Spectacular Serpent: The Award-Winning Autore Enchantress Necklace

There’s nothing like a fabulous awards evening to shake off the last vestiges of winter and welcome in the brighter spring months. This year, I had the pleasure of returning to the Inhorgenta Awards as part of its esteemed judging panel and to present the Fine Jewellery of the Year accolade on the night. Among the worthy winners was Australian South Sea pearl specialist Autore, which wowed in the High Jewellery category with its Enchantress necklace. As this is now the brand’s tenth international trophy, there’s no time like the present to take a closer look at its luxurious serpent and the precious pearls that bring it to life.

You can trust me when I say that the competition for this year’s Inhorgenta Awards was fierce. After all, I was on the 10-person panel of judges alongside the likes of Stephen Webster, Sarah Fabergé, and Leo Eberlin. When the name ‘Autore’ was announced on the evening of February 17, it felt like such a big moment not only for the brand but also its signature material – South Sea pearls. This win is more proof that pearls are overlooked at your own peril! A passion for these oceanic treasures is here to stay, especially when pieces are as distinctively detailed as the Enchantress necklace from Autore’s new Ophidia collection.

It's worth noting that Autore has enjoyed success with its serpents in past awards, too. In 2022, the Sydney-based brand won the Inhorgenta Award in the ‘Best in Fine Jewellery’ category for its Serpent suite, including a long-line necklace and a pair of earrings set with South Sea pearls, white, pink, champagne and yellow diamonds and pink sapphires. This latest piece - the Enchantress necklace - is more technically and creatively ambitious. There’s something about the realism of the shape, the eyes, the colour palette and the keshi lustre of the pearls that makes the piece feel alive. It’s this feeling that the serpent is cognisant and mid-slither that really captures my imagination and, in my opinion, feels quite unique to Autore. For example, black diamonds and moonstones are positioned to mimic a snake’s vertical pupils; I can’t think of many brands who’ve gone to such lengths to recreate these fine details in serpent motifs.

The Autore Enchantress necklace in 18k rose gold with 16.64 carats of pink diamonds, 23.99 carats of white diamonds, a 2-carat pear-shaped E colour, VVS clarity white diamond, and 26 A-grade Autore South Sea Keshi pearls

Autore creative director Jane Autore and her design team have produced the Enchantress necklace in 18k rose gold with 16.64 carats of pink diamonds and 23.99 carats of white diamonds to mimic the delicate pattern of scales. In the head of the snake, a 2-carat pear-shaped E colour, VVS clarity white diamond sits like a crown, and the eyes and nostrils are dotted with rubies, black diamonds and moonstones to add depth and detail. Of course, it wouldn’t be Autore without pearls! This piece contains 26 A-grade organically shaped Autore South Sea Keshi pearls (6-9mm in size), which were collected over the course of eight years. It is so often the case that the greatest high jewels have taken years, if not decades, to bring to fruition.

Jane Autore was inspired by the historical and ancient mythological symbolism of Serpents, especially their links to creative life force, fertility, rebirth, transformation, healing and protection. Although snakes are a common theme in fine and high jewellery, there are some elements that set this piece apart. There’s the detail, obviously, but also the natural contours that turn rose gold into a supple, articulated ribbon that wraps around the neck and drops down the decolletage. This type of engineering to ensure comfort and wearability is one of the true markers of a great high jewel.

Regular readers of this website will know that I inspect high jewels from the front and the back. In fact, the reverse side of a jewel is often where the real ‘magic happens’, and these hidden details can be the absolute icing on the cake. There are two design elements of note on the back of the Enchantress necklace. The first is the ‘linear gallery pattern,’ which emulates the patterns on the belly of a serpent. This cage-like structure of rose gold adds lightness to the piece but also has the benefit of revealing the underside of the South Sea Keshi pearls. These are special, hand-picked pearls, after all, so the wearer will want to enjoy them from all angles. However, my favourite aspect is the two darting swallows on the reverse of the snake’s head. Sunray lines of rose gold form the backdrop, making it appear like the delicately engraved birds are mid-flight on a summer’s day. According to Jane Autore, the decision to use birds here is a nod to ancient mythologies in which birds and snakes represent the balance of life and death. In Ancient China, for example, the two animals were revered as embodiments of power and nobility.

The underside of the Autore Enchantress necklace features two darting swallows engraved in 18k rose gold to represent the mythological balance of life and death

The Enchantress necklace reflects the wider Autore Couture offering, which is achievable thanks to the company’s structure. Autore is relatively unique because it owns and operates 10 South Sea pearl farms across Australia and Indonesia, harvesting between 350,000 and 400,000 pearls per year. When it came to producing this necklace, I am told that Autore wanted each South Sea Keshi pearl to appear like a snake’s egg with their characteristic shape and white colour. It has the benefit of being able to choose the best examples from its own harvest of South Sea pearls, but it also has another trick up its sleeve: research and development. Autore has spent 15 years finessing pearls with beautiful lustre and is now known in the trade for this coveted iridescence. I could write an entirely separate article about its method for assessing pearls – the Autore Five S’s – which includes Shine, Surface, Shade, Shape and Size, but for now, we can simply enjoy this award-winning high jewellery necklace.

Without my tenure as a judge for the annual Inhorgenta Awards, I might not have had the opportunity to see pearls in such a creative light. If this is the start of the Autore Ophidia collection, I can’t wait to see what else is in store and what natural themes the brand will tackle next.

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