As much as I like them, I don't think that I could describe what a diamond smells like. Ditto rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls. To this nose, at least, they are scentless. We perceive their beauty in a strictly visual way.
So when I found myself staring at some forthcoming fragrances from Cartier, Bulgari and David Yurman not so long ago, I wondered how perfume has come to be such a flawless fit for jewellery houses. There are other examples: Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron and Asprey all have fragrances. It seems to me that jewellery-house fragrances are a different kind of wearable luxury. They may not refract light like a diamond or command as much value as Colombian emeralds, but, when composed with passion and precision, they certainly possess the power to captivate.
They are also another entry point into a brand - a notion that is appealing on many levels. People who can't afford a five-figure necklace from Bulgari can at least experience the same level of quality (one would hope) that goes into the fine jewellery. A fragrance also allows a brand to establish affinity with customers, so, when the time comes for a woman to treat herself to a little bling, she might head straight to Bulgari because she got hooked on Mon Jasmin, its newest scent, arriving in March.
Jackie Charest, director of marketing for cosmetics and beauty services for Holt Renfrew, points out that the Old World jewellery houses have an opportunity to attract a younger demographic with fragrance in a way that a platinum cuff can't. "If you're becoming a global brand, you have to talk to more than one audience," she says. "You can't grow business just on grandmothers."
Hence the Essence Collection from David Yurman, three spirited scents - Fresh, Exotic and Delicate - that have been inspired by pink tourmaline, peridot and citrine (the colour of each juice corresponds to the stone). The bottles (shown above) feature caps that echo the signature Yurman cable bracelet (they aren't, alas, wearable). "This collection was designed in the spirit of the jewellery; they can be worn alone or paired," Nancy Tomei, fragrance marketing director for David Yurman, says bwy phone from New York. Lately, the brand has successfully attracted a younger following with its affordably priced stacking rings in much the same way.
But there is a danger to the jewellery-fragrance marriage: As Robin Krug, founder of the fragrance blog Now Smell This, points out, some niche bauble brands have become more recognized for their scents than for their jewels; these include Olivier Durbano's series (inspired by rocks and crystals) and Solange Azagury-Partridge's cheekily named Stoned fragrance. Even so, the merger of scent and jewellery was a logical next step for German-based jewellery company Thomas Szabo, which launched its first fragrance, Charm Rose, late last year, says Janin Schmelzer, the Zurich-based brand manager for Thomas Sabo Beauty. "Creating a fragrance is like creating a piece of art of jewellery; every detail is important," she says.
Of course, a perfume will never turn into liquid silver or gold: Fragrance is the stuff of chemistry, not alchemy. But value can be a funny thing. When my grandmother died two years ago, she left me a few jewellery keepsakes. But she also left me something else: a box filled with unopened miniature bottles of First, the famous Van Cleef & Arpels fragrance she wore as far back as I can remember. I could smell the rich and womanly scent trying to escape through the cellophane and it took me back to years of Sunday visits.
For now, however, I have no plans to open any of them. They're just that precious.