In­spired by far-flung re­gions of the world, Parisian house Chaumet’s lat­est high jew­ellery col­lec­tion blends tra­di­tion and moder­nity.


The motto Chaumet made was very sim­ple, to wake up the sleep­ing beauty,” said Jean-Marc Mansvelt, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the French jew­ellery house. “Chaumet is re­ally Parisian in its iden­tity and his­tory, and we are the ori­gin of Parisian high jew­ellery.”

For the jew­ellery house’s jour­ney­ing three-part High Jew­ellery col­lec­tion, Les Monde de Chaumet, the first chap­ter was un­veiled in Rus­sia in homage to its Rus­sian clients; its Ja­panese-in­spired col­lec­tion in Ja­pan, and its fi­nal Tré­sors d’Afrique col­lec­tion in Paris, a range that in­cludes a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Kenyan artist Evans Mbugua.

“This is the high­light – Chaumet’s 19th-cen­tury jew­ellery was very much in­spired by North African jew­ellery and cul­ture,” says Mansvelt. “Of course, it is a very Parisian vi­sion in 2018, a very pure cre­ation. Evans Mbugua has brought his very young, colour­ful and joy­ful ap­proach – be­cause this is re­ally about his univer­sal vi­sion of Africa.”

Based in the his­toric Place Vendôme since 1812, Chaumet’s orig­i­nal site there – now the Ritz ho­tel – was es­tab­lished by Marie-Èti­enne Ni­tot, who founded his com­pany in 1780 and whose ca­reer was marked by com­mis­sions from Napoleon Bon­a­parte and his first wife Joséphine de Beauhar­nais, the first Em­press of France. Mansvelt speaks pas­sion­ately about Chaumet’s spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with the Em­press, re­veal­ing that a pair of pearl ear­rings she had com­mis­sioned to Chaumet now sit in Paris’s Lou­vre mu­seum.

“Joséphine was ob­vi­ously a wo­man of love and sen­ti­ment. She was a botanist, she had two hus­bands, two chil­dren, many lovers – she is very mod­ern,” says Mansvelt of one of Chaumet’s most fa­mous pa­trons. With an in­ter­est in botany and gar­dens – par­tic­u­larly English ones, which were more nat­u­ral rather than the man­i­cured French style – she in­tro­duced new species into France in­clud­ing eu­ca­lyp­tus from Aus­tralia. “She was very clever, so when Napoleon’s mil­i­tary would go to new coun­tries, she would give them a shop­ping list of what she wanted – a new grain, an an­i­mal.”

A land­mark in its own right, Chaumet’s cur­rent build­ing at num­ber 12 was pre­vi­ously the home of Chopin and was once the Rus­sian em­bassy. It was de­signed un­der the reign of King Louis XVI and Queen MarieAn­toinette, “so it’s the pure 18th-cen­tury style”, says Mansvelt proudly. “It was an or­der of the min­is­ter of the navy of the King, so this is why we can find in ev­ery sin­gle de­tail some ref­er­ences to the sea, from dol­phins on the door to shells and pearls.” The sa­lon at num­ber 12 that is host­ing the col­lec­tions is dec­o­rated in red and yel­low. “It can evoke many things – the colours of the soil in Africa, but also the geo­met­ric mo­tifs of some tra­di­tional fab­rics, or maybe a snake.”

Re­call­ing that Chaumet is fore­most a fine jew­ellery house, it has also cre­ated time­piece de­signs that re­flected the fash­ions of the day. The first wrist­watches made by Ni­tot (circa 1811) were for Princess Au­gusta of Bavaria, the daugh­ter-in-law of Em­press Josephine, made in gold, emer­alds and pearls. In 1910, dur­ing the Belle Époque era, the fash­ion was for women to wear long pen­dants dur­ing the day, so Chaumet cre­ated flat women’s watches sus­pended on long pen­dants. “Each time they were a fash­ion first. We cre­ate jew­els that tell the time!” Mansvelt says with a laugh, as he picks up a watch from the Tré­sors d’Afrique col­lec­tion that at first glance looks like a bracelet. “Open it, move the ruby, and read the time,” he says, point­ing to the time­piece. It’s priced at 730,000 eu­ros, sans tax, as the Chaumet team point out.

Ru­bies ap­pear through­out the Tré­sors d’Afrique col­lec­tion, as well as yel­low sap­phires, lac­quer and di­a­monds. “This piece with the yel­low sap­phires, if you look here on the pro­file you will see the vol­ume and ar­chi­tec­tural di­men­sions of this piece, yet it is re­ally sub­tle.”

Mbugua, now based in Paris af­ter study­ing in France, had de­signed a se­ries of brooches with some con­vert­ing into a pair of ear­rings – a nod to Chaumet’s con­vert­ible tiaras.

“This col­lec­tion is very play­ful and hu­mor­ous but very poetic,” says Mansvelt, point­ing out an brooch of an ele­phant with flow­ers in its


mouth, tour­ma­line. fea­tur­ing “It’s a fan­tasy white gold, sit­u­a­tion.” pink opal, sap­phire, tan­zan­ite and

To Mansvelt fol­low, and Vogue’s dis­cov­ers edi­tor-in-chief, more about Ed­wina the new Mc­Cann, col­lec­tion. speaks to Jean-Marc ED­WINA Mc­CANN:

around dif­fer­ent “With coun­tries, this how year’s do high Chaumet’s jew­ellery cus­tomers col­lec­tion dif­fer themed from re­gion JEAN-MARC to re­gion?” MANSVELT: “As far as I can see, the peo­ple who se­lect Chaumet choose Chaumet for the same rea­son: they don’t want to wear what every­one else is wear­ing, so it’s a choice of dis­tinc­tion. The style of Chaumet is about the piece and the beauty, the depth, re­lat­ing to love, the corona­tion of love Napoleon shows Joséphine. In China, peo­ple know the story of Napoleon and Joséphine, and the Chi­nese feel like they’re buy­ing a piece of France and the his­tory of France. They love the state­ment Joséphine pieces. The jew­ellery mar­ket in Ja­pan is very bridal and they pre­fer things more dis­creet. Bridal is the per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to Chaumet, be­cause it’s very mean­ing­ful.”

