The Hotel de Nocé Renewal

Written by Marie Chabrol

If you do not know where is the Hotel de Nocé, its address, however, will tell you everything about it. Elegantly built at 26 Place Vendôme, it is the dazzling place of Maison Boucheron. Recently totally reopened, it took two years of work to restore all its beauty. An impressive project that required major works on the structure and presence of the Chief Architect of Historical Monuments : Mr. Michel Goutal. We met him to better understand the stakes of this restoration.

1 — The Nocé Hotel, a turbulent history

Initially, the Hotel was built in 1717 for Charles de Nocé who gives it his name. Born in 1662 and died in 1739, he is best known for being Master of the Garde Robe and First Gentleman of Duke Philippe D’Orléans. The hotel will be sold first in 1720, then in 1722 and finally in 1760 when Jean Cottin, Director of the East India Company bought it. The anecdote is funny when we know the future links that will unite the Boucheron House to Indian Maharajas. It will also be owned by Gaspard Moïse de Fontanieu, one of the promoters of Place Vendôme. In 1782, it is the receiver of the finances of Châlons who buys it : Mr. Jean-Baptiste-François Gigot d’Orcy. The man is known to be passionate about entomology and mineralogy. He had a fabulous and famous cabinet of curiosity and he participated in the publication of books through his role as sponsor. He even gave his name to the hotel that is sometimes found as the Hotel d’Orcy. In 1801, the places fall into the patrimony of the notary Marc Colin. Then in 1814, he was sold to the framer and gilder Marc-Antoine Chaise. It will then become a simple building and will have some famous inhabitants such as the Marquis de la Baume, the cabinet maker François Linke, the boot maker Yantorny deemed « to be the most expensive of the world » and even Lucien Guitry, the father of Sacha.

Perspective of the first floor salons after the restoration. Photo : Boucheron

Among the famous tenants of the Hotel, there is the presence of the Countess of Castiglione also known as Virginia Oldoini. Described as « the most beautiful woman of her century » but unable to grow old, she landed the last years of her life in her little apartment on 26 place Vendôme where she had covered both the windows and the mirrors. The goal ? She didn’t want to see her reflection. Leaving only at night, she wanders around the Vendôme square and will leave the place in 1894. Frédéric Boucheron moved in 1893 and he chose this place for its maximum sunlight that illuminates the jewels of the house visible in the shop windows cases. He is the first jeweler to choose the Place Vendôme and inaugurates the jeweler tradition of the district.

In 2016, the Kering Group (formerly PPR) becomes the full owner. In the aftermath, the Boucheron boutique closes its doors, the facade is covered with a gigantic tree, the in-house workshop moves on Rue de la Paix. Work can begin.

In the Hotel de Nocé, at the time when Boucheron House occupies the first floor, around 1900/1910. Photo : Boucheron

2 — A massive restructuring

The restoration of the Hotel de Nocé was intended to restore its original configuration. But this was not necessarily simple because the oldest description dates from 1760 and the building has already been largely modified. We know that at that time it had an extension housing several stables and a large main building surrounding the inner courtyard. The ground floor and mezzanine were used at the time by the kitchens and outbuildings. The first floor hosted a large apartment, an antechamber, two bedrooms and the library. The second floor, already with mezzanine, had a similar configuration. Adding a major constraint, the building is listed as a Historic Monument since 1930. It was necessary to detail 300 years of successive developments to find the initial volumes and understand how they had been modified over the centuries. That’s here Michel Goutal and his team began their mission.

Take a bath admiring the Vendôme column, it is now possible with the creation of the Apartment on the second floor the Hotel de Nocé. Photo : Boucheron

But before to enter in the Hotel de Nocé, a point on the facade is necessary. Do you know that due to the PLU (local urban masterplan) the facades of the Boucheron boutique are protected and as such difficult quite impossible to change. This means that if the shop would one day leave this place, the external elements of the house could not move except authorization of the ABF (Architect of Buildings of France).

