warmth of the sun with asymmetric leaves of engraved yellow gold, mother-of-pearl and white gold pieces set with diamonds – their contrasting shapes and textures conjuring the illusion of both volume and movement.

Elsewhere, gleaming rows of vivid green tourmalines, rutilated quartz and tiger’s eye have been set into rose gold to create an earthy looking parure dubbed Terrae, which seems as if hewn from a piece of ancient wood, whilst the Silua set includes a pair of completely reversible earrings crafted from tourmalines and diamonds alongside slivers of ebony and insect elytra, the iridescent wing cases of beetles (the latter can be worn upside down). The breadth of savoir-faire on dis play within each jewel is, frankly, astonishing.

“The part of my job I like the most is working with all of our métiers d’arts specialists as a team,” reveals Sivrière. “It’s much more fulfilling and creative and I am grateful to be able to shine a spotlight on their skills. We also like to challenge each other, because at some point, someone is going to wear the jewels we make, so they must be just right. It took several attempts, for example, to perfect the thickness of the rock crystal on the Mineralis necklace – that was tricky.”

Piaget Sunlight ring rose gold and diamonds

The designer may prove more innovative than most when faced with such creative roadblocks: prior to joining Piaget, where she has worked for two decades, Sivrière undertook a five-year degree in jewellery design at Paris’ esteemed Ecole de Louvre, before starting her career amongst the storied jewellers of Place Vendôme. This, she explains, furnished her with an innate understanding of the practicalities of crafting exquisite jewels, allowing her to push the team at Piaget to produce ever-more extraordinary pieces. “There are times when the artisans and I are all running back and forth between our respective floors (at Piaget’s Geneva HQ) to come up with new ideas for how to achieve something that seems difficult, but it’s actually a nourishing process. Our reversible Silua earrings felt almost impossible to pull off, but we made it happen. For me, these guys are all true artists, so we can be adventurous together,” she says.

Collaborating with specialist craftspeople from outside the jewellery sphere to create innovative designs also brings Sivrière enormous satisfaction. In 2015, she began working with Nelly Saunier, a master feather artist, on a series of statement cuffs for a jewellery collection entitled Secrets and Lights. “I had an idea for this elaborate bracelet but had no idea how to execute it myself, so I researched online and found Nelly, who had worked with Jean Paul Gaultier,” she explains. “I just called her up and we really clicked. We’ve worked well together ever since.” This season, Sivrière has recruited the marquetry expert Rose Saneuil to work on a limited- edition Métiers d’art wristwatch for Metaphoria. The 41mm white gold Undulata timepiece features a dial with rippling waves made by Saneuil using delicate slivers of straw, sycamore, elytra, parchment and leather in various shades of sea foam for a mesmeric effect. Only eight of these watches will be produced. “Meeting Rose felt like it was meant to be. When you understand each other, like we do, a little bit of magic can happen,” says Sivrière.

Two stone dial watches from Piaget's Hidden Treaures collection. Top: rose gold and turquoise with sapphires. Below: white gold and opal with emeralds

With Piaget entering what the luxury journalist and historian Nick Foulkes deemed a “daring” new era, that potential list of innovators could be set to grow in the coming years. The arrival of the firm’s Parisian CEO, Benjamin Comar, in June 2021 (after tenures at fellow Richemont-owned brand Cartier, Chanel’s fine jewellery and watches division and the LVMHowned label Repossi) has ushered in a newfound sense of dynamism, according to Sivrière.

“Lately, it feels like Piaget has finally been able to loudly proclaim its distinctive, joyous self,” she offers. “With all the management changes that happened during the period right after Covid, it seemed like the perfect time to reconnect to our core identity, who we are, and the glamourous, exciting work we have been known for in the past.” This year, the Maison has even coined its own moniker, extraleganza, to describe its unique blend of elegance and extravagance. “I really like the word. For me, it’s all about capturing the feelings of elegance and surprise that I get when I find extraordinary gems. Those are the feelings I want to inspire in our clients as well,” Sivrière says. “I feel like I’ve arrived at the place where I was supposed to be all along.”