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What is high jewelry, and have you ever seen anyone wear any in real life?

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I went down the rabbit hole recently on what high jewelry constitutes and I still don’t think I have a good grasp on the concept.

1) is it only well known designers that can make high jewelry? Or an unknown / lesser known designer can also produce high jewelry?

2) is there a price limit / materials cut off? Eg a piece in 14kt gold, no matter how expensive, cannot be high jewelry? Also, is high jewelry basically synonymous with expensive?

3) is it the design that makes a piece high jewelry? Meaning that, for example, a solitaire pendant (even a large one, say a 10ct one) cannot be high jewelry because it is a simple replicable design?

4) have you ever seen anything that you suspect is high jewelry in real life? This entire post was actually driven by my suspicion that I may have lol. Though I’m sure it wasn’t by a well known jewelry maison.

I attended a wedding some time ago of someone who is rather wealthy… Indian weddings are full of opulence and people wearing lots of bling etc but the bride’s necklace was something I have never seen before. Some Indian women choose to wear brilliant cut diamond necklaces on their wedding day if they can afford it… but this was the most opulent thing I’d ever seen - multiple lines of diamonds, all culminating in a series of pear shaped drops, the largest of which (in the centre) was around 1.5-2ct by my estimate. I don’t have a picture, but you’ll have to take my word for it (she also had on matching long earrings, bracelet, and her engagement ring was a pear shaped stone). So would this necklace of hers be considered high jewelry?
 

icy_jade

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The most expensive collection from big name brands (like Chopard, Cartier) or specialty brands (like Cindy Chao or JAR). What most of us would have seen is probably fine jewellery, not high jewellery. The brand matters.

examples

 
Last edited:
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The most expensive collection from big name brands (like Chopard, Cartier) or specialty brands (like Cindy Chao or JAR). What most of us would have seen is probably fine jewellery, not high jewellery. The brand matters.

examples


Interesting! So it seems as though no matter how opulent or decorative the piece, and no matter how eyewatering the price tag, if it is not by a recognisable brand it is not considered “high jewelry”. In that case, I would assume that that necklace was most likely fine jewelry, not high, though it was seriously one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen.

Girl- i shop down the mall :lol-2: :lol-2: :lol-2:

But i did just watch some restored footage of the Queen's corrination and i almost feel out of my chair looking at her diamonds

Oh I don’t play in those leagues, no way :lol-2: she was wearing high six figures USD (perhaps even $1mn+? God only knows, it was a LOT and my brain cannot fathom lol. Her ring for example would’ve been around 8ct. My brain breaks with these numbers!) that’s why I thought this has to be high jewelry right? I definitely felt a bit high just looking at it!!:lol-2:
 

icy_jade

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Interesting! So it seems as though no matter how opulent or decorative the piece, and no matter how eyewatering the price tag, if it is not by a recognisable brand it is not considered “high jewelry”. In that case, I would assume that that necklace was most likely fine jewelry, not high, though it was seriously one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen.

Was it as opulent as the necklaces here:

 

DejaWiz

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My interpretation of High Jewelery is: a unique/unreplicated piece offered by a company renown for their stature and reputation.

 
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Was it as opulent as the necklaces here:


Honestly, yes! I found a picture on Pinterest that was kind of similar, except there weren’t any pears in the middle of the necklace, only as drops. And of course the stones weren’t AS big as this reference pic… the biggest drop, in the centre of the last line, was about 1.5-2ct.

5DABE211-70A0-4C73-B527-7620FC120DAD.jpeg
 
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My interpretation of High Jewelery is: a unique/unreplicated piece offered by a company renown for their stature and reputation.


This seems to suggest what I thought in point 3, that design matters!
 

icy_jade

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Honestly, yes! I found a picture on Pinterest that was kind of similar, except there weren’t any pears in the middle of the necklace, only as drops. And of course the stones weren’t AS big as this reference pic… the biggest drop, in the centre of the last line, was about 1.5-2ct.

5DABE211-70A0-4C73-B527-7620FC120DAD.jpeg

Oh wow. What a feast it must have been for the eyes, high jewellery or not.

It’s like for clothes you have couture (high jewellery) vs designer wear (fine jewellery). Then you can have bespoke or tailored clothes (customised jewellery or those from independent jewellers) but they won’t be considered couture… am I making sense?
 
