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In a pandemic, can nature-inspired designs teach us to appreciate Mother Earth?

Nature has long inspired jewellery design. But it's time to translate our affinity for natural motifs into appreciation for Mother Nature’s real life flora and fauna.

In a pandemic, can nature-inspired designs teach us to appreciate Mother Earth?

The Panthere Tropical wristwatch from Cartier's new [Sur]Naturel high jewellery collection. (Photo: Cartier)

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, people around the world stayed home to prevent further spread of the virus. There was no going out to the gym, to the movies, or out for a meal. For some of us, our only connection to the outdoors was stepping out for some exercise.

Here in Singapore, during the circuit breaker, there were more people heading out for a jog or going for walks around the neighbourhood than any regular day. It’s not surprising – when we spend too much time cooped up indoors, there can be physical and emotional costs.

In a New York Times article, Benthany Borel, a senior associate at CookFox Architects said, “Humans have an affinity toward nature that’s biologically embedded.” It’s no wonder then that we’re drawn to nature, especially so during tough times.

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For decades, jewellers have understood man’s connection to nature – and sought to replicate the natural world's myriad forms and colours in their designs. And during the gloomy days we’ve been experiencing of late, nature-inspired jewellery become all the more significant. Even watchmakers are jumping on the bandwagon, rolling out watches with green dials that are a subtle nod to nature.

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In the jewellery world, nature-inspired jewellery collections include Van Cleef & Arpels's Frivole, Piaget’s Rose and Bvlgari’s Fiorever. The latest to reproduce the world of flora and fauna is Cartier's [Sur]naturel high jewellery collection, which uses the most exquisite stones to form pieces that are both dazzling and intriguing.

Key pieces in the collection include the Hemis necklace, a reinterpretation of panther fur through the use of irregularly-shaped opals. The uneven distribution of the necklace’s diamonds and opals also bring to mind pebbles of a riverbed. In the centre sits a cushion-shaped kunzite totalling 71.80 carats, with an intense pink colour and a hint of purple.

The Hemis necklace, inspired by panther spots. (Photo: Cartier)

Cartier’s association with the panther has spanned over a century. It first made its debut in the Cartier universe in 1914 through a bracelet watch sporting diamonds flecked with onyx, reminiscent of panther spots.

The [Sur]Naturel collection features a new rendition of the Panthere timepiece. Made of yellow gold and coral, the Panthere Tropicale is described as a hybrid that “lies somewhere between animal and organic”. The wristwatch is speckled with onyx stones and diamonds.

The Panthere Tropicale wristwatch. (Photo: Cartier)

Beyond the panther, a snakeskin effect is achieved with the Opheis necklace. Diamonds overlap in a staggering effect, while the onyx-stone triangles evoke the creature’s dorsal ridge. The stone in the middle, a Zambian emerald totalling 53.94 carats, evokes the head of the snake.

The Opheis necklace, inspired by the snake. (Photo: Cartier)

Elements of nature also make an appearance in the collection. The curves of the Sinope necklace is inspired by water and the way it moves. Boasting a scalloped lapis lazuli edge beneath the neck, the structure comprises other small pieces linked together and set with diamonds. There are five Ceylon sapphires on the rounded outer edge.

The Sinope necklace, inspired by water. (Photo: Cartier)

Lastly, the Tillandsia necklace is inspired by its namesake plant, which has become a part of Cartier’s signature plant family. The necklace captures the plant’s prickles and rounded, water-filled parts. It features a pair of oval-shaped beryls totalling 83.23 and 81.09 carats respectively, which seem to float above a lattice of paved diamonds.  

The Tillandsia necklace, inspired by its namesake plant. (Photo: Cartier)

With the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, public spaces in cities around the world were reclaimed by nature. Plants began to thrive again, and animals returned. 

The pandemic has taught us many lessons. And one of them is that humans are reliant on nature for its healing effects. So while nature’s beauty is made to last forever in jewellery pieces, it’s time we look at conserving the real thing.  

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Source: CNA/st(ds)