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Chanel - The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

Chanel The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

A symbol of regal strength long cherished by Mademoiselle Chanel, the lion returns as the motif of Chanel’s new high jewelry and Les Éternelles de Chanel collections.

Last week, as Chanel presented its new Haute Couture show styled as a bucolic stroll through the arches of a verdant garden gazebo below the dome of the Grand Palais in Paris, splendid lions were roaming about in the salons of its Place Vendôme boutique. The roaring lions in motion, projected with sound on the walls of a darkened first floor salon, set the mood for the Maison’s majestic new high jewelry collection, titled “L’Esprit du Lion.” 

Comprised of 53 pieces in white and yellow gold with gemstones ranging in hues from white, yellow and amber to deep red from an array of diamonds, imperial topaz, sapphires, beryls, and garnets, the collection was inspired by the lion, a “powerful symbol” according to Frédéric Grangié, head of Chanel’s watches and jewelry division, that appeals to women across cultures.

The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

Yellow carved cut beryl © Chanel

The Significance of the Lion for Chanel

The lion has been something of a fixture at Chanel, one of the most recurrent motifs seen over the years in the Maison’s jewelry and watch collections. Born on August 19, 1883, Gabrielle Chanel often declared that she was “born under the sign of the Leo.” A beloved symbol for the designer who, throughout her life, surrounded herself with the lion motif as a good luck charm and a decorative object in her apartment at no. 31 of the rue Cambon.

Proud and regal, the lion has been used a reflection of Gabrielle Chanel’s own power and independence. It also evokes her love for Venice, the city she visited often, and whose felines symbolize the City of Doges, guarding its gates on the landing of the Piazza San Marco. 

The Spririt of the Lion Collection

As recently as 2012, Chanel had used the motif of the lion in its high jewelry collection titled “Sous le Signe du Lion.” This year, the beast has returned with a more dynamic if not “spirited” posture.

“The lion in the 2012 collection was a solemn animal. This year we have chosen an image that is more modern, more ‘rock and roll,’ given that this lion is always depicted in movement,” said the Maison Chanel at the unveiling of the collection in Paris last week. And added “This movement is shown with new forms and volumes”. The focus has been on the animal in its environment so we have used primarily warm, yellow hues, like in the yellow diamonds, beryls and the yellow gold.”

Specifically, the collection features a fancy Intense yellow diamond of 30.19 carats, priced at €4.4 million and countless carats of amber brown diamonds and yellow beryl, all playing a part in recreating the shades of the lion’s natural habitat.

The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

The yellow diamond © Chanel

L’Esprit du Lion collection features three high jewelry timepieces, each named after traits associated with the lion. Hence, the "Protective" watch, in 18k white gold is set with a round cut diamond and 465 brilliant cut diamonds. The "Dazzling" watch in 18k yellow gold is set with 338 brilliant cut diamonds. And the "Timeless" watch in 18k white gold is set with a round cut diamond and 710 brilliant cut diamonds.

The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

Timeless watch © Chanel

Finally, a table clock titled “Powerful” combines rock crystal with three kilograms of solid gold sculpted into a roaming lion with a wild mane poised in a dynamic stance that embodies the lion's majesty. “The gold is fully sculpted with gold leaf on the surface to allow the carved muscles to be finished in matte and shiny tones,” said the Maison Chanel. “While there is always a desk clock in Chanel’s high jewelry collections, this one is a particularly imposing piece.” 

Les Éternelles de Chanel returns

In addition to the watches in its high jewelry collection, the Maison also presented three one-of-a-kind secret watches as new additions to Chanel’s Les Éternelles collection. Though part of a different collection, they also adhered to the lion motif this year, taking on more figurative features than the abstract designs seen in Les Éternelles pieces in years past.

The most visually striking is a secret watch called “L’Esprit du Lion Beryl Secret” in 18k white gold, set with a yellow carved cut beryl weighing 37.41 carats and 541 brilliant cut diamonds weighing at 7.21 carats. The carved beryl, the result of the skilled application of glyptic craftsmanship at Chanel, pivots to reveal the fully pavé-set dial of this unique timepiece priced at €350,000.

The Spirit of the Lion roars at Chanel

L'Esprit du Lion Beryl Secret © Chanel


The “Diamond Face Lion” secret watch uses the lion’s glorious mane to deploy some 15 carats of diamonds set on a front-facing lion, priced at €610,000. Finally, the “Lion Profile” secret watch, drawn as a rushing lion about to leap off the bracelet, features one pear-cut diamond weighing at 3.50 carats and 1,350 brilliant cut diamonds weighing a total of 27.81 carats, priced at €1.1 million. 

The high jewelry pieces, all executed at Chanel’s workshop on site at the Place Vendôme, were nearly sold out by the end of the weeklong preview.

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