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Oh wow. What a feast it must have been for the eyes, high jewellery or not.

It’s like for clothes you have couture (high jewellery) vs designer wear (fine jewellery). Then you can have bespoke or tailored clothes (customised jewellery or those from independent jewellers) but they won’t be considered couture… am I making sense?

Yes, thank you! That makes a lot of sense. It just clicked in my head.

Also, yes, that necklace was absolutely stuuuuunnnningggggg. It just killed me, haha.
 

evergreen

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@icy_jade I think that's a great comparison. I won't pretend to be knowledgeable about this, but: I think of high jewelry as art intended for art's sake, much like most haute couture clothing is essentially unwearable for actual lives people lead (to say nothing of actual bodies!). It is, "What can we do with clothing that hasn't really been done before, if practicality and time and cost are no barrier?" Similarly, I think of high jewelry as... performance art in precious metals.

This is why I struggled when Boucheron released some incredible foamy-looking pieces made with diamonds and other precious stones on titanium. https://robbreport.com/style/jewelr...ry-uses-never-before-seen-techniques-2937301/

I struggled because I think of titanium as a "base" metal... it wasn't gold or platinum. I got judgy. And wondered if it would still be "high jewelry." But clearly it is. So, now I think it is more the art (and the impracticality), rather than "is it 18K" that define it. If an unknown designer had set thousands of dollars of diamonds floating in titanium, and not Boucheron, would it still have been high jewelry?
 

Daisys and Diamonds

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Bron357

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My Opal Blossom ring is what I would call high jewellery. It is a one off by an Italian designer AND the Chinese have copied the design and sell replicas for $3 on ebay.
8D59650E-DCB1-4C61-BD08-D088635AF547.jpeg
 

Bojambles

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I went down the rabbit hole recently on what high jewelry constitutes and I still don’t think I have a good grasp on the concept.

1) is it only well known designers that can make high jewelry? Or an unknown / lesser known designer can also produce high jewelry?

2) is there a price limit / materials cut off? Eg a piece in 14kt gold, no matter how expensive, cannot be high jewelry? Also, is high jewelry basically synonymous with expensive?

3) is it the design that makes a piece high jewelry? Meaning that, for example, a solitaire pendant (even a large one, say a 10ct one) cannot be high jewelry because it is a simple replicable design?

4) have you ever seen anything that you suspect is high jewelry in real life? This entire post was actually driven by my suspicion that I may have lol. Though I’m sure it wasn’t by a well known jewelry maison.

I attended a wedding some time ago of someone who is rather wealthy… Indian weddings are full of opulence and people wearing lots of bling etc but the bride’s necklace was something I have never seen before. Some Indian women choose to wear brilliant cut diamond necklaces on their wedding day if they can afford it… but this was the most opulent thing I’d ever seen - multiple lines of diamonds, all culminating in a series of pear shaped drops, the largest of which (in the centre) was around 1.5-2ct by my estimate. I don’t have a picture, but you’ll have to take my word for it (she also had on matching long earrings, bracelet, and her engagement ring was a pear shaped stone). So would this necklace of hers be considered high jewelry?

Sadly I don't own any such pieces either and thus don't have a good grasp of the concept :lol-2: I just like to stalk them.

Wrt #1, I don't think it's only well known designers and I suspect that in Europe (specifically France and Italy), where people have been richer for longer and have a history of court jewellers, you'll find more "less well known" designers technically capable of producing such things.

That being said, if after several decades, only the likes of VCA, Chopard, Graff, Harry Winston, etc can charge a certain amount, I think it's natural to expect a cycle where only they can afford the best stones (outbidding the rest), etc...

Already, I don't see any jaw dropping pieces (ie. Bulgari's Mediterranean Queen) coming out of those smaller designers, which probably already signals the direction that they're going. I just see very nice pieces that still go for 6 figures

So maybe not "high jewelry"?
 

icy_jade

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I think the confusion is usually with the “bespoke/tailored” jewellery. It’s not like they are cheap, some costs a bomb and certainly they are unique vs mass market pieces from mall stores or jewellery chains.

But unless they are produced by recognised echelon of designers in the ‘high jewellery” then they are not high jewellery, but fine jewellery.

