The name ‘Niarchos’ might conjure the image of couture-clad and glittering ladies shimmering off to some grand party or another wearing very large pieces of jewellery indeed. You wouldn’t think someone called Eugenie Niarchos would actually be designing jewellery for others to pin on themselves, and taking it so seriously as to study various aspects of her adopted vocation at the Gemological Institute of America.
‘First, it was going to be fashion,’ she explains. ‘But when I was doing various internships in the fashion business I felt there was something quite sad about it all, because what they were creating didn’t really last. To me, jewellery had quite a different meaning. Having been brought up in France I was very interested in history and jewellery was a bit secretive, it was part of history, like Marie Antoinette and her diamond necklace.’ Jewellery, she believed, was something that would create ‘legends and stories and break up marriages.’
So, at the age of 19, having realised that fashion was perhaps not her métier, luck intervened in the shape of Gaia Repossi, a childhood friend who had become the very successful artistic director of the 93-year old family jewellery business Repossi. ‘She knew of my interest in jewellery, in huge historic stones and where they would source them,’ Eugenie says, ‘so she asked me to join her and help her design a new collection.’
Eventually Eugenie started her own company, ‘Venyx’. ‘I wanted it to have its own identity, to be quite apart from my name, so the word is a combination I made up of Venus and onyx — a planet and a stone. It’s a world,’ she explains, ‘not a brand, because I don’t like the word. It’s a whole planet!’
‘Jewellery was something that would create legends and stories and break up marriages.’
Her favourite stones are green diamonds. ‘I love them, for my first collection I used mainly smaller diamonds. For the second collection I used other types of stones, and often they were one of a kind, like a huge pendant set with labradorite, and I also made the same pendant with a rainbow moonstone. At the back of it,’ she reveals, ‘there’s a piece of meteorite.’
She has done two collections and has already developed a light, elegant signature, mainly in diamonds and unique stones she has found here and there. These pieces are young, light, fun, to be worn all the time rather than for an occasion as jewels were in the past. Outstanding are the tiny, thread-like diamond rings curved not only to fit the finger but to stack up one into another — as many as you want.
‘What I am trying to do is make pieces which have a meaning, like the turtle from my first collection — in Asia people associate it with longevity,’ Eugenie says. ‘I do jewellery you can wear day and night and I try not to associate it with one type of client — I want it to be for all types of women — and I don’t design it for a particular age group.’
Before we talked I had seen on Instagram things that had taken Eugenie’s fancy during her visit to the recent Tucson Gem show. This show is not glamorous, and it isn’t for casual customers — this trade show sells raw stones and minerals to the international jewellery world. Eugenie loves it. ‘I found so many things, like moss agate with inclusions like branches, some beautiful turquoise, very flat diamonds with inclusions — quite different to the conventional diamonds.’
I asked Eugenie to look at some of the jewels Christie’s will be selling during our London sale in June. She pounced, if that is the right word, on the Cartier tiger brooch (Lot 325). ‘I love the animals because they are just beautiful, and I love tigers, they are my favourite animals. My favourite would be the tiger version of the onyx and diamond panther bangle (Lot 207); the original was owned by the Duchess of Windsor.’
I show her an incredibly handsome diamond bracelet which converts into a diadem (Lot 392) and which features old-cut diamonds standing up from a base of an intricate diamond lattice work setting, giving these exemplary stones a three dimensional presence. ‘Wow, I love this and I would never say no to it — it is unbelievable and the stones are huge!’ Eugenie says, musing that a woman always needs a diamond bracelet.
Next comes a sapphire and diamond brooch which can be disassembled to make two clips (Lot 382). This sets Eugenie thinking that she ought to do ‘more brooches which can be disassembled, it’s a very good idea.’ She also loves the carved emerald ear pendants (Lot 236). ‘They are great but at the same time subtle; I like the way they have suspended them from invisibly set lines of stone, graduating the virtually black onyx down to the green of the earrings. That shows real thought.’
Finally come two Cartier clips: the single diamond deco clip which catches Eugenie’s fancy because she admires its workmanship (Lot 203), and the tiny ruby-set flower vase, also by Cartier (Lot 200). ‘I’m not into flowers normally’ she tells me, ‘but I find this one quite special, more sensitive; it’s like a little ruby tree.’