It is now time to enter in this wonderful place. Now try to imagine what a private mansion can look like transformed into a building after the French Revolution … It must be remembered that at that time, the goal is to house people. So we partition and put down mezzanines wherever possible. This creates extremely low ceilings appartment or storage. No more ceilings at 5.20m, the lowest are barely 2.10m. In the same way, the staircase of the hotel will be largely modified in its high part. It is reduced to increase the living space of certain levels it serves. Also, the purpose of the renovation was clear enough, it was necessary working to find the spirit of the 1893 store while finding at the maximum volumes of origin of the construction. Most of the work was to remove the additional volumes laid in the 1980s. Between the removal of mezzanines, false ceilings, various partitions, it is almost 200m² that were removed to the structure.

The library on the second floor houses some archives of the Boucheron House. The Chinese wallpaper on the right was rediscovered during the restoration and restored by Atelier Mériguet-Carrère. Photo : Boucheron

The restoration of this place allowed to restore some remaining elements of the construction. Although they were very few, there were still a few window frames but also the floors and the honor staircase. By renovating 26 Place Vendôme, Boucheron wanted to recreate a family home. The only thing missing would be the cat purring by the fire, reminding us that for several years, Wladimir, Gerard Boucheron’s own cat was here at home.

View of the second floor Chinese wallpaper restored by Atelier Mériguet-Carrère. Photo : Boucheron

This restructuring necessitated the presence of specialized companies, often with rare know-how and significant experience in so-called « historic » sites. For example, the Atelier Del Boca for ceilings and plasters, the Atelier Mériguet-Carrère for the restoration of paintings in the Chinese salon, the family company Delisle for luminaries and chandeliers, and Béatrice Racine – restorer of wallpapers – who intervened for the restoration of the eighteenth century Chinese wallpapers rediscovered in the library of the apartment.

The salons on the first floor have become spaces to receive the customers of the house. One of them is moreover a bridal space for the engaged couples. Photo : Boucheron

On arrival, the result is quite impressive and places have regained their majesty. The gilding brings an incredible brilliance to the different salons and the woodwork has found their natural colors. Finally, the renovation brought in the external light by removing unnecessary surfaces. The store and the different levels radiate again, which certainly would not have displeased to Frédéric Boucheron.

At the heart of the Boucheron store, around 1980. We distinguish perfectly the famous mezzanine posed to split the shop. Photo : Boucheron

3 — A night in the heart of Place Vendôme

With the creation of the second floor apartment, the Boucheron House inaugurates a new customer experience in the jewelry industry and offers to its best customers the opportunity to enjoy a privileged stay in the boutique. In partnership with the Ritz Paris, this is an intimate and luxurious hotel experience that is offered. If the restoration is particularly successful, the contemporary decoration wanted by the decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon is absolutely gorgeous with extremely sharp choices : a table by Franck Chartrain, a work of the feather artist Émilie Moutard -Martin, a Noah Duchaufour-Lawrence sofa or the Pierre Frey wallpapers.

One night in the Boucheron Appartement. Photo : Boucheron

Everything here reminds us that luxury is above all a fragile mixture of rarity and know-how. But above all it can be beautiful without being noisy, that it can be inspiring without doing too much. Also, we hope you will have the chance to discover this place because it really deserves to linger. So, dare to push the doors of the 26 place Vendôme store because the new shop is a place to know, now, absolutely!

Cartier and the Use of Natural Materials (Part 2)

Written by Olivier Bachet


Tortoiseshell comes from the backs of tortoises. Translucent, amber in colour, spotted with brown or red markings, or pale yellow with brown or black marbling depending on the species, it was regularly used by Cartier. At the beginning of the XXth century, a multitude of merchants supplied the jeweller with raw material. Amongst them Chatenet and Latouche not far from rue de la Paix, Prével, MacPherson & Billy, both established on rue de Turbigo supplied combs, fans, lorgnette handles, knitting hook tips, fountain pen sleeves, mirrors and a variety of other elements. Tortoiseshell’s easy malleability when heated allowed goldsmiths to use it to cover objects with uneven surfaces.

