A Cut Above the Rest

Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of jewelry and watches continues to inspire, with a collection celebrating the founder’s 200th birthday

Most people would be intimidated by the prospect of coming into a brand as established as Louis Vuitton and attempting to reimagine its iconic elements, but for Francesca Amfitheatrof, it was a perfect fit. Named Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of jewelry and watches in 2018, the innovative designer is natural-born storyteller destined to trailblaze in the world of design—her father was a bureau chief for Time Magazine, and her mother a fashion publicist who worked for Valentino.

A citizen of the world—born in Tokyo, with time spent in New York, Moscow, and Rome—her storied life informs her stunning work. She studied at the Chelsea College of Arts, Central St. Martins, and the Royal College of Art, where she not only received her master’s degree in silversmithing, but also met her mentor, Giovanni Corvaja, the legendary alchemist jeweler. She became the first female design director leading the jewelry team at Tiffany & Co., and her leadership continued at Louis Vuitton where her haute joaillerie collections have been highly praised, beginning with the chainmail and armor-inspired Riders of the Knight collection in 2018, an intergalactic tale told in 2020’s Stellar Times, and now Bravery, the newest collection celebrating the 200th anniversary of the brand’s iconic founder.

Bravery is a biography of the courageous Vuitton, one embedded with custom-cut diamonds, sugarloaf sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and more precious gemstones. Consisting of 90 pieces, the exquisitely crafted collection is a linear journey divided into nine separate chapters that trace the glittering milestones of Vuitton’s career from teenager to legendary trunk maker: La Constellation d’Hercule, L’Élan Vital, L’Aventure, La Flèche, Le Mythe, La Passion, La Star du Nord, and Le Tumbler.

It took three years to source the incredibly rare gemstones featured in the collection. One example is the La Constellation d’Hercule necklace in the first chapter of Bravery, which pairs 11 tanzanites, 12 opals, and nine tsavorites alongside LV Monogram star-cut diamonds. “Louis Vuitton has its own diamond cut which is the Holy Grail of jewelry,” says Amfitheatrof. “That’s an unbelievably different feature from everyone else in the jewelry industry.”

The patented diamond cuts in La Constellation d’Hercule are a tribute to the monogram designed by Vuitton’s son, Georges, and represent the starry sky above the Jura mountains in eastern France where Vuitton was born on August 4, 1821. “One thousand seven hundred gems in this collection were cut on the piece to perfectly set into the model’s design. Every stone has its own story,” says Amfitheatrof. “Their richness of color and diverse origins are in themselves the tale of a journey.” The opals are magnificent, their visually stunning appearance attributed to the fact that they contain a hint of moisture, which fragments the stone and creates its multicolored effect.

Meanwhile, the La Passion necklace features a white gold lattice of 75 natural rubies of the same color and quality, rarely ever found in a single piece of jewelry, in addition to three red Mozambique cabochons of 5.03, 3.52, and 2.24 carats, plus a 3.29 carat LV star-cut diamond. It pays homage to the malletage that lined the interiors of the original trunks crafted by Vuitton.

La Star du Nord is the finale of the collection, which Amfitheatrof calls “the eternal North Star that is leading me and Louis Vuitton to infinite possibilities. It is a story to be continued.” The necklace encloses the “star,” the incredible achievement that is the LV Monogram star-cut diamond, in a 2-line structure inspired by the knot of the drawstring inside a Louis Vuitton suitcase. The diamond itself is a stunning 10.07 carats. The piece also features incredible versatility, hiding a feat of engineering that allows the stone to be removed and worn on a ring, with the knot sliding to cover the setting underneath once the stone has been removed.

The Bravery collection masterfully combines Louis Vuitton’s history with its future, celebrating its founder’s vision and values with the innovation that drives the brand’s evolution today. This kind of continuous innovation, ambition, and dedication to flawless craftmanship is what makes Amfitheatrof’s contributions to Louis Vuitton and the jewelry world so momentous. Her pieces tell complex stories—of both Maison Louis Vuitton and the rare gemstones used within the pieces—yet honor simplicity in their design. She creates jewelry for the modern Vuitton woman, whom she understands to be strong, independent, and adventurous, not unlike Amfitheatrof herself. “I think jewelry has real power,” she says. “It connects us to the sky and earth through gold and stones. I would like the women who wear Louis Vuitton Jewelry [to] feel powerful and feminine.”

Portraits of Francesca Amfitheatrof by Alique. Photos of the Bravery collection courtesy of Louis Vuitton