EM: “What do you think de­fines lux­ury to­day? It’s ob­vi­ously a word that has changed over time – is it the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the story, or the his­tory of the house, or do you think that it’s just a very in­di­vid­ual no­tion?”

J-MM: “I think it is in­di­vid­ual.

Lux­ury is de­fined by how you sur­prise peo­ple, how you in­vent and re-in­vent your­self. For ex­am­ple the tiara, our oldest tiara, is beau­ti­ful – the front is as mag­i­cal as the back. And this for me de­fines lux­ury. So it is not just some­thing that is to show, but it is the au­then­tic­ity, and that is some­thing that de­fines lux­ury. In other as­pects it [lux­ury] is chang­ing … es­pe­cially with there be­ing more ac­cess through dig­i­tal plat­forms. So in some re­spect, you may say: ‘Oh my God, it’s be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult [to cre­ate lux­ury]’, but it means you need to be even more au­then­tic and true to your story.” EM: “And how are the high jew­ellery pieces made?”

J-MM: “Ev­ery­thing is de­vel­oped here in Paris, in terms of cre­ation. Our jewellers have been in Chaumet since the be­gin­ning. We have just cel­e­brated with cham­pagne the 28th an­niver­sary of a master of the work­shop. He is our 13th master in Chaumet – there have only been 13 in nearly 250 years. We have many peo­ple who have spent more than 40 years in Chaumet. It takes 10 to 15 years to be­come a jew­eller. Some do one week at Chaumet and one week at school, so we are pre­par­ing the next gen­er­a­tion. One of the key jobs of the work­shop master is not only to be the master of the work­shop in terms of mak­ing the pieces as a jew­eller, but also or­gan­is­ing and man­ag­ing Chaumet’s style – the qual­ity, style and ev­ery­thing.”

EM: “For the high jew­ellery col­lec­tion Les Mon­des de Chaumet, why did you choose to fo­cus on Rus­sia, Ja­pan and Africa?”

J-MM: “Chaumet is a Parisian mai­son that has al­ways been open to the world, and wel­comed dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences, not to copy but to rein­ter­pret. So we wanted to cel­e­brate this theme. Rus­sia has the colours, the weather, the ar­chi­tec­ture – it is an end­less source of in­spi­ra­tion. Ja­pan is im­por­tant to us for clients, but also as aes­thetic in­spi­ra­tion. If you re­ally look at Chaumet, we have been drawn to na­ture, which is a large part of Ja­pan’s aes­thetic. We had an ex­hi­bi­tion in Tokyo where we showed a se­ries of draw­ings from Chaumet from the end of the 19th cen­tury to the early 20th. Then with Africa, the story of Chaumet is very much linked to the his­tory of art and it was ap­par­ent to us how much Africa has in­flu­enced art over the years. It’s the first time that there is a full col­lec­tion ded­i­cated to this source of in­spi­ra­tion for us.”

EM: “Chaumet was one of the first lux­ury houses to pho­to­graph its pieces. Very few houses were do­ing this at the time. How did that come about?”

J- MM: “The founder of Chaumet had a vi­sion to en­sure that his mis­sion sur­vived not just from fa­ther to son as blood or as the next gen­er­a­tion, but also that the mai­son would be in the hands of the most ta­lented per­son. This ex­plains why there have been four fam­i­lies in charge of Chaumet at var­i­ous times. Tak­ing this into con­sid­er­a­tion, the ques­tion be­comes: ‘If it doesn’t go from the fa­ther to son, how do I guar­an­tee that the essence of the mai­son will be trans­mit­ted?’ The an­swer is that they need to keep ev­ery­thing from since the very be­gin­ning. Be­fore the ex­is­tence of pho­tog­ra­phy they did ev­ery­thing else that was pos­si­ble to main­tain this – keep­ing draw­ings, books and in­voices. There are books of in­spi­ra­tion, of sto­ries and of pearls. To give you an idea, we have 82,000 fin­ished draw­ings. Last year we made the de­ci­sion to start digi­tis­ing ev­ery­thing.” EM: “That’s a big job.”

J-MM: ”It’s go­ing to take 10 years to do it prop­erly. We started to move the first lot of doc­u­ments – weigh­ing 40 tonnes – and that was only a small part of it! We have in this build­ing to­day 350,000 pho­tographs, and it’s su­per-in­ter­est­ing, be­cause when you open a book of draw­ings you see so many more – it’s like a mood board.” EM: “I have to ask, does Chaumet sell a lot of tiaras nowa­days?”

J-MM: ”A lot, yes, but com­pared to be­fore, no. We have a few tiaras in pro­duc­tion that are spe­cial or­ders. They are typ­i­cally par­ents or­der­ing a tiara for the wed­ding of their daugh­ter – a corona­tion of love. It goes be­yond tiaras just be­ing about beauty.”

Left: Princess Yusupova, Grand Duchess Irina of Rus­sia, wear­ing the Chaumet sun tiara, made in 1914. Right: a por­trait of Chaumet founder Marie-Èti­enne Ni­tot by Louis-Léopold Boilly.

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