Ahead of the curve with Yunjo Lee

The new collection from Bucherer Fine Jewellery sees designer Yunjo Lee rework circles to striking effect 

For a venerable jewellery house, a long and illustrious history can be a double-edged sword: the past can be endlessly mined for inspiration yet deep traditions can also stifle creativity and agility. However, the Swiss house Bucherer Fine Jewellery, however, the Swiss house has artfully balanced both sides, bringing its jewellery collections into the 21st century while respecting 130 years of jewellery-making heritage.

Case in point: Bucherer Fine Jewellery’s new, super cool B Dimension fine jewellery line – a 26-piece collection that’s been created in tandem with the South Korean and New York-based jewellery designer Yunjo Lee. This is Lee’s second collection for the brand, with B Dimension directly inspired by the work of Ellsworth Kelly, the contemporary painter and sculptor whose style is synonymous with geometry, simplicity and clear lines. Kelly once said that he endeavoured to ‘free shape’ so that it has ‘clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass)’. It’s an idea that Lee seems to have embraced wholeheartedly with B Dimension: the collection is centred around the classic circle, here translated into diamond pavé discs, which have been almost folded over so to give a new “dimension” to the shape.

“Historically and universally, the circle is the most popular shape,” says Lee. “It symbolises perfection; a classic shape that is familiar, friendly and appeals to us all. My challenge was bringing in newness yet still an element of surprise.” Kelly’s Untitled sculpture from 1986 was a particular inspiration, which Lee admired for its fusion of straight, sharp lines with soft curves. “It feels playful and sacred at the same time,” she says.

For B Dimension, Lee started by cutting out and experimenting with paper circles, which eventually led to 18ct white gold diamond pavé jewels that she angled like stylised butterfly wings. An additional colour block of hard stones – lapis lazuli, carmine carnelian and black onyx, set on pink gold – adds a dose of urban cool, tactility and wearability. For Lee, jewellery is less a status symbol and more an emotional form and achieved here through a 3D language: “A major challenge was to find the right angle to ensure symmetry while creating the perfect effect of light reflection and shadow”.

Realising her designs was a huge technical feat, with two kinds of gold, three types of hard stones and micropavé of tiny brilliant diamonds that range in diameter from 0.7 to 0.9mm. Thankfully, 130 years of Bucherer Fine Jewellery’s expertise was on hand, with the house’s skilled army of gemstone setters and goldsmiths in Lucerne working closely with Lee.

Cue a pair of stud earrings, for example, the diamond pavé circle lavishly embracing 0.48ct of brilliant cut stones, while a matching ring has the same mesmerising effect with its unabashedly diamond-on-diamond look. Another pair of cascading earrings – crafted from five diamond circles that descend in size – is starkly modern, shimmering with movement all around. A necklace of interlocking circles, again graduating in size, feels poetic in its simplicity.

B Dimension is quite the departure from Peekaboo, Lee’s first collection for Bucherer that debuted last year. For this, Marie Antoinette was a muse, as seen in romantic, candy colours courtesy of amethysts, morganites, aquamarines and beryls, all prettily set on either white or rose gold and punctuated with diamonds.

For the art-inspired B Dimension, Lee envisioned a self-assured lady with a flair for unique design, she said, while Peekaboo is more nostalgic, looking back to the myth of a historical figure, and embraced today by a woman with an effortless yet classic style. The rest of Bucherer’s jewellery collections have an individual, modern woman in mind, infused with the house’s 130 years of jewellery-making history. For its 125th  anniversary, for example, Bucherer created a set of high jewellery masterpieces around Switzerland’s flora and fauna and the changing seasons. For everyday, the Daily Treasures line appeals to a younger clientele, thanks to the likes of vibrant star-shaped pearl or sapphire stud earrings. And finally the pear-shaped motif Lacrima collection is more architectural and structural – where rose quartz-filled diamond pear-shaped drop earrings sit alongside a glowing chalcedony ring hugged by a web of pear-shaped outlines. This is the beauty of BuchererFine Jewellery: there’s something for every woman.

Shop the B Dimension collection here

words: Ming Liu