Meeting Caterina Murino conjures up a universal fantasy of several dimensions: the sublime James Bond girl from Casino Royale, the irresistible temptress who turns Christian Clavier’s head in The Corsican File, the stunning muse for Chaumet, the film heiress from a lineage of torrid Mediterranean beauties, briefly, a living fantasy.
I had crossed Caterina’s path several times. Of course, I remember it well, that’s the way it goes with one-sided relationships with a well-known person. She’s been a part of my perception for such a long time, plus I’m a member of this nebula of unknowns who make up her fan club!
It all began in 2006, I’d just started my own brand of jewellery, and Caroline, then PR at De Beers, had invited me to a big evening event organized by the jewellers, in partnership with the NGO, AMREF FLYING DOCTORS.
Caterina was one of the team of attractive French actresses selected by De Beers, who had each designed a piece of diamond jewellery to be sold by Christie’s, with the profits going to AMREF to finance their missions dealing with the health of women and children in Africa. Caterina had designed her first diamond necklace, a beauty that sold for a fortune at Christie’s, and while at it, she committed to help AMREF, which she has done faithfully ever since. I said to myself that this girl was gorgeous and generous.
The second time must have been two years later, I was in my jewellery shop on the rue Charlot, Caterina pushed open the door, and asked me with her adorable Italian accent if my jewels were made of gold. I answered, » no, vermeil « . She laughed and said regretfully, » it’s a pity, I only like gold! » And she went out, leaving behind her a trail of freshness and glamour. I said to myself a second time that this girl was gorgeous, and that undoubtedly she loved jewellery.
The third time was this summer, at the home of a successful author who writes terrifying books and who, at the same time, is one of the most adorable of friends, and the biggest admirer of women. Caterina jabbered with everybody, brilliant in an ultra sexy dress, and as comfortable with the publisher of the famous writer as with the youngest son of the house who was destroying everything around him. I said to myself a third time that this girl was gorgeous, and moreover, she was cool.
With all these connections, I dared to ask to meet her, because she’s obviously a girl with a taste for jewellery, because she loves and adores them, because she was the muse of several big brands of the Place Vendôme, including Chaumet and Mauboussin, in brief, I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview her for Les Precieuses.
I contacted her, and, bingo!! She tells me that she’s launching her own line of jewellery, a collection following the traditions of her native island, Sardinia.
« There is no such thing as a chance encounter« . Thank you, Paul Eluard, it’s what we call perfect synchronicity!!
From our first discussion on the phone, I can feel Caterina’s infectious enthusiasm when she speaks about her jewellery. It’s her own thing, her creation, the fruit of her ideas and desires which have grown inside her head for several years, her story, in brief, a bit like her baby.
She invites me quite naturally to come to her place in Montmartre, to show me her collections, she thanks me 1000 times for the attention I’m devoting to her, the appointment is made for the middle of December; I hang up, bewildered by her simplicity!
The star of the red carpet, internationally famous, is like a child in front of her first creation. It’s not a celebrity’s gimmick, delegating a promotional campaign for hotshots, she’s really put in a lot of herself, I can’t wait to see!
I’ll spare you all the details of my pathetic anxiety preceding my meetings with a person whom I admire. How shall I dress? Not too casual? Not too dressed up? How I shall I do my hair (blonde or blonde)? Pink gloss or coral? Black or navy bag? Hours of procrastination on options which are synonyms, an appointment taken at the last moment with Sophie, my hairdresser who I love, who gives me a bedraggled style thing that does me no favours, and in the end, wear a rather staid little outfit, which isn’t really me.
On December 14th, I’m late as usual, in my confusion I got out at Abbesses instead of Lamarck Caulaincourt, and I rush up the staircases of Montmartre to find Sarah, my faithful photographer, waiting in front of Caterina’s. I arrive breathless and sweaty, a state completely adapted to meet a James Bond Girl, but I made up for the delay, everything is fine.
When Caterina opens the door, I realize I got it all wrong.
Not a touch of make-up, jeans and boots, just a black velvet tunic which enhances her perfect complexion, Caterina is just naturally splendid, stunning (!!) as the Yanks say. I feel like a conventional conformist dressed to the nines with my little printed blouse and my crummy layer of glossy lipstick …
Caterina settles us in her living room, it’s zen and very bright, some objects brought back from her travels, books, a bike, a poster of the shooting of the James Bond, a big room opening completely onto a rather uncultivated garden, a bit like the countryside in Paris.
