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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Montblanc Jewelry Designs by Susie Otero

Princesse Grace de Monaco Petales Entrelaces ring in 18k pink gold and diamond pavé.

HAMBURG, Germany — Montblanc, the luxury brand most known for its high-end writing instruments, has been making a big push into women’s jewelry. About a year ago it brought in Parisian jewelry designer Susie Otero to ramp up its jewelry offerings and the impact has been immediate.

The new managing director of jewelry created the Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco as an homage to the late Hollywood actress and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. Limited editions of the collections were first released in September, 2011, making its mark from Monaco to Hollywood.

Princesse Grace de Monaco Petales de Rose ring in 18k white gold and diamond pavé.

This month, the company will introduce 24 new designs, interpreted by Otero, for its iconic 4810 Collection, based on the Montblanc six-pointed star. Also this year the company will release a basic black-and-white silver, lacquer and wood collection by Otero based on various sculptural oval shapes. If that’s not enough the company will challenge the limits of time and love with a collection based on the infinity symbol, scheduled for a September release.

For Otero, this is an opportunity to bring a feminine touch and a bit of savoir faire to the German brand, which largely appeals to men. She’s developing jewelry using simple motifs where the complexity is subtle and is reflected in the use of high-quality craftsmanship. It’s also jewelry designed for contemporary, active women that can be worn throughout the day and for all occasions.

Otero speaks slowly and deliberately but with great passion and her voice has a ringing tone (a sparkle if you will) as she describes her designs and the inspiration behind them.

Susie Otero prepares to show pieces from the Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco in a conference room at Montblanc's headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

In a conference room inside Montblanc’s headquarters, Otero showed me two lines from the Princess Grace collection released in the beginning of the year. The Pétales de Rose made with white gold and diamonds and the Pétales Entrelacés made of pink gold and diamonds.

Otero described Grace Kelly as someone with great beauty and taste who was considered royalty in her work as an actress and literally in her life. At the same time she always appeared accessible. It was this contrast that was a challenge for Otero to recreate in a jewelry collection. She took this task very seriously.

Montblanc 4810 Pendant and bracelet in 18k pink gold and pavé of various sized diamonds.

“This is what I wanted to bring to the jewelry—this kind of contrast,” she said. “I wanted to create something that really was linked to this woman in terms of esthetic and even in terms of feeling. It was important for me because if not then you don’t do it.”

She adds, “We needed to create a jewelry collection that could fit her not only esthetically but also in a more spiritual way, meaning that it could be something that she would consider if she was alive. The idea came to work on the most important part of the rose or the essence of the rose, which are the petals. The petals are what symbolize the rose because every petal is different. Every petal has a different movement, different shape and even a different color. And the petals are very lively.”

Montblanc 4810 earrings and bracelet in 18k pink gold and diamond pave edges for the earrings and polished pink gold for the bracelet.

The Pétales de Rose line symbolizes a special rose given to her as a wedding present by her husband, Prince Rainier, as well as her love of flowers. Otero created a line of jewelry based on four rose petals that fall in a seemingly haphazard fashion to reflect the randomness of nature. A light, delicate diamond pavé is used to signify morning dew on the golden petals. Links connecting the rose petals are nearly invisible so the petals appear to be floating.

“What really was important for me is that when you wear this you don’t see the links,” Otero says. “The four petals are close together and put in a way that when you thrown them on the table because of the direction, every petal is not the same and the angle of the petal is not the same. This is what brings light and also life to the jewelry.”

With the Pétales Entrelacés line, Otero interlaces two pink-gold petals (shaped like teardrops). This is designed to represent the lifelong union of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Gentle concave shapes create movement in pieces that at first glance seem to be flat surfaces. “As you may have realized by now I don’t like flat,” she says. The gold surface is highly polished so it reflects light and again, creates movement.

Princesse Grace de Monaco Petales Entrelaces bracelet in 18k pink gold and diamond pavé.

“I like when the jewelry has movement and light and shines and follows the shape of the wrist, the ears, the (finger) and lives with the lady as she wears it,” Otero says in a way that only the French can describe their designs. “It’s really important.”

In some cases diamond pavé is used on a single petal shape to add sparkle and create contrast with its polished partner. And there are practical uses designed into the pieces. For example, one of the rings in the line doesn’t close completely so women can more easily move it over their knuckle.

Otero also showed me her interpretations for the 4810 collection. Otero updated the iconic collection based on the Montblanc star logo, with modern hoop earrings, pendants and amulet bracelets. Otero uses a more subtle approach when interpreting the star.

Montblanc 4810 pendant in 18k white gold and pavé of various sized diamonds.

“The star is not anymore the emblem but it becomes a motif in our jewelry,” she says. “This means that when you look to the jewelry pieces, it’s not obvious that it’s a star … for those who don’t know the emblem of Montblanc, they don’t exactly see it as an emblem.”

The designs in pure white or pink gold are delicate and thin with many interpretations of the star shape. Diamond pavé is used extensively and in different ways in this collection. For example, for a pendant, diamonds of different sizes are used, which give a cobblestone appearance. On the reverse side of the piece, the impressions made by the diamond pavé have its own intricate pattern. “I like to see the jewelry from the back,” she says. “It’s where you see if there is a real savoir faire. The treatment on the back has to be as nice as the front. It is a really key thing in each piece of jewelry.”

Finally. Otero showed me various pieces of silver, lacquer and wood jewelry that features large, oval, sculptural shapes. The materials—largely black and white—are highly polished and often combined. Sometimes the silver is coated with rose gold; most of the pieces are coated with a lacquer that has sparkle. The pieces reflect an art deco esthetic.

“I’m trying to find the volume, the movement with the shapes so you will find some pear shapes and ovals mixed with materials like wood, rose gold and several styles and shapes,” she said. “Lacquer, white and black, but with a sparkle inside is something quite new in jewelry.”

The infinity collection will have to wait for a few months. But no doubt the motif, while simple and straightforward, will also have movement, shine, sparkle and other surprises and complexities that are among the hallmarks of Otero’s work.