“The luxury industry was made to be exclusive and to create a market of goods accessible to wealthier members of society” — Paul Ebeling
The rise of technology and the desire for inspiration and self expression leads to the democratization of luxury Jewelry.
The Big Q: Is the democratization of High End Jewelry a dream that cannot be reached?
The Big A: Yes, and despite a climate of financial insecurity and fluctuating global markets, one tier of the jewelry industry is thriving: High Jewellery — or, in French, haute joaillerie. Essentially, High Jewelry is to jewelers what Haute Couture is to fashion: creating jewels by hand and custom-made by craftsmen with exceptional skills. Both exemplify the best in creativity and materials, and offer designs that drive the imagination beyond the impossible.
For more than 120 yrs, the world’s leading jewelers have courted the top 0.01% with dazzling creations from luxury boutiques lining Paris’ Place Vendôme.
Part of its appeal comes from the qualities that it offers: prestige, rarity and exclusivity. But as the world changes with time, so does the luxury industry. What was once a private affair is now a stark juxtaposition to how High Jewelry and luxury is perceived today. This is thanks to the innovation of technology and the young generation’s desire to be inspired and moved by fashion.
High Jewellery brands are becoming more experience-focused and digitally enhanced rather than just a “store” in the traditional sense. With celebrity collaborations, creative campaigns and more red carpet appearances, the amount of exposure that High Jewellery products are getting become more apparent to people of every demographic. Being immersed in the luxury world, once the permanent preserve of the elite has in a single decade become part of an everyday occurrence, whether through red carpet coverages, pop culture news or social media.
So, is it possible that the democratization of High Jewellery is underway?
The democratization of fashion and luxury goods largely started when Vogue first pressed pages in 1892 and New York rolled out Press Week runways in 1943.
Fast forward to Y 2013, when Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week announced that all 54 shows would be streamed online from Lincoln Center on their website, the once-exclusive world of fashion and beauty struts further from its exclusive realm. Not only are the designs and styles more accessible than ever, the entire industry from inspiration to presentation is exposed to anyone with a keen curiosity.
After the creation of social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Youtube, the constructed craving for minute, behind-the-scenes details and access grew as these institutions opened up for curious onlookers. Younger generations of fashion and luxury enthusiasts are hungry for information and inclusivity, and the High Jewellery industry has no choice but to follow suit.
Now, luxury jewellery houses started experimenting with cross-genre collaborations, and many brands are seen putting more effort into showcasing their backstage scene and the inspirations behind their collections.
Both Dior and Louis Vuitton invited fashion videographer and YouTuber Loïc Prigent to film the launch of their collection, resulting in an energetic backstage reporting of the event to an audience of over 374,000 viewers.
The main philosophy of luxury is to appeal to the ultra-rich and provide scarce, rare and expensive items.
So, how could luxury brands — especially High Jewellery ateliers, whose price range lies in the millions engage buyers and grab attention from a majority without sacrificing its luxurious image and price point?
The term “Luxury”, in the 21st-Century lexicon has become an empty word. The word has become 1 of its biggest weapon in a brand’s arsenal when positioning products, all in its relentless pursuit to sell a piece of that “dream” to the middle class.
Illusions of grandeur in a culture of conspicuous consumption widen the wealth gap and creates a materialistic viewpoint to the meaning of High Jewellery.
So, in a fashion landscape where the supposed democratization of luxury turned its perception into an empty word with false promises, what form does luxury take today?
In the past 5 yrs, we see high jewelry brands adapting by releasing diffusion lines that appeal to the younger clients with less purchasing power.
Leading the way is Van Cleef & Arpels, who launched its Paris La Boutique range of “day jewellery”. Situated at 22 Place Vendôme, alongside its existing store, it is aimed at younger clients and stocking more affordable pieces than the precious gemstone-heavy sold next door. Following suit is Chaumet, who released both medium and entry-level versions of its Hortensia High Jewellery collection, allowing a larger consumer base to access its products and share the beauty.
The best practitioners of High Jewellery today are houses whose luxury is not only about the finest materials, but about creating an experience and forging a connection with its wearers. Brands immerse the consumers in fantastical stories and embed its Maison’s beliefs and core values into products. Not only are these brands selling an image, but it is also selling stories, aspirations and dreams.
Louis Vuitton’s latest High Jewellery collection does a great job at this with its jewellery pieces inspired by mythological creatures. The collection is meant to embody the contemporary Louis Vuitton women, who possess qualities like grace, radiance, strength and sensuality.
Celebrities and artistic individuals are also changing the meaning of High Jewellery. After the rise of individualism and expression, consumers are using jewelry as statement pieces to express themselves and to share a deeper meaning with society.
With the constant developments and progressions within society, technology and the world of luxury, we see ateliers and Maisons change what it means to consume High Jewellery, whether through indirect digital means or the expression of self that comes with wearing a rare piece of stone.
Have a prosperous holiday weekend, Keep the Faith!