Caterina left to make us some tea, I find her in the kitchen, congratulate her on the charming apartment in this mythical district, ask her how long she has lived there. As if to prevent any objection, she becomes immediately full of excuses, telling me that she’s hopeless at decoration, that she travels all the time! Definitely I’m not in front of an actress who shows off, but in front of somebody who has a real life, with a whirlwind of shootings, absences, brief passages from one country to another, and has difficulty, doubtless, to settle down. But she tells me at once that here is her home base, she loves Paris, which has become her city of adoption for almost 15 years.
We sit down around her dining-room table, she brought out out all her pouches of jewellery and off we go for an hour of fascinating discussion about her creations and her story.
This passion for jewellery, she’s always had it, she explains to me that it is connected to her origins, to her family, to Sardinia.
When I listen to her telling me about her country, I understand that it’s not the mediterranean seaside island that she’s talking to me about, but about the granitic earth, about the country of her ancestors who chased away the Moors in the XIVth century. She’s proud of these farmers and hunters who live today on their hills covered with aromatic plants and cork oaks, populated with deer, hare and wild boar.
Caterina has eyes that shine when she speaks about her country, it’s more than the place which she loves, it’s her anchor, that which doubtless allows her to live the international life of an entertainer, without losing her common sense, to remain faithful to herself. Snap! I draw a parallel with the Kabylia of my ancestors, just 200 km South of her Sardinia, I couldn’t stop myself!
As if to prove to us how Sardinian she is, she tells us that she doesn’t know how to swim!
She has just shot a series in Monaco, « Deep », where she plays a champion of free diving who spends her time under the sea! It’s her coach who, for the first time in her life, familiarized her with the water. Her country is a country of hunters, not fishermen, it’s said!
Back to the jewellery: she explains to us that jewellery is a family passion and as far as her memory goes back, she has always adored the filigree jewellery worn by her mother and all the women in her family.
The technique of filigree work dates from antiquity, the Etruscans were the first ones to produce these jewels made of very fine twisted gold threads, giving the impression of embroidery.
This ancestral technique, which developed during exchanges between the East, Africa and Europe around the Mediterranean Basin, became the trademark of the Sardinian craftsmen, today the only custodians of this technique, killed off by modern industrial processes.
I’d never seen filigree jewellery and was immediately captivated by the incredible charm of this gold threaded embroidery which I could see on Caterina’s rings.
It’s fine, delicate, decorated with shiny, small dots which I take to be precious stones. Caterina explains to me that these « Pibionis » are, in fact, the gold welds which finish the threads off, it is the touch which gives the special sparkle and delicate relief to the jewels.
Impatient to show us everything, she opens her pouches, brings out all her treasures, and tells us with an allegro tempo the genesis of her story of creation.
It is sometimes a bit dense like the Sardinian scrubland, but when I get lost, she puts me back on track, explains things again, slips into italian, sometimes I can’t follow her, but I hang on, here is the flash back:
After the adventure of the necklace created for De Beers, Caterina continued to travel from one continent to the other, according to her shoots.
In China, she had a first meeting with a Frenchman who had a manufacturing studio for jewellery and who suggested she launch a line. She worked on mood-boards and designs, the project didn’t terminate, but she understood clearly she wants to put a lot into the creation of jewellery.
Back in France, she attends classes at the ING (National Institute of Gemology), gets her diploma, begins to network in the world of precious stones, meets Patrick Voillot, the gemmologist adventurer, who initiated her with some sublime stones, and took her with him to discover sapphires in Sri Lanka.
Simultaneously, her contracts as muse for Chaumet and Mauboussin sustain her, give her ideas, and the desire to put a lot more into this domain which she adores. When she remembers, it’s to tell me about her admiration for the workshops, the creation, the beauty of exceptional stones. She apparently adored being the ambassadress of these luxury jewellers, she not only invested her image, she also learnt a new job.
Little by little, she got the show on the road, she created one piece, then another, real impulsions that she didn’t have the time to complete at first but which developed during the course of her travels, between two movies, between two roles, as the forerunners of a profound change in her life.
There is first this design of a peony set in diamonds, made into a choker and a cuff. The peony is one of the flowers which grows in Sardinia, she related, her inspiration comes from there.
