The Symbolism Behind the Chanel Jewels on the Cannes Red Carpet

While others have been counting standing ovation minutes (Megalopolis? 8-10 minutes. Furiosa? 6-8. Longest ever? Pan’s Labyrinth, 22 minutes!) and debating their actual duration, we have found a simpler arithmetic to track at Cannes. Number of Chanel High Jewelry pieces worn on the red carpet inspired by heavenly bodies? An even and definitive answer: two.

Stars and comets are one of the “codes” of the house of Chanel, recurring symbols that not only bring a signature lexicon, but also the opportunity of a deeper narrative. Are the stars and comets that reappear in the collections inspired by the ones in the ceiling of the orphanage in which Chanel was raised? Are they connected to her belief in signs and astrology? She had a lucky number for sure—that would be 5—and another code of the house takes shape from her zodiac: Leo, the lion. These codes are what make a necklace more than a necklace and connect it to history, myth, legend.

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Greta Gerwig, in Chanel Haute Couture and Chanel High Jewelry, at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. Cindy Ord

“I wanted to cover women with constellations. Stars! Stars of all sizes,” Chanel said in 1932, after the premiere of her all-diamond jewelry collection, pieces she designed herself by commission for a diamond industry hoping her allure would jolt it out of an economic depression. And so she has.

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A close-up of Greta Gerwig’s Chanel High Jewelry necklace.CHANEL

Greta Gerwig, president of the Cannes jury this year, wore Chanel Haute Couture to the premiere of Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, finished with a Chanel High Jewelry necklace, named Etoile Filante, crafted in platinum and diamonds. Its centerpiece, a long pendant hanging from the tightly fitting diamond-encrusted collar, features Chanel's trademark comet-like stars—Etoile Filante, by the way, is French for "shooting star." (It's also a reminder of the house’s long history with stats—and cinema. Chanel herself was hired by Samuel Goldwyn to dress the stars of United Artists Studio. She even designed costumes for two films. )

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Margaret Qualley at the Cannes premiere of Kinds of Kindness. Vittorio Zunino Celotto - Getty Images

Then today, at the Cannes premiere of Yorgos Lanthimos's highly anticipated Kinds of Kindness, cast member and Chanel ambassador Margaret Qualley wore another comet-inspired Etoile Filante as a head jewel in 18-karat white gold set with a 1-carat brilliant-cut diamond. The choice to wear an almost crown-like jewel is trending: Michelle Williams wore another 1932-inspired Chanel Fringe necklace in her hair for the Met Gala. It’s a way to showcase unusual jewels in surprising ways, allowing for more flexibility in style, and, thankfully, rare moments of jewelry ambition.

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Empress Sisi of Austria.Heritage Images

Of course, students of jewelry—and history—know wearing stars in your hair goes even farther back, to the famed Empress Sisi of Austria, who adorned her legendary locks with 27 stars of diamonds and pearls and was immortalized as such in that famous portrait by Winterhalter. You may have seen that Sissi trilogy of 1950s films where the empress is played by Romy Schneider. And you may or may not know that after that movie, Schneider called in a fashion designer to help create a style for her that would allow people to see her as something more than just a tragic Austrian princess. Her name? Coco Chanel. Sometimes the stars align.

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