Blackamoor brooch, Cartier-Paris, 1968
Gold, enamel, emerald and tortoiseshell (Courtesy of Palais Royal)

A pair of gold opera glasses were thus covered with a beautiful transparent blond tortoiseshell which meant that the gold’s guilloché aspect could be seen, giving it the appearance of orange enamel (see illustration). To accentuate the preciousness of these objects made with tortoiseshell, small gold dots were inlaid into the surface using the “piqué” technique. Very fashionable in the XVIIIth century, this technique meant that the goldsmith drew the desired pattern on the tortoiseshell and then after piercing the required spaces, he heated the tortoiseshell to enlarge the hole in which he was to place the gold decor. The eventual cooling down of the tortoiseshell imprisoned the gold motif definitively. During the period between the two Wars, large pieces made in tortoiseshell were gradually abandoned. Although a few desk clocks with folding struts and some simple table cigarette boxes were made, its main use was for combs and for the backs of mirrors for vanity cases. Although blond tortoiseshell was mostly used at Cartier, the brown tortoiseshell was also used for some elements as for the comb illustrated here. With the 1929 economic crisis, the workmanship required, as well as the material’s price, meant that its use was gradually abandoned, to be replaced with synthetic substances such as celluloid and Bakelite.

Some desk clocks were also covered in lacquer imitating tortoiseshell such as a model in the shape of a sea mine, registered for Paris stock on 11th December, 1930 and described in the archives as “a spherical clock in tortoiseshell lacquer.” After the Second World War, its use remained about the same as before and other than for a small desk clock by Cartier-London whereby the dial was made using brown tortoiseshell, it was no longer used to make important pieces, as had been the case at the beginning of the century.

As far as jewellery is concerned, the use of tortoiseshell developed particularly in the 1960s with a series of jewels that met with great success: the Blackamoor clips. Representing proud African warriors, these clips, which appear in the shape of a gold bust often adorned with precious stones and a head engraved in brown tortoiseshell, have become icons of jewellery (see Illustration).

Like ivory and for the same reasons related to the protection of wildlife, the use of tortoiseshell in jewellery has now completely disappeared.

Verger Frères: The Obscure Masters

Written by Kathryn Bonanno Patrizzi

As many of you may or may not know, my love for jewels of the Art Deco period is as great as my love for fine natural gems. It is a period that is so rich, that one cannot sum up any of its various styles in a single phrase. (Refer to the Art Deco section of The Magical Art of Cartier, Antiquorum’s catalogue of November, 1996, and Antiquorum’s VOX, January, 2003, pages 12-14). There was an enormous amount of travel, which stimulated the imagination and sparked much innovative thought and new discoveries. There was the “chiaroscuro” theme, or “light and dark” – the use of contrast as design, known simply as the black and white style (or any contrasting color with white). There was the “Chinoiserie”, or Chinese influence, as well as the Japanese influence on design. The Persian or Indian style had a huge effect on design, giving us the richly ornate “tutti frutti” with its unabashed use of bright bursts of color. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb gave the Art Deco period a completely new Egyptian Revival style, totally different from that of the 19th century. Of course the clean shapes and geometric themes is that style which most people think of when they think of the Art Deco period, thanks in part to many new gem cuts and the use of platinum, which actually applies to all of the various styles of the period, all of which radiated exotic themes. While I can’t think of a single phrase to describe this magnificent period of jewelry making, two words describe its essence – LUXURIOUS EXOTICISM.

The French were the true masters of this period. They were the leaders for the rest of the world in this variety of style, and not simply because they are responsible for giving the period its name (named after the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs & Industriels Modernes” – the international fair held in Paris in 1925). The “Art Deco” styles developed long before the fair of 1925, and it is interesting to note that this fair had been planned for 1916, but the First World War caused it to be postponed. (There was a large overlap between the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco styles, some jewelers, such as Cartier, shunning the former style). In any event, Paris was the home to many, many fine jewelry firms, both French and foreign, and the cultural exchanges at this time were exciting; many French jewelers traveled abroad for inspiration, and for business, and vice-versa! These, in my opinion, were the most exciting times of all for the jewelry world. Some of the great houses included Cartier, Lacloche Frères, Boucheron, Mauboussin, Marzchak, Marzo, Ostertag, Van Cleef & Arpels, just to name a few. However, there is one major contributor to all of these houses and more, who still remains obscure to many today – a creative force so outstanding that I feel it is an injustice that the name is not automatically synonymous with luxurious exoticism, and that is the house of VERGER!!

