Kate Moss has been an avid collector of sparkling gems and antique trinkets ever since she was a teenager. As the supermodel collaborates on her first high jewellery collection with Messika, she reveals the personal stories behind her designs
Kate Moss is a magpie of the beadiest-eyed variety. As soon as I step into her Soho modelling agency, where our interview takes place, she clocks my earrings and correctly identifies their designer: “I love her stuff.”
“I bought these recently,” she says of her own pair, shaking her head so her new earrings shimmy. They’re from Alfies Antique Market, where browsing for vintage jewellery is a favourite pastime for the supermodel. “I can’t walk in there without going, ‘Ooh, just one little pair…’ ”
She is also wearing a diamond pendant by Annina Vogel, a diamond ring she bought in Istanbul, a couple of Indian bangles and, on the third finger of her left hand, a vintage emerald and diamond ring, the one piece that she wears every day.
It was a gift “from the boyfriend” – photographer Nikolai von Bismarck – but it’s categorically not an engagement ring.
“Oh, no, I’m not engaged. It’s more like, I’m in a relationship, I’m committed. I think after you’ve been married, that finger feels a bit empty. It was an ‘I’m going out with you, and I have a very empty finger, so give me a ring’ kind of present,” she cackles.
In among her vintage treasures are several pieces from her own high jewellery collaboration with Messika. Moss fronted the Parisian brand’s 2019 campaign, alongside Joan Smalls and Sylvia Hoeks, and instantly hit it off with founder Valérie Messika. The decision to collaborate on a collection together was a spontaneous one. When they first met at the Ritz in Paris, Messika immediately noticed how much jewellery Moss was wearing. After asking about the stories behind some of the pieces, she quickly learnt just how obsessed the supermodel was with jewels. On a whim, she asked if she’d be interested in co-designing a collection with her – Moss said yes on the spot. Although she has previously designed collections with the Brazilian jeweller Ara Vartanian, in 2017, and with the French house Fred, in 2011, this partnership is Moss’s most personal, inspired by her own much-loved jewellery.
“I brought a couple of boxes along to our first meeting, and we had a lot of fun looking through it all,” she says. “Valérie was surprised when she saw that most of my jewellery is antique – she thought I would be more rock ‘n’ roll, and I’m not really. My style is much more bohemian and eclectic.”
That presented a challenge for Messika, whose knife-sharp contemporary diamond designs are worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski. In 2017, the brand enlisted Gigi Hadid to co-create an ‘entry-level’ range that, Moss says, her 18-year-old daughter Lila Grace, now also a model, adores, but the Messika by Kate Moss collection comprises seriously high-value high jewellery, with prices strictly on application, but ranging from five to six figures. Mood boards flew back and forth between the pair, and the whole process took about a year from start to finish. The result is a wide-ranging, eclectic collection comprising 70 pieces that seamlessly fuse Messika’s French-girl cool with Moss’s sexy bohemian flair.
An art deco chapter features geometric, baguette-cut diamonds – Moss’s favourite – set in yellow-gold hoop earrings, rings, bracelets and chokers. “I have a lot of art deco pieces – I love the decadence of that era. I’m also really into that 1970s, hippy-deluxe kind of decadence.” Which explains the diamond-set headpiece, with a fringe of baguettes resting between the brows, inspired by an Annie Leibovitz image of Moss taken in 1999.
There’s another nod to her modelling heyday in slinky strands of diamonds, seemingly loosely tied around the neck, finger or wrist, a precious riff on the piece of leather she wore in a 1990s Peter Lindbergh shoot.
Elsewhere, Messika recreated a 1920s glass bead tasselled necklace in “metres of diamonds – it’s so cool”. Moss’s passion for emeralds parlays into a suite featuring rich green malachite, while her love of Indian jewellery is evident in huge diamond bib necklaces, an earring connected via diamond chains to a nose ring, and a tasselled lapel pin worthy of a maharaja.
Moss first discovered Indian jewellery when she went travelling there aged 22. “I went to Jaipur and Rajasthan; all the girls were covered in incredible jewellery. I started buying loads of it. I bought a beautiful Gucci jewellery roll to store it all in, and when I got home I said to my friend, ‘Wait until you see the jewellery I got in India.’ But it was all gone – stolen. That was pretty depressing – there were things in there that I still think about.”
It’s not her only jewellery-related heartbreak. Her grandmother’s wedding ring – the only ‘heirloom’ she’s ever had – was also stolen, as was a Cartier art deco bracelet she’d bought at SJ Phillips in London, although that one made its way back to her.
“I always take jewellery on holiday – I love wearing it on the beach and in the sea; I think it’s so decadent,” she says. ‘I’d taken this bracelet on a boat in Thailand and somebody nicked it. They sold it to someone in India, who came to London and sold it back to SJ Phillips. It was stamped, so they could identify it as mine; they called me and said, “We’ve got your bracelet,” and gave it back to me.”
She used to visit the antique jewellery specialist every birthday to pick out something new – fortunately von Bismarck, who shot the behind-the-scenes images for the Messika by Kate Moss campaign, is a willing benefactor. “I like going jewellery shopping with Nikolai – he’s into it. I think some men take just as much pleasure in giving jewellery as we do in receiving it” He’s not, though, into jewellery for men. “I like it when men wear jewellery – such as a nice chain – but I can’t imagine Nikolai in it. It’s definitely not his thing.”
Another of Moss’s most precious personal pieces is from her ex, Lila’s father, Jefferson Hack. “When I gave birth to Lila, Jefferson bought me a diamond eternity ring, which is gorgeous. I’ll give it to her one day. She likes all the girly jewellery; she’s not into antiques yet, so my jewellery is safe, for the moment.”
It seems the majority of her collection was self-gifted – an ethos in line with that of Valérie Messika, whose aim was to create a contemporary diamond jewellery brand not linked to love or marriage. “I buy a lot for myself,” admits Moss. “Sometimes it’s to mark a milestone, but most of the time it’s just when I see something that catches my eye. I’ve got a big rose-cut diamond ring that’s quite a… statement piece,” she laughs. “I bought it as a bit of a celebration, a present to myself because I’d achieved something.”
There’s more common ground in Messika’s mission to make diamonds wearable. Valérie Messika herself is no stranger to teaming high jewellery with jeans or a jumpsuit, and Moss clearly follows suit. “I don’t want to be intimidated by jewellery, I want to feel like it’s part of me. Even my big pieces I’ll wear all the time – I don’t want them to be kept in a box.”
As she coos over the jewellery I’m wearing and we swap favourite designers, it’s clear that this is a genuine obsession for the Croydon-born model. Where does it stem from? “Not ever having any,” she says quickly. “I was so desperate for a ring when I was little, I’d always leave the smallest Christmas present till last, hoping and praying that it was a jewellery box but it never was. I know, poor me!”
That might explain her preference for wearing her own jewels on the red carpet, although she’s not averse to borrowing from brands – on one condition: “I won’t do it if I have to have a security guard following me. No way. My friend did it once, and as soon as the party was over, they were standing at the door waiting to get the jewellery off her. It’s so embarrassing. You get into the car and you’ve got nothing on. That’s awful!”