HTSI editor’s letter: beauty may not be a necessity, but it is an eternal source of joy
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Is it telling that, having been at How To Spend It for nearly two years now, I find myself preoccupied by jewels? The rocks illuminated by the actress Phoebe Dynevor as part of Louis Vuitton’s new high-jewellery range by Francesca Amfitheatrof are unimaginably spectacular (“Diamond of the Season”). Look closely at the cover image and you’ll see that the 10.07-carat centrepiece of the Star du Nord necklace adorning the Bridgerton star’s neck is in the quatrefoil star cut patented by the brand. Featuring between 61 and 77 facets, the cut is described by Amfitheatrof as a “holy grail” for jewellers, firstly because it makes a case for the house’s extraordinary expertise, but also because it allows clients to identify a stone’s provenance at a glance.
Finding the technical skill that makes this possible has been but one aspect of Amfitheatrof’s focus since joining Louis Vuitton. The other is pure showmanship. In the world of high jewellery, Louis Vuitton is still something of a rookie, and so to establish the brand’s status she and Michael Burke, the CEO, are acquiring the biggest and most expensive stones. These include the baseball-sized Sewelo diamond, a 1,758-carat whopper reported to be the second-largest rough diamond ever mined. It also includes myriad other diamonds and coloured gemstones, some of which have been used here.
The house’s jewellery ambitions are unvaulted. In recent interviews, Burke has readily identified jewellery as “one of the highest-growth categories we have”. This latest collection, Bravery, made up of 90 pieces, has been designed to honour the 200th anniversary of Louis Vuitton’s birth. Like the brand’s founder, and all its métiers, it encapsulates Vuitton’s legendary chutzpah as well as his unapologetic vision to be among the best.
In stark contrast to the capabilities of Vuitton, the designers of Beirut have this year faced an extraordinary challenge simply to stay afloat. A year after the port explosion that devastated much of the city’s creative centre and ateliers, and amid financial crises, writer Gilles Khoury follows the jewellers, designers and craftspeople who have made it their mission to stay open in the city, keep their businesses operational and offer beauty in a landscape where, it could be argued, there is little to be found (“Our future is in Beirut”). As we have seen in other countries, creative endeavours such as luxury or fashion are often rendered low-priority when it comes to the broader question of urgent financial aid. These designers echo a universal message when they claim that while luxury may not be a first necessity it is still an invaluable source of optimism as well as a vital part in any economic wheel.
Some may delight in material pleasures. Others derive enjoyment from pushing their bodies to the limits by cycling over mountain passes, running up sheer cliff faces and swimming in freezing streams. In “The Ironman’s holiday: a new extreme sports retreat”, Fergus Scholes, adrenaline junkie, adventurer and – arguably – masochist, admits himself to an exhausting four-day itinerary in the Dolomites designed to shake him to the core. Courtesy of the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, he embarks on a punishing schedule of Ironmanish endeavour, largely in the interests of survival, from what I can discern. Such extreme sportsmanship will always seem anathema to someone like myself who would prefer to traverse the Dolomites at something like a gentle stroll. But as an experience in how to spend it… like a maniac, this Alpine “holiday” makes for an awe-inspiring read.
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