This article explains it well:
 
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My Opal Blossom ring is what I would call high jewellery. It is a one off by an Italian designer AND the Chinese have copied the design and sell replicas for $3 on ebay.
8D59650E-DCB1-4C61-BD08-D088635AF547.jpeg

That’s beautiful! So unusual.

I found this article interesting...


Heritage Auctions just exhibited and sold a large collection of JAR pieces.

@lulu_ma you accidentally linked the wrong page, could you please link the article you were talking about? I’d love to read it.

Sadly I don't own any such pieces either and thus don't have a good grasp of the concept :lol-2: I just like to stalk them.

Wrt #1, I don't think it's only well known designers and I suspect that in Europe (specifically France and Italy), where people have been richer for longer and have a history of court jewellers, you'll find more "less well known" designers technically capable of producing such things.

That being said, if after several decades, only the likes of VCA, Chopard, Graff, Harry Winston, etc can charge a certain amount, I think it's natural to expect a cycle where only they can afford the best stones (outbidding the rest), etc...

Already, I don't see any jaw dropping pieces (ie. Bulgari's Mediterranean Queen) coming out of those smaller designers, which probably already signals the direction that they're going. I just see very nice pieces that still go for 6 figures

So maybe not "high jewelry"?

I suspect the “designer” element will matter in the classification to an extent. The necklace I refer to was jaw dropping. I don’t think the inclusion of coloured stones etc is necessary for the creation of high jewelry, as I’ve seen pieces by the likes of Graff for example, that they classify as HJ, which is all white diamonds.

Price is a good differentiator. One would always expect a Graff to be able to charge much more for the same piece as compared to an unknown jeweler, for design/brand value etc. So the necklace I saw, if it would cost say 300k USD in India (because labour costs are low compared to the US/Europe, and I would heavily doubt that all D IF stones are used, it would be far more likely for the necklace to contain near-colourless or faint yellow stones, and sub carat stones are rarely certified in India) would cost probably 400-450k USD in Europe by an unknown designer and perhaps 750k by a Graff or Harry Winston.

Related to that is something that just struck me - all the white diamond pieces i have ever seen by these large houses often use gigantic stones and are usually D IF (or at least DEF VVS). So it seems that that is a requirement when it comes to HJ as well, which would make the necklace I saw insane, but not HJ I think.
 
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I think the confusion is usually with the “bespoke/tailored” jewellery. It’s not like they are cheap, some costs a bomb and certainly they are unique vs mass market pieces from mall stores or jewellery chains.

But unless they are produced by recognised echelon of designers in the ‘high jewellery” then they are not high jewellery, but fine jewellery.

This article explains it well:

Was it as opulent as the necklaces here:


I think this seems reasonably definitive then, that unless the work is by a recognisable brand, it is not HJ.

It does feel a little weird to me, to think of it that way, since something like that gigantic necklace does not belong in the same category as for eg my diamond studs, but they are both fine jewelry. But your clothing example was a good one, and if the idea of a ball gown and a pair of shorts both being in the general “clothing category/not haute couture” doesn’t weird me out, why does it for jewelry? I feel comfortable stating that a necklace like that is bespoke.

As an aside, I went through your earlier linked article again, and I was tickled at Boucheron’s Indian inspired collection so I dove deeper. Some of the pieces lean close to what you could already see here (like their interpretation of churiyan - Pearl and white diamond bangles worn as a stack are definitely seen here if someone can afford them) some are vastly different (the Padma earrings are utterly unique IMO, so gorgeous). It’s actually really interesting to me.
 

icy_jade

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But your clothing example was a good one, and if the idea of a ball gown and a pair of shorts both being in the general “clothing category/not haute couture” doesn’t weird me out, why does it for jewelry? I feel comfortable stating that a necklace like that is bespoke.

Exactly! It’s like I can tailor clothes (say a blazer for work from a well known local tailor or even one from Savile Row), but I certainly won’t classify them as couture even if they are super expensive. But are they comparable to a blazer from Zara? Of course not right, the quality is different/better but it still won’t be a couture piece. Not to say that the blazer isn’t of fine workmanship, but couture it is not.
 

yssie

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unless the work is by a recognisable brand, it is not HJ.
I would agree with @icy_jade's definitions, and with this statement. And I would also add that the house must have global recognition and regard... I wouldn't necessarily add long history to that requirement, though: Michelle Ong, for example, Carnet was founded in 1998 but I don't think anyone would deny her masterpieces the designation of "high jewellery".
 

lulu_ma

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I meant to link the article that Icy Jade subsequently posted! ;p

Is JAR considered a recognizable brand? He only produces 70 pieces a year. I hadn’t heard about him before joining PS.