The founder of this great firm was Ferdinand Verger (1851-1928), himself a great man from the little I have found out about him. He started his apprenticeship at 11 years old, as was the tradition at the time, went to war, moved to London in 1871, and returned to Paris in 1875. There, he began to work as agent to the famous house of Vacheron & Constantin, of Geneva, from 1879 to 1896 (and later became a partner for the French market). It was in this last year, in 1896, that it is archived that he registered his own trademark – “FV”. In his obituary, in the Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie of 1928, he is called the “apostle of horological art”, and is described as a man of great heart, who was able to organize the Parisian jewelers (he was the President of the “Chambre Syndicale des Bijoutiers”) and even bring together the conflicting egos of the Swiss and French watchmakers. He had known misery in his lifetime, and apparently was a great contributor to various charities, donating jewels to retirement homes and orphanages. In the same obituary, he is described as “the nicest figure in the world of jewelry – and watch makers… armed with an irresistible smile”

Ferdinand had two sons, Georges and Henri, who were trained in the great tradition of their father. They joined their father, and in 1911, moved to 51 rue Sainte Anne under the name of Verger Frères, (Verger brothers), -the trademark now be – coming “VF”! It may be interesting to note that Ferdinand, in 1914 sold all of his remaining stock of Lépine, whom he bought out in 1901, to Louis Leroy, the famous Parisian watchmaker, but he kept his trademark. It is in the period of Ferdinand’s sons, especially with George, that the house of Verger Frères reaches its peak, and on January 1st, 1921, Ferdinand officially leaves the business to his sons (according to his letter dated December 31, 1920).

Fig. 3: Tutti Frutti Style, retailed by Mauboussin

The house of Verger was unique in that it was involved in all the aspects of jewelry making and watch making. The creations of Verger reflect some of the most original designs of the Art Deco period, and while many spectacular jewels are known to have been made, their specialty was the jeweled timepiece. They employed a whole array of artisans – lapidaries, stone-setters, gold-, platinum-, and silversmiths, enamellers, watch-makers and case-makers, designers and renderers and so on, all of whom were fully employed by the firm. In other words, the Maison Verger didn’t subcontract to the various local talents, but made their great works of art, in house!

One of the foremost authorities on the subject of Verger is Ralph Esmerian, whose family was close to the Verger family. As Mr. Esmerian confirms, they went from “the design, to the production, to the final product”, and as he points out, it was not the great retailers that went to Verger Frères with their ideas to be put into production, but Verger Frères that sold their designs to the great houses of the time, giving them each exclusivity for their choices. Verger Frères made for most all of the great maisons around the world. They made for Vacheron & Constantin, Cartier, Lacloche Frères, Marzo, Bousquet, Boucheron, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels, Ostertag, Jaeger, Chaumet, Janesich, Fouquet, and others in Paris. They made for American firms such as Charlton & Co., Trabert + Hoeffer, Udall + Ballon, J.E. Caldwell, Black, Starr, & Frost, Spalding & Co., and Tiffany. Other important clients included Bulgari of Rome, Hauser-Zivy y Cia in Mexico, Gübelin of Switzerland, as well as important firms in England, Denmark, and many other important European jewelers.

Fig. 4: Asymmetrical jabot lapel watch

One cannot define the “style” of Verger; it is as varied and rich and creative as the whole Art Deco period itself. However, the attention to detail – the extra – ordinary workmanship, the use of the finest gems, no matter how insignificant their part may play in the final design, and the originality of the theme is their calling card. I hope that the few examples that are illustrated in this brief article will help the “uninitiated” to appreciate this great house. My personal favorites are the lady’s (of course!) lapel watches, for which Verger Frères were truly masters. These treasures are rare and highly collectable and are always sought after. Not only are they extremely elegant (and easy to wear), but judging from my personal experience, I have yet to find one that is not truly unique and fantastic in design. I have included 4 such jewels in this article, each of a different Art Deco style, and each made in platinum and 18K yellow gold.

