What’s your favorite love story? Mine tends to change depending on whatever I’m reading or watching. A common denominator for me is chemistry and class differences (exhibit A: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a recent and riveting Netflix box of bonbons I devoured about a decade or so after reading the book for the first time). Jane Eyre does it for me, too. Daisy and Gatsby. Marianne and Connell in Normal People. And I still think about the star-crossed hookups that happened in The Breakfast Club and wonder what might have become of them (even though the me of 2023 totally understands how John Hughes films are problematic).
Just maybe don’t ask the French designer Lydia Courteille what her favorite love story is, because that’s the title of the collection she just unveiled during Paris Fashion Week. And answering would require her to choose a favorite among these extravagant jewels that are inspired by great historical romances, most of them of the mythical legend variety.
Courteille says in this Zoom conversation (in which she was interviewed by the author M.J. Rose) that the new pieces are a continuation of Courteille’s La Vie En Rose collection from two years ago.
The muses for each piece run the gamut from a certain ancient Egyptian queen and her lover to the heroes and heroines of Medieval literature to the kinds of romances that played out behind closed doors and between the (satin) sheets.
For Courteille, the common denominator is pink, pink, and more pink, expressed in morganites, pink sapphires, and rubies.
“My collection is very monochrome—pink is the color of love,” she says in the Zoom. “With this collection, my customer can learn stories and learn about materials. I hope they learn something and that they look more beautiful in my jewelry.”
The Cleopatra x Marc Antony earrings would be a great place to start. There are hand-painted enamel medallions that bear the likeness of the famous Egyptian lovers along with symbolic, storytelling motifs including an ankh, and a snake, which refers to the asp that sealed Cleopatra’s fate.
The eagle motif seen in the Jupiter x Ganymede ring alludes to the myth in which Jupiter (Zeus in Greek mythology) transforms himself into the bird to kidnap Ganymede, a young man from Troy, and bring him to Olympus. Courteille shares the view of some historians that this relationship was homoerotic and may well have been nonconsensual. She includes this commentary in the Love Story lookbook:
Ganymede’s myth is more than a simple story. It is yet another piece in the history of ancient sexuality, with particular importance for queer history. If the king of the gods was allowed to have a male lover, then this certainly suggests a lot for the people adhering to that religion. Ganymede’s myth indicates that erotic relations between individuals of the same sex were at the very least tolerated.
A convertible style, the Heloise x Abelard earrings incorporate a parchment scroll and a feather quill pen (a nod to the letters they wrote to each other), crenellated tops of castles and carved intaglios in the shapes of coffins because the lovers are famously buried together in Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
She brings more love stories to life in earring form, plus a bracelet that will make your dreams take flight:
There are a few Love Story designs that are in production but not yet complete. A heart pendant and a handpainted lover’s eye ring are a jeweled salute to the 18th-century forbidden love that formed between the Prince of Wales—later crowned King George IV of England—and Maria Fitzherbert, whom he could never marry because she was Catholic.
And for a contemporary example, Courteille could have chosen any number of famous love stories but settled on yet another tale of forbidden passion, one that ended badly: Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy, who are rumored to have had a brief affair in the early 1960s. It’s an open cuff bracelet with each of the ends capped with a star-studded morganite. More symbolism here: The gems are a matched pair that never come together fully in an embrace.
In the Zoom, Courteille says she included this controversial couple because she’s “subversive” and focusing on JFK and Jackie was too “classic” for her. “As an independent designer, being subversive is a way to express my liberty and freedom,” she says.
Top: There are no lovebirds credited with inspiring this ring but it showcases all the design codes of Lydia Courteille’s new Love Story collection, from the pillowy morganites to the corseted shoulders and bow-trimmed gallery: Ring in 18k gold with morganite, pink sapphires and rubies, price on request
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