 

Bojambles

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That’s beautiful! So unusual.



@lulu_ma you accidentally linked the wrong page, could you please link the article you were talking about? I’d love to read it.



I suspect the “designer” element will matter in the classification to an extent. The necklace I refer to was jaw dropping. I don’t think the inclusion of coloured stones etc is necessary for the creation of high jewelry, as I’ve seen pieces by the likes of Graff for example, that they classify as HJ, which is all white diamonds.

Price is a good differentiator. One would always expect a Graff to be able to charge much more for the same piece as compared to an unknown jeweler, for design/brand value etc. So the necklace I saw, if it would cost say 300k USD in India (because labour costs are low compared to the US/Europe, and I would heavily doubt that all D IF stones are used, it would be far more likely for the necklace to contain near-colourless or faint yellow stones, and sub carat stones are rarely certified in India) would cost probably 400-450k USD in Europe by an unknown designer and perhaps 750k by a Graff or Harry Winston.

Related to that is something that just struck me - all the white diamond pieces i have ever seen by these large houses often use gigantic stones and are usually D IF (or at least DEF VVS). So it seems that that is a requirement when it comes to HJ as well, which would make the necklace I saw insane, but not HJ I think.

Yup, I don't think use of CS is required either. The Mediterranean Queen was just the first "insane" type piece I remembered.

To your point, I don't see pieces with multiple gigantic diamonds / expensive CS being used by the smaller designers.

They'd have a gorgeous ring or pair of earrings, but the kind of resources it takes to do a massive necklace or a whole collection or bling in a similar theme, doesn't seem to happen anymore
 
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Exactly! It’s like I can tailor clothes (say a blazer for work from a well known local tailor or even one from Savile Row), but I certainly won’t classify them as couture even if they are super expensive. But are they comparable to a blazer from Zara? Of course not right, the quality is different/better but it still won’t be a couture piece. Not to say that the blazer isn’t of fine workmanship, but couture it is not.

This makes sense.

I do struggle with the definition of couture when it comes to high end occasion wear though, because Indian Haute Couture designers, like Rahul Mishra and Amit Aggarwal (look them up, their stuff is a visual feast for the eyes!) make wildly impractical art pieces masquerading as garments - that people can buy even without “connections”. And is usually priced similarly to their bridal collections. I think there is simply a difference between the definition here and in the West because bespoke/tailored is a fact of life here (at least for Indian wear), not something unusual. But this is a segue that isn’t really appropriate for this forum :D
 

Karl_K

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What's left of a bygone era of jewels that never really existed in a stable state.
ie: many would be one thing one season and something else the next as they were rearranged and remounted, stones added and removed over time.
Sets created, sets broken up.

If one thing might be made a requirement, being a set could have a strong case.
 

lulu_ma

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Ummm I’m thinking the UK definition of High Jewellery is different…

Is this considered High Jewellery? I’ve heard of Boodles but didn’t know that they made HJ and am not familiar with David Morris.


 

icy_jade

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And I would also add that the house must have global recognition and regard... I wouldn't necessarily add long history to that requirement, though: Michelle Ong, for example, Carnet was founded in 1998 but I don't think anyone would deny her masterpieces the designation of "high jewellery".

Agree. Must be globally recognized. Think auction house level type where they will set up a separate auction just for that brand. Local well known or even regionally well known don’t make the cut.
 

icy_jade

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Ummm I’m thinking the UK definition of High Jewellery is different…

Is this considered High Jewellery?



Not to me but opinions can differ.

Edit: Jewellers will hope they can be high jewellery and no one can stop them from self declaring to be HJ but they probably are not…
 
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Ummm I’m thinking the UK definition of High Jewellery is different…

Is this considered High Jewellery? I’ve heard of Boodles but didn’t know that they made HJ and am not familiar with David Morris.



Imo, this is not the same level as the other stuff being discussed on this thread. If this counts as HJ, then so does a lot of stuff that I saw at that wedding, not just the bride :D
 
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