At the heart of French jewelry in Paris, you’ll find Maison Boucheron at 26 Place Vendôme among other Houses, but it’s the only one who can boast of being the first contemporary jewelry house to open in the area and the ultimate pioneer that made the place the jewelry mecca that it is today.
Boucheron has been around for more than a century and a half but it remains a maison, which allowed it to keep the traditional ethos and characteristics it first became known for. The house became a major player in the industry because of the innate expertise and talent in creating exquisite jewelry pieces out of the most unique and soulful gemstones from all around the world. They are considered to be the most precious and treasured stones picked out for their special qualities that exude beauty and sturdiness, even in their most natural form. They include the lapis lazuli, onyx, hematite, and coral, while the rock crystal later became a favorite.
160 years of Boucheron
The Place Vendôme boutique was established in 1893, but 1858 counts as the official start of Boucheron, when Frédéric Boucheron opened the House’s first ever boutique in the arcade of the Royal Palace. This 2018, it reaches its 160th year in the business, still as fabulous as it was from the very beginning.
The initial unique advantage of the label was the equal balance of expertise and unique materials. The only priority material before was gold, while the dominant skill is the sculpting part. With such technique, many of Boucheron’s pieces have won numerous gold medals and Grand Prix awards at the World’s Fair.
As a preparation for its 160th year celebration, the House has released new ads last year that are geared towards the younger generation. The visuals had a contemporary look and featured some iconic pieces that are hallmarks of the Maison Boucheron. One of them is the Quatre ring, a House signature. It’s a stack of rings that exhibits the mastery of gold sculptors because the plain gold rings are embellished by nothing else than sculpted textures.
Royal and famous clientele
Photo: Sorbis (left) and multitel (right)
In its long existence that span over periods when royalty and fame were so much more of a big deal, Boucheron has kept an impressive lineup of royal and famous clientele, including the Russian Imperial family. Marie-Louise Mackay was also one who had impressive orders every time. She owned what others considered the world’s most beautiful sapphire—a 159-carat blue sapphire matching her eyes, which Boucheron found upon her husband’s request.
Apart from orders, Boucheron made some exclusive pieces for clients that sought him out and offered other services. One of which was becoming the official Curator and Guardian of the Imperial Treasure of Iran after being asked to assess its value by the Shah of Iran back in 1930s. The treasure is a gold throne adorned with rare gems and a terrestrial globe with more that 50 thousand stones.
Another Boucheron’s shining moment was when it created a diadem, which then became a favorite of the Queen Mother Elizabeth. On the other hand, for the Maharajah of Patiala in India, Boucheron created 149 pieces of jewelry made up of over 7,000 diamonds and almost 1,500 emeralds, which was then personally delivered to the Place Vendôme boutique.
High jewelry collections
Boucheron high jewellery 2017
In 2015, the same order of Maharaja of Patiala was reimagined as the House’s High Jewelry collection of the year. The name of the collection was Bleu de Jodhpur, which pays tribute to the longstanding links of the House with India. It also manifests a fancy interpretation of the vibrant colors and energy of the cities in the country.
It was followed by the 26 Vendôme collection in 2016, which embodies creative interpretations of the House’s heritage in three parts: nature, couture, and architecture. The latest High Jewelry collection, the Hiver Imérial, adopted a Great East theme. The gorgeous pieces of the collection were showcased in Kering’s headquarters with an ethereal presentation that imitate vast lands covered in snow.
Inspired by nature
Nature has always been one of Boucheron’s major inspirations since the beginning. As a representation of one force of nature, animals were made as a theme of a whole collection. The House adds pieces to the collection every year, with a design that they have also been pioneers of—animal figures that are considered to keep a positive and protective companion.
The animal figures are almost always carved or sculpted using metals of gold or silver. Sometimes, they adorned with extra stones for features like eyes or just for pure decoration. So far, the House has done multiple types of birds, serpents, horse, fox, wolf, cats, leopard, doe, hedgehog, among others.
Because of the serpent’s aura of mystery, a whole collection is dedicated for it called the Serpent Bohème. It attracts and reflects the femininity and fiery character of women. The collection has since been reinvented by incorporating colorful stones into the new pieces, bringing more depth into the look and essence of the jewelries.
The peacock feather is another signature for the House. Its specifically picked out for its whimsical and seductive gracefulness. It first made an appearance in the Point d’Interrogation necklace, which Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov, a member of the Russian Imperial Family, bought almost immediately. Another signature piece, the Question Mark—a necklace with no clasp and made of diamond, emerald, and peacock feather—earned the House one of its gold medals in World’s Fair.
If Boucheron’s jewelry pieces aim to mesmerize the wearer and everyone who can witness the beauty of its stones, their timepieces call on beautiful memories that make you feel full of zest about life. Every piece is made in line with the brand’s watchmaking motto: I count only the joyful hours.
The motto is a direct translation of “Horas non numero nisi serenas,” the inscription on the sundial made by another watchmaker Rosseau in 1785, which reflected sunlight onto Boucheron’s first boutique then. The statement has since driven the passion that resulted into exquisite Boucheron timepieces until today. With the motto as a guide, the brand considers their watches to represent different facets of life and is a celebration of joy and happiness.
Mark of a true Boucheron watch
For their first models, the brand turned to the original and made a collection of pocket watches in 1859, even if wristwatches were already invented and prominent at the time. This provided a good foundation that eventually allowed the brand to move on to the more modern versions.
One of its remarkable line is the Reflect collection from 1947, which is considered as the brand’s Grand Classic. It’s distinguished by the rectangular cases featuring gadroons or sculpted design on the metal and an invisible clasp on the straps. These elements reflected modern style during the ‘50s.
A number of collections would follow, but the rapidly-evolving technology of the recent decades up to the present resulted in the brand’s remarkable developments. It started with the brand’s entry into the Gucci Group and then Kering. The acquisition of another watchmaking brand, Girard-Perregaux, by the same group enabled the two brands to become a strong force in the industry.
Charming the women and embracing technology
At present, Boucheron’s secret timepieces are the ones making an impression on women. These are hidden watches integrated into a piece of jewelry, marrying two of the brand’s expertise. Edith Piaf, the world-renowned French superstar, even considered her Boucheron watch to be the talisman that brought her success and prominence to her song. As a result, she purchased 21 of the collection’s models.
An even more promising future is in store for the brand as it begins to tackle the 3D technology, starting with their Cristal de Lune watches. It was presented at the 2014 Paris Biennale, and it marks the start of a new realm of production process to explore for the brand and the whole watchmaking industry.
Compared to a lot of jewelry and watch brands today, Boucheron is still considered somewhat small. It remains a maison and House is the more appropriate term instead of brand. But it is one of its advantages. This means the House only attracts the truly luxe customers by exuding rarity and exclusivity. With this approach, the House does not sell to just anyone but to those who really invests in the most beautiful and precious stones and timepieces. It’s not about the name or the price point, it’s about owning a treasure and gem of a jewelry piece and a horology masterpiece.
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Boucheron ring perfume bottle on original design sheets and blue print. Photo: walter_g