Fig. 5: Retailed by Fouquet

The color combination is quite beautiful and quite representative – blue and black enamel, framing red coral flowers with onyx leaves, mounted on a background of round diamonds in platinum – lots of contrasting colors in a linear and floral motif. The entire design is created by the use of gems, creating a picture similar to that of a painting, as opposed to the 3-dimensional, metal flower brooches simply accented with the use of stones, as was the custom in earlier eras. In figure 3, we get even bolder! This is a beautiful example of an Indian “tutti frutti” style lapel watch. This was made for Mauboussin, in 1930, and has just the perfect balance of bright bursts of color seen in the carved leaves and berries, with the round and baguette diamonds. This piece is in perfect harmony – not a bit too much, and yet this tiny jewel stands out boldly, which is the sign of mastery when it comes to this style! It is also unusual in that it has a double clip on the back, rather than a suspended watch section. An interesting and fun jabot lapel watch is illustrated in figure 4 (jabot is like a double-headed stick pin). This piece is totally asymmetrical. It is exquisitely decorated with jade, onyx, natural pearls, diamonds and sapphires. Note that: none of the sections are of the same size; the graduating sapphires are stacked asymmetrically out of the corners; the watch section is hanging off to one side, suspended by sections of natural pearl chain, one side of course shorter than the other – in other words, everything is off symmetry! These are the amusing and whimsical designs of Verger Frères!

Another beautiful watch is figure 5. It is not a lapel watch, but a lady’s wristwatch, which is articulated, allowing for flexibility on the wrist (it would have been worn with a black gros grain strap). This piece was made for Fouquet, and dates circa 1920. It is quite simple in design, but extremely sophisticated with the fine blue, buff-topped sapphires contrasting with the white, round diamonds. As with the Japanese and asymmetrical lapel watches described above, plea se notice how each of the sapphires (or pietre dure) was specifically cut to fit a precise point to complete the design of the piece.

On the more masculine side, Verger made many fantastic pocket watches. One such example is figure 6, the “Samurai” dress watch, made for the New York jeweler, Charlton & Co., in the Japanese style. It is very thin, featuring an 18K yellow gold samurai figure on one side, within a background of black enamel and a foreground of green enamel, finely trimmed with white enamel and yellow gold. The dial follows the same style, featuring heavy gold “bamboo” style Roman numerals. It is elegant and exotic at the same time.

There are many such examples of exquisite lady’s wristwatches, but I am only allotted a few pages here, so ….

One of the earlier styles of Art Deco was that of “chiaroscuro”, or the black and white style, which is illustrated in figure 1. The design is still remarkable, often poorly copied today, and it was revolutionary for the time; it was design for design’s sake! (It was not a representation of nature, or man, etc., as in the previous eras) It is extremely simple and elegant, and was made with Vacheron & Constantin. The top portion houses the “pin”, for those unfamiliar with this type of watch, and the watch portion is usually suspended, which allows for easy rotating to view the concealed dial. This lapel watch is made of black onyx, black enamel, round diamonds and a larger marquise-shaped diamond, and natural pearls. Still having a simple and elegant line, figure 2 , exhibits a fine lapel watch made with Vacheron & Constantin, for Lacloche Frères, in the “Japanese” style. It still is designed with the use of contrasting colors, but it is much more elaborate than the black and white style. This piece is called the “Blue Inro”, after the Japanese timepiece that it resembles.

One of the most spectacular ”revivals” of the Art Deco period was the mystery clock, originally invented in the mid 19th century by the magician, Robert Houdin. It is called such because the hands appear to float on the dial, with no apparent connection to the mechanism. Supposedly, only two knew the secret of the mystery in the beginning of the 20th century –the houses of Verger and Cartier. Cartier holds the record for the number of these magnificent clocks sold, and Verger was the sole manufacturer and supplier for Van Cleef & Arpels and several others. Unlike the invention of Houdin, these clocks of Cartier and Verger Frères were incredible works of art – various stones housing the mechanisms, often inlaid or accented with spectacular gems, in gold or platinum, the dials usually of rock crystal, citrine, of some other transparent gemstone. These unique works of art vary considerably – from Cartier’s model “A” with its simple, pure linear geometry, to the very elaborate “Chinoiserie” and Indian styles, but all evoking imagery of the exotic.

