By Marie Feliciano
Lydia Courteille’s edgy designs, versatility and passion for fine craftsmanship have made her one of the most in-demand designers in the High Jewellery scene today. Based in Paris, Courteille is the driving force behind a 30-year-old eponymous design house from the Place Vendôme. Described as a lover of history, nature and gemmology, she launched her career as an antique jewellery specialist. Several years later, she tried her hand at designing, creating fairy tale-inspired, imaginative and ornately detailed pieces that were as unforgettable as they were timeless.
Courteille’s collections are often requested for placement on couture runways and films, and sold in luxury boutiques worldwide. One of her high-profile fans, fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, even described her as “a genius for making jewellery.”
In an interview with JNA, Courteille talks about one of her most exciting collections, The Queen of Sheba, which pays tribute to Ethiopia and its rich cultural and geographical diversity.
JNA: What inspired you to create the Queen of Sheba Collection?
Lydia Courteille: I had been in the antique business for years, and I had in my hand at the time many, many beautiful pieces of jewellery. I love archaeology and I love travelling. My job took me to exotic places and made me discover many cultures. I love immersing myself in different worlds. I travelled to Ethiopia, and that’s how the Queen of Sheba Collection was born.
JNA: Why the fascination with symbolisms?
Courteille: Symbols represent beliefs and values. When I was in the southern part of Ethiopia, I met with tribespeople who believe that snakes are gods. In my collection, you will see that I have incorporated the snake motif in my earrings and tiara. The Lion of Judah, which is an emblem of Ethiopia, is also the central theme for some of my pieces. The Ark of the Covenant, which Christians in Ethiopia claim to have, is also a prevalent theme in my rings. (According to various texts, the Ark containing the tablets, is currently conserved in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, in Axum.) One of the rings features two cherubims or angels on opposite sides of the cabochon centre stone. Another ring has an angel hugging a pear-shaped gem. Some of the items were inspired by the embroidered shawls worn by priestesses, and others, like some of my earrings, represented the Danakil Desert, which is one of the lowest and hottest places on Earth. The sulphur and mineral salt formations have influenced the choice of gemstones and precious metal for this collection: Yellow and green tourmalines, gold the colour of clay and brown diamonds.
JNA: How would you best describe your design style?
Courteille: Colourful. It’s because jewellery is supposed to make you happy. My designs are bold, edgy, and unusual; they are created to stand out. My pieces appeal to women everywhere, especially among those who value high-quality craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind designs.