All text, and images © 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

French Jewelry Today, Part 6-Chaumet

 Detail  from Le Sacre de Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David 1807 Louvre, Paris
 Chaumet traces its origins to 1780.  Founded by Marie-Etienne Nitot who along with his son Francois- Regnault Nitot  they became the official jewelers to Napoleon I during the Consulate and the Empire.

Emerald and diamond necklace and earrings by Francois-Regnault Nitot 
commissioned by Napoleon for his second wife Marie-louise.

Nitot et  Fils were succeeded by Jean-Babtisste Fossin and his son Jules. In 1848 Jules Fossin set up a London branch with Morel. Morel's daughter married Joseph Chaumet in 1875.  In 1885 he assumed the management  of the firm and changed the name.
In 1907 he moved to 12 Place Vendôme.
Chaumet diamond tiara 1911
In the early 20th century Chaumet was best known for their tiaras, and exquisite jewels.
 Chaumet diamond and pearl tiara 1915

Right, a design for a jeweled tunic by Chaumet
Left a design for the Maharani of Indore 1911

 Art Deco ruby and diamond jewels commissioned in 1930.   Design by Chaumet
for Princess Alice de Bourbon de Parme.
The drawing(L)  is from
Chaumet By Diana Scarisbrick pl. 40 photo(R) from  Sotheby's St.Moritz Feb. 1997

Chaumet gold diamond sapphire and ruby brooch and earrings 1935.

 Gold and watermelon tourmaline brooch and earrings
Chaumet tried to keep up with the times.

In 1987Chaumet had liabilities in excess of 200 million pounds resulting  from fraud and other illegal activities.  The brothers Pierre and Claude Chaumet were convicted of  bankruptcy fraud and sent to prison.  Chaumet was bought in 1987 by Investcorp, a  Bahrain based Investment Bank .The company and the brand were perceived as too traditional and too elitist. After the stigma of fraud the brand needed crisis management.  Their decision was to depart  radically form the past.  Assuming "Chaumet will always be Chaumet" no matter what we make.
The firm was sold again  in 1999 to  LVMH
This brand has opulent digs on Place Vendôme with a museum and a resident historian!

Chaumet is the only  heritage jewelry brand of over 100 years in the LVMH portfolio.  Concentrating of on massive market penetration in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia. where traditional jewelry connoisseurship is less highly evolved, and there is no tainted association form the scandals of the 1980's. They are also focusing on the lucrative business of watches.

"Celebrating its 200th year as a luxury watchmaker, Chaumet tapped into its heritage for its new creations, which feature references to the French jewelry house symbol, the bee, and its first muse and patron, French Empress Joséphine. The Attrape-moi…si tu m’aimes (Catch me if you love me) collection features 32 unique variations of an opal bee set against a honeycomb-patterned enamel dial. The Joséphine range, meanwhile, includes delicate watches in a teardrop shape inspired by the chérusque, a lace collar characteristic of Empire-style dresses, while another comes complete with a diamond tiara overlaid on the case. To mark the anniversary, Chaumet is opening its historic salons on Place Vendôme to the general public for an exhibition of exceptional timepieces".WWD July 5, 2011

B is for Bonaparte and now it is the bee which is the adopted emblem of Chaumet because of the patronage of Napoleon's first and second wives the Empress Joséphine and,
the Empress Marie Louise de Habsburg-Lorraine. 

Some of the other designs are rather chaotic and disconnected. 

Chaumet windows
LVMH is a massive merchandising, marketing, and retail machine.  Fearlessly purveying "luxury" products throughout the world.

Can you identify which brand is which ?

In the annuls of jewelry history it is interesting to note the significant change of the multi-brand ownership which affects all design decisions. LVMH owns Chaumet, Fred, De Beers (license), Bulgari, and  the fine jewelry development in their associated luxury group Dior (couture), and Louis Vuitton (luggage).   There appears to be some similarities unifying all of the jewelry in the brands within the LVMH group. This may be due to shared senior management, designers, sources in the supply chain, and manufacturing. This may also be intentional.

Chaumet has the most amazing archives, they are so  full of authentic inspiration,  this rich vein has barely been tapped.
With Chaumet  it very Simple they have effectively dummed-down their entire
heritage, and turned it into cartoons, a bee & a crown.

Chaumet ring

In conclusion there were there were 3 companies that were
more or less intact before their acquisitions by the multi-brand holding companies. In descending order:

Van Cleef & Arpels
 and Boucheron

the first two have been brilliantly handled the third,  miss-managed. The other three Mellerio dits Meller(which was not acquired, and is still in family hands), Mauboussin, Chaumet ...

I have specialized skills, design skills, analytical skills,  historical knowledge combined with  technical skills ( I am a trained fine jeweler and enamel expert).   I recognize these competences when I see them.
  I have the ability to go into archives and identify value,  to define, create, and direct.
It frustrates me when I see incompetence.  Boucheron's inept design strategy and window displays last summer,  or

 Chaumet windows Place Vendôme.

The lighting in the Chaumet windows cheapens the look of fine diamonds,
they look more like Swarovski aurora borealis glass.

 There seems to be no memory, no cognition, or connection to heritage, and no one to interpret and develop this rich heritage in an original way. 

This is disappointing  to say the least.

Only 2 out of 6 brands in my survey, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels,
 are relevant refined and enticing.
The rest are just churning out merchandize driven by marketing.

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