Fig. 8: Chinese style clock, with Vacheron Constantin Movement, retailed by Lacloche Freres
Fig. 9: The “VF” hallmark

More than the mystery clock, however, Verger Frères is probably more widely recognized for their magnificent table, or mantle clocks. Again, the use of exotic themes, exotic gemstones, and unbridled imagination result in magnificent works of art. Figures 7 and 8 offer a taste of this genius. In the first, figure 7, we have an unusual example of the classics. One happily loses oneself in the dial of this clock, pulled in by the details of a world that no longer exists – a Greek sphinx amongst ruins of Doric columns in a strange flora, overlooking a sea with faraway lands in the background. It is absolutely breathtaking in my opinion, and this is all “painted”, or seamlessly inlaid with the use of a little gold and many different types of shell, such as mother-of-pearl and abalone!! Upon further inspection, one sees that this exquisite, octagonal picture is framed in gold and black enamel, with diamond-set platinum Arabic numerals, and that it is in fact, a clock! It is supported by fluted amber that is bordered by jade spheres, atop an oval onyx base. This was made with Vacheron & Constantin, for Lacloche Frères. What a magnificent, functional piece of art, as is also the last example in this article, figure 8 (and on the cover of this magazine). This is another example of the “Chinoiserie” style. It was also made with Vacheron Constantin, for Lacloche Frères, in 1925. Its simple exterior is made of a stepped case in onyx, decorated with sugar-loaf cabochons of coral and accented with diamonds in platinum, flanked by “concave columns” of onyx, intagliato! The top of the case holds a 3- dimensional carving, in coral, of the Chinese Buddha, Hivan Tsang, with two monkeys. The clock is concealed by two black enamel doors that are decorated with a “tree-of-life” or palmette coral carving, accented with diamonds. A coral push-piece releases the spring-loaded doors, revealing a magnificent, highly ornate dial! This dial depicts a lotus flower motif entirely inlaid with mother-of-pearl and abalone shell. Once again, the inlay is seamless! The execution of these clocks must have required a whole team of artisans, but the end result is so magnificent, that they become timeless treasures. There is no doubt regarding the greatness of the house of Verger. If any of you come away from this article with a desire to collect Verger Frères, I will be quite pleased, and I hope you enjoy your new search. It is not always easy to discover a Verger’s identity. Usually, their maker’s mark will be on the inside of the case, as opposed to the retailer’s stamp, which is usually on the surface of the object. The mark to look out for is a lozenge-shaped stamp, with the initials “VF” inside (figure 9); this will be the mark for the most prized Art Deco pieces. The early pieces will bear the early trademark, “FV”, for Ferdinand Verger (after 1872); “VF” for Verger Frères from 1911–1935; Georges Verger et fils from 1935-1945; and Verger et Co. from 1945-1979 (probably run by Georges’ two sons, Claude and Francois). I must say that I am surprised at how many professionals in my business are unaware of this great French firm, and I feel that it is an incredible injustice, as I have already mentioned. This name deserves immortality, as do most of the objects that they made. As Ralph Esmerian concisely put it: “In terms of their creativity and production, they’re [Verger] right at the top of the French manufacturers, including the great retail names”. So the next time you have the pleasure of buying a beautiful Art Deco jewel, especially if it is a timepiece, go a bit further and see if you might be fortunate enough to have a true VERGER FRÈRES!

Suzanne Belperron and Aimée de Heeren


A Friendship, A Necklace, A Rediscovery

Recently, the market has seen a brief reappearance of a necklace by Suzanne Belperron which we had long lost track of. The experts looked at this piece with respect and admiration – and in particular the most famous of them Olivier Baroin, who was kind enough to share his impressions with us and unearth for us the too-often forgotten Aimée de Heeren, a dear friend of Suzanne Belperron, and also a great customer who dreamed of owning this necklace.

“It is an exceptional piece, from a private European collection, which I had never seen other than in a photograph carefully kept in the personal archives by the designer herself,” explains Olivier Baroin, expert for Suzanne Belperron and keeper of the designer’s own archives. “This necklace is without a doubt not a unique piece, it is one of those that was created at the end of the 1930’s and then reproduced by the designer over decades.” How many of these necklaces might exist? Difficult to be certain according to the expert, “Other pieces will probably resurface onto the market once this one has been revealed to both the press and the public. I cannot imagine that a piece of jewelry such as this would have been taken apart when handed down to any heirs: the esthetic of this necklace, itself a true work of art, supersedes in this instance its intrinsic value.”

Influenced by the growing interest in African art that was enthusiastically collected by French artists at the start of the 20thcentury, Suzanne Belperron designed this signature necklace at the end of the 1930’s. The below drawing depicts a more slender variation of the necklace to be sold this Spring; although in this example, twisted strand of gold and diamonds, a characteristic of Belperron’s style, have replaced the gold studs.

