Archives Help Shape the Jewelry Creations of Today

3 min read

For two heritage jewelry houses, inspirations from the past are back in modernized versions at the high jewelry presentations this week in Paris.

For Benoît Verhulle, the head of the jewelry atelier at Chaumet, the Blé necklace reprized a familiar theme: Its wheat motif has been part of the house’s lexicon for more than 200 years. (One of the most famous pieces in its archives is a wheat diadem, called the Ear of Wheat, which was commissioned by Napoleon in 1810.)

But this necklace, in the 68-piece Le Jardin de Chaumet collection, is actually two.

One is a yellow-gold wheat motif set with diamonds and the other, a more contemporary design in white gold, anchored by a 10.25-carat emerald-cut diamond. They could be worn separately or combined, for a bigger statement.

“When you look at the sketch, it looks rigid,” Mr. Verhulle said in an interview at the jewelry house’s headquarters on Place Vendôme, “so I kept wondering how to make it into something very supple, comfortable and also somehow reinvent the theme.”

It wasn’t until a client asked the atelier to repair a wheat brooch dating to the mid-19th century — designed in the trembleuse (in English, trembling) style — that he came up with an idea for modernizing the technique by developing a flat spring instead of using the traditional gold threads, which are more fragile.

Mr. Verhulle and his team used yellow gold to create spikelets, the elements that make up an ear of wheat, then set them with diamonds and used a laser to mount them individually onto a thin blade, to form sheaves. Completing the piece required a total of 1,750 hours of work, with three or four jewelers working on different elements at once.

“I’m not sure we would have been able to achieve such a level of detail even 10 years ago,” he said.

Reflecting the current sense of exuberance in jewelry, as in fashion, the Blé necklace has already been bought by a client who plans to wear it himself.

At Buccellati, the inspiration for Mosaico, its new 36-piece high jewelry collection, was the supple bracelets introduced in 1976 by Gianmaria Buccellati, a son of the house’s founder, Mario Buccellati.

But then the jewelry house is a family affair. Andrea Buccellati, one of Mario’s grandsons, and Andrea’s daughter, Lucrezia Buccellati Wildenstein, are its co-creative directors and they designed the new collection, to be introduced Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hotel Costes in Paris.

The craftsmanship, Mr. Buccellati wrote in an email, has remained unchanged since his father’s time, although some techniques have been perfected since the company was purchased by the Swiss luxury group Richemont in 2019.

As an example, he described the flexibility of a bracelet from Mosaico: an 18-carat yellow and white gold design set with 520 brilliant-cut white diamonds and 296 white and yellow diamonds in other cuts, priced at $240,000.

“It’s a bracelet that reminds us of Byzantine mosaics, but its most important peculiarity is the chaining, which renders it very soft and easy to wear,” he said, referring to a technique used by Mario Buccellati in the 1920s that combines tiny rings to create a kind of light, flexible net. “The real challenge was maintaining these regular geometric shapes notwithstanding the thousands of chains composing it.”

You May Also Like