In 1921, Gabrielle Chanel created what she had long wished for: "a woman’s perfume with the scent of a woman". Legend has it that of the 10 samples submitted by Ernest Beaux, a former nose to the Russian Tsars, Chanel selected the fifth as her favourite and, eschewing a florid name for her new scent, retained its label because of her belief in the number’s talismanic powers. Chanel No 5 went on to become the world’s most famous fragrance, and this year marks its 100th birthday.
"I show my collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year... the number five will bring it good luck," the couturière said. In the century since its debut, No 5 has not only become a global bestseller – with one bottle reportedly sold every 30 seconds – but also transcends the world of scent as an icon in popular culture, from film and design to the visual arts. New York’s Museum of Modern Art admitted its sleek packaging to its permanent collection in 1959 and 26 years later, Andy Warhol immortalised the minimalist glass flacon, designed by Gabrielle Chanel herself, in his colourful screen-prints. Visionary image-makers, from fashion photographers to movie directors, including Richard Avedon, Ridley Scott and Baz Luhrmann, have created advertising campaigns for No 5 starring Hollywood legends such as Lauren Hutton, Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard and Marilyn Monroe (who famously wore "five drops" of it to bed – and nothing else).
At the heart of all this glamour is, of course, the fragrance itself - a rich blend of florals including jasmine and May rose, grown in Chanel’s own fields in Grasse. No wonder that the house’s creative director of jewellery, Patrice Leguéreau, travelled there while designing a new collection that pays tribute to the perfume’s centenary by reinterpreting its key elements in diamonds.
"I wanted to explore the whole world of No 5 and these flowers are at its heart, so I was thrilled to watch their harvest," he says. ‘I found that even their geometric shapes – the moon-like rose, the starry jasmine and the sunburst of ylang-ylang – echoed the celestial themes of Chanel’s very first precious jewellery designs, so I used them as a way to link back to an important part of our heritage."
Indeed, one set of jasmine-shaped brooches and a long pearl sautoir with a pink sapphire rose pendant would look at home on Gabrielle Chanel’s art deco dressing table. Other pieces are more direct depictions: a "spritz" of perfume has been transformed into a cascade of yellow gemstones for a pair of earrings, and the bottle stopper, carved from rock crystal, forms a graphic necklace.
But the glittering star of the show is undoubtedly the 55.55 necklace: a flawless 55.55-carat diamond, the biggest in the history of Chanel Haute Joaillerie, in a white-gold setting modelled on the iconic bottle, from which five droplets of scent are suspended, in the form of pear-cut brilliants. "No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory," Chanel herself once said. These dazzling jewels are the perfect testament to that.
Chanel Haute Joaillerie’s Collection No 5 (www.chanel.com) is out now
In need of some at-home inspiration? Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for skincare and self-care, the latest cultural hits to read and download, and the little luxuries that make staying in so much more satisfying.
Plus, sign up here to get Harper’s Bazaar magazine delivered straight to your door.
You Might Also Like