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Weaving gold into cloth

Cape of light

This glittering raiment, made of yellow gold and diamonds, outshines even the sun. Charlie McCann puts on some shades

This glittering raiment, made of yellow gold and diamonds, outshines even the sun. Charlie McCann puts on some shades

Charlie McCann | September 26th 2016

Jewels don’t become jewellery until, slipped onto a finger or fastened round the neck, they touch the bare skin of their new owner. The 19th-century jeweller Frédéric Boucheron understood this. The son of a draper, he had an eye for the way a piece of jewellery, like a bolt of cloth, should hang on a woman. Many of his clients were courtesans, the grandes horizontales of European society, who returned to his shop again and again, consumed with desire for his daring designs. La Païva was one such customer. A devastating beauty, she ascended to the pinnacle of Parisian society with the same ruthless ambition with which she collected jewels. Her treasure chest included a belt of diamonds and emeralds, and a diamond dagger worn as a brooch or hair clip – all by Boucheron.

Over 150 years later, Maison Boucheron still knows how to dress women. This cape won’t keep out the cold, but what it lacks in insulation, it makes up for in radiance. Claire Choisne, the creative director of Boucheron, designed it to resemble the train of a peacock, though this peacock is more likely to be found in an Erté illustration than in the wild. She fashioned the feathers from gold chain, twisted to look like cord; the seams binding the plumage are made of a lustrous yellow gold. Artisans worked for 925 hours to assemble the cape on a mannequin in a way that ensured ease of movement. It weighs in at just under 2lb – not exactly as light as a feather, but still easily shouldered.

The cape’s owner need not trouble herself with Icarus-style flights of fancy: why bother winging it to the sun, when you can simply outshine it?

MAIN IMAGE Cape de Lumière, yellow-gold woven sections, set with an 81ct citrine, and paved with diamonds (at the front), Boucheron, POA

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