Then there are these star sapphires which she brought back from Sri Lanka, and which she mounted with 6 claws decorated with diamonds, a poetic inspiration of the stars which reign over the Sardinian night, obviously.
And this fabulous ear jewel in blue sapphires and tsavorites, the perfect vegetal symbol of Sardinia, a stalk of myrtle which winds subtly around her ear.
At this stage, Caterina brought out all the jewels from her black velvet pouch.
Of all the things she showed me, my favourites are the gorgeous filigree pieces.
The rings which she mixes on her fingers, the ring with a mobile motif, the crosses that she wears as charming studs, the raw sapphires which she also brought back from Sri Lanka, packed inside a small cage of gold threads, and all the chokers mounted on beautiful, traditional velvets. The filigree motifs which she has clipped onto ribbons tell of 3 kindred religions, the crescent, the star and the cross.
Moreover, she developed these 3 signs in collaboration with Fadia Otte, the militant Lebanese creator for peace in the world.
And also this wonderful plastron in coral made of tiny beads on a gold thread. It’s wild, irregular and brilliant, a bit like her!
Caterina explained to me that all of this line is the culmination of the path she has travelled in the creation of her jewellery.
Of course she began with diamonds and top-end jewellery, because it was logical in the star’s journey.
And then one summer, as every summer, she returned to Sardinia, to her home, and she had a flash, it was obvious. She sought out the rare craftsmen who knew how to do filigree, she found one, who had inherited the technique from father to son.
She begged him to work for her, to make her some models, it really got going, and she understood that it was there, on this mountainous island, cradle of her childhood, that she was going to find her most sincere inspiration.
It took a while, because the weather is a major variable for filigree jewellery, it’s not produced in a factory, but from expert and patient hands which weave the gold thread in the cool shade of their secret workshop.
Caterina also found the place where the coral is sold, the only place in the Mediterranean where fishing for this jewel of the seas is not yet forbidden, and by mixing the technique of the gold thread with charming baroque pearls, she also created the amazing plastron.
And above all, she designed a chain for the body, made of absolutely sublime filigree (every link is made by hand), a star piece that she wears with a strapless black dress in a clip realized for the famous singer Andréa Bocelli.
Caterina is volubile, passionate, fascinated by her subject.
She brings out a Sardinian book of traditional costumes to show us, she is on the cover and I feel that she is more proud of this book than of her role with Daniel Craig!
She asks if we’ve ever tasted myrtle alcohol. It’s 11 am in the morning, I refuse politely, I think to myself of the scene where Clavier rolls under his bed in The Corsican File. But she insists on making us taste her father’s myrtle alcohol, here we go for the myrtle! It’s delicious and we can’t taste the alcohol, it’s a real trap!
She shows me the boxes for her new line, totally made out of cork, the king of trees in her native country, obviously!
We left each other on this December day, full of the enthusiasm of a first meeting, to see each other again last week at the Gallery Charraudeau, 4 rue Bonaparte, where Caterina is exposing, for the first time, her jewellery to the press.
It was hot, 100 people squashed into 20 m2, coming to congratulate her on her creations, I was hardly able to approach her and Sarah had to fight to take 3 photos.
So we returned two days later, we spent some time taking photos of the two of us, which I discover whilst writing these words, I’m sure you can see I’m stiff as a board, whilst Caterina is perfectly relaxed, check out her years of experience in front of the lens!
Go and take a look at the beautiful pieces of jewellry and the charming filigree jewels created by Caterina at the Charraudeau Gallery. You will also be doing a good deed buying one of her rings, 25€ will be donated to AMREF, of course.
You will also encourage a new creator called Caterina.
I’ve told you about a generous, passionate girl, who talks with an irresistible enthusiasm about the beauty of her native Sardinia, and has taken the plunge, with heaps of humility and energy, into a domain which she hasn’t quite totally conquered yet, but which she adores: jewellery.
In the final question which I put to her yesterday: « between the actress and the creator of jewellery, which role would you choose? », she gave me a sibylline answer with her Mona Lisa smile, which I won’t reveal to you! It’s necessary to keep some mystery, don’t you think?
And I went out again into this polar cold of January, to the end of the long rue Bonaparte which goes down to the Seine, telling myself that undoubtedly this girl was gorgeous, and that moreover, she now makes wonderful jewellery.