In an age of high-speed everything, I’m getting quite afraid of losing my love for the slow. Or maybe it’s the opposite, and things speeding up are making the slow appreciable.
Whatever it is, this worry came to a head recently when I was looking up old videos of jazz standards. I ended up watching a clip of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing Take Five live in Belgium from 1964 (transcendent! Also very good as a soundtrack for choosing accessories with a jaunty spirit).
It was wonderful and transporting and all, but just three minutes in I could feel twangs of impatience setting in. There’s a worrying thought: what else have I gotten used to speeding through?
Certainly television shows, which I often put on double speed to save time. Not to get all smell-the-flowers… but what about all the other things that make life delightful? What about aesthetic pleasures?
Fashion houses have been slowly but steadily getting in on the jewellery game. This, for example, is Le Montaigne, a cushion-cut yellow diamond weighing a whopping 88.88 carats that was recently acquired by Dior. Right now, it’s on display at the house’s 30 Avenue Montaigne boutique, but will soon be mounted on a custom design by artistic director of jewellery Victoire de Castellane.
I think, maybe, that’s why I’ve started nurturing an interest in jewellery (and watches, its close and equally fascinating compatriot – but that’s for another day). There’s an expectation from something like fashion to constantly renew and reinvent.
We measure trends from the past in DECADES, but somehow expect newness twice a year or more with seasonal, pre-seasonal and one-off collections. Luxury fashion houses are adopting streetwear drop methods to keep things moving on the shelves.
The importance of highly merchandised capsule and collaboration collections often dwarf the more conceptually-driven main season collections. It can be a bit confusing trying to make sense of what to pay attention to.
But I want to talk about jewellery, and the loveliness of its positively glacial pace. I was reminded of this when I checked out the upcoming Van Cleef & Arpels’ A Journey Through The Poetry of Time exhibition. (It runs from February 12 to 20 at Marina Bay Sands, open to the public strictly by appointment.)
There’s a dazzling array of “poetic complication” timepieces – like the hands of a watch modelled as lovers meeting on a bridge, a fluttering butterfly complication that feeds off wound kinetic energy, and ballet-inspired musical watches that tinkle while enamelled disks of dancers slide across the face.
The august Parisian jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels have a dazzling exhibition that runs from February 12 to 20. Some of the most captivating creations on show are archival pieces specially flown in from the house’s Paris patrimony. Wonders include secret watches from decades past, glorious pieces of jewellery with teeny, tiny covert watch faces hidden in a variety of ways.
Of course, there’s also a whole lot of high jewellery creations. These are the kinds of things a friend aptly described as “where precious stones are a material for creating a piece of art, as opposed to wearable jewellery”. They’re wearable, often in six to seven different modular ways (highly ornate necklaces break apart into chokers, brooches, watches, bracelets, et cetera).
But what’s really enriching is taking a slower, closer look and appreciating the tiny, detailed work involved. The way diamonds are arranged and set to encourage different plays of light. Or the precise selection of exactly the right precious stones for colour, clarity and brilliance to match a certain design.
It’s all very mind-boggling and can inspire a number of responses: a nervous system-level sympathetic response of accelerated heart rate at the sight of fine, artisanal beauty; acquisitional material bloodlust; or my least favourite, a passing enjoyment of simply looking at nice things.
If you’d asked me a scant few years ago what I knew or cared of jewellery, I would have heartily scoffed and quoted Carrie Bradshaw: “I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet.” Now I understand she was wrong – it’s also nice to see it on your neck, fingers and wrists.
But even if high jewellery, like haute couture, is a fantastical world away, there is always fine jewellery to start with. Please join me in my ravenous survey of the options.