We find an identical example of the necklace being offered sale in two adverts published in 1948, one in Femina, the other in Vogue, for Maison Herz-Belperron, as seen in the illustration below.

This necklace captivated many of the celebrities who followed the designers of their time very closely and, in doing so, had great influence on their reputations. Among those influential celebrities, Aimée de Heeren was one of the most important.

Aimée de Heeren (circa 1903-2006), ravishing socialite of Brazilian origin famous for her beauty, her originality, her taste and her elegance, had an exceptional collection of jewelry (it is said that the Duke of Westminster, at the same time that he was Coco Chanel’s lover, gave Aimée gifts of jewelry that had once belonged to the Empress Eugénie). In December 2007, the New York Times paid homage to her with these words: “when she died last year at 103, Aimee de Heeren — of New York; Palm Beach, Fla.; Paris; and Biarritz, France — became one more lost link to an earlier age of social grace and high society.”

Always on the lookout for the talented of her time, Aimée de Heeren was one of Suzanne Belperron’s most important clients. “We can even go so far as to say that she and Suzanne Belperron were friends,” explains Olivier Baroin.

The importance of their correspondence, now kept in the designer’s personal archives, is testimony to a friendship that went beyond the communication relating to orders for pieces of jewelry.

Aimée de Heeren was a great admirer of the work of Suzanne Belperron. She supported the project for a book on the oeuvre of the jewelry designer, which would have been the crowning achievement of Belperron’s career. It is, in fact, for this project, which would have seen Hans Nadelhoffer as the author, that the designer assembled her order books and memorabilia. It was Aimée de Heeren who gave Suzanne Belperron the equipment with which to record her memoires and offered support for her friend to have an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the postscript of a letter sent from the Hôtel Meurice (in the beginning of the 1980’s) to her “dear friend,” Aimée de Heeren describes, in no uncertain terms, the African inspired necklace that she had seen years earlier with Bernard Herz, the memory of which had remained amazingly clear: “if while you are going through your drawings, you happen upon one of that wonderful gold necklace with diamonds (of African inspiration?), which had those large gold studs that I had seen at Herz’s in 1939.(…) It was really wonderful. Would you be able to reproduce it? A gold necklace for the evening that is original and not those horrors that one usually sees is so rare.”

It’s moving that the reappearance of this necklace brings to life a whole part of Suzanne Belperron’s life and in particular her friendship with Aimée de Heeren, a worldly socialite embodying a past period.



The most symbolic piece of jewelry

“Love, eternity, forever” a few instant associations connected to the Wedding Ring, often the centerpiece of a collection. A woman might also treat herself to a Right Hand Ring, a personal symbol of power and independence.  Rings chosen for their clean silhouette and ease of wear can be worn by both men and women.  Easily admired on the finger, rings are forms of self-expression and a sure way to let one’s hands do the talking! 

Yes! I do rings

The first known diamond engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximillian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The higher classes quickly followed suit. “The wedding set” composed of engagement ring and wedding band has only existed in popular culture since the 1900’s. The traditional solitaire diamond engagement ring, a round brilliant prong-set on a shank, has competition. More and more couples are seeking something more distinctive to represent their personality, style, love and future. Some chose period pieces which lend a sense of history while others might chose a contemporary design.  It is a jeweler’s privilege to make this important sale, often the first and certainly the most significant purchase for a client. 

Cocktail Rings

Flash – Class – Oversize

The fashion for cocktail rings emerged in the late 1940’s, the post-war days when people were once again able to go out and enjoy life.  These eye catching rings are sometimes set with less expensive stones, thus a bigger look for an accessible price. Popular variations include the “ballerina” and “cluster”. Inspiration for the ballerina style came from the wavy tutu, a ballerina’s distinctive skirt. A center stone is typically surrounded by a “skirt” of rectangular or baguette-cut diamonds. The cluster is a timeless style that has been popular for many decades. Imagination is the only limit to the designs of these bold rings. 

One and Done

“Gypsy” settings, also called “flush” settings, are stones set directly into the metal without prongs. This style has crossed through centuries of jewelry history. It is an ideal setting for a phenomenal cabochon stone such as star sapphