When Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped the astonishing first video from their collaborative album Everything Is Love, fans were thrilled and amazed at the artistry of the piece filmed at the Louvre in Paris.
When jewelry designer Valérie Messika saw it, she cried. Her spontaneous tears of joy stemmed from the fact that Beyoncé was wearing Messika’s Persian Drops diamond necklace and earrings in the instantly iconic image when she is standing with Jay-Z in front of the Mona Lisa.
For Valérie that moment represented a culmination of her lifelong love of diamonds.
I sat down with Valérie in Paris, where she was presenting High Jewelry during the Haute Couture events, to get the behind-the-scenes story on the video, find out all about her background and why she only uses diamonds in her jewels, not to mention that collaboration with Gigi Hadid.
Your father, André Messika, is an esteemed diamond merchant. Tell me when you became interested in the field.
When I was very young, he would bring home diamonds from work and allow me to play with them, but also educate me about them. He would ask questions like, “Which one do you think is the best? Can you see inclusions? Which one has the best color?” When I was older, I traveled with him all around the world—India, Tel Aviv, Belgium, New York—places where he did business to learn more about diamonds.
You launched the Messika collection of diamond jewelry in 2005 when you were in your late 20s. What was your father’s advice when you started?
When my father sees diamonds, it’s like oxygen. The gems alone are enough. What makes me feel happy was not only to see the diamonds but to think about the sketch and make jewelry. He told me to find my place. He said it has to be different or I won’t have success. So that was the first thing. The second was please keep only diamonds in the designs. Why? Because it is our legacy. It’s our expertise. Diamonds make a connection with my dad. I have in my blood the diamond relationship with him. I have in my mind what diamonds can become in jewelry.
What was the initial inspiration when you launched the collection?
I was bored to hear that diamonds were only for engagement rings or special occasions. I said to myself, as women we buy shoes and accessories that cost around 1,000 and 1,500 euros. I wanted to do diamond jewels in a price range that women could buy for themselves. I started with a diamond pendant. One of my goals with the designs was to virtually erase the gold, so the jewels just looked like diamonds on the skin. I made pieces with myself, my friends and my mom in mind.
The Move collection became Messika’s signature style that could be self-purchased. Tell me about it and the 10th Anniversary pieces you launched for it in collaboration with Gigi Hadid in 2017.
When I was a kid and used to play with diamonds with my dad, I remember seeing the light of the diamond when I moved them in my hands. Diamonds in the Move collection slides around so you can see that light. They also make a nice little noise and you can almost play with them in the same way I once did. The collection has been a huge success with millennials. It wasn’t a brand strategy to market to that generation. They found it.
For the 10th anniversary, I wanted to do something that was special. I like fashion and noticed how Gigi had been doing some designing. She is a warm and friendly personality which is a reflection of the Messika image. The moment we had a meeting together, it was very fast. She understood the brand. The way she gets dressed, she always wears jewelry. In September we are going to introduce new pieces with Gigi that are even more a reflection of her style. One of the most exciting outcomes of the collaboration with Gigi is how Beyoncé loved the pieces. She has been wearing extra-large examples of the earrings on stage during her On the Run II tour.
High Jewelry was created in celebration of the opening of the first Messika store in 2014. [It’s] like a dream to create it. I keep the same philosophy in mind of making pieces with as little metal as possible that look different than anything else that has been done in the past. Now, I recently opened a larger Atelier and I have a team of about 25 people. I work with them and push them to make things that are different.
Beyoncé has been such a big fan of Messika. On a trip to Paris four years ago, she took an Instagram of her hand making the peace sign and wearing your Messika diamond Glam’Azone ring in front of the Mona Lisa and then of course she wore the Persian Drops diamond necklace and earrings from the High Jewelry collection in the video for All Is Love. How it all happened?
One of Beyoncé’s stylists told me she wanted to wear our High Jewelry, but she couldn’t say why. She said she would take it overnight and would give it to me the day after around lunch time. She said I cannot come and neither could a guard. I said, “I am going to give you very expensive pieces with no guard?” It was quite complicated, but I accepted. I know the stylist and I trust her. When she gave me back the jewelry and she said Beyoncé wore it. I said great, but for what? She told me you will have a nice surprise. On Sunday morning after the video was released late Saturday night, I saw so many WhatsApp messages on my phone. I thought, what’s happened? I opened one and I discovered the photo of the Mona Lisa, Jay-Z and Beyoncé wearing the necklace and earrings. I was shocked and I cried.
When I look at the picture of Beyoncé wearing your diamond necklace and the High Jewelry line, it occurs to me that you are the only Maison creating collections at this level with diamonds exclusively. It stands out in its focus and truly diamonds are what so many women want.
Yes, they do. My dad was right. It was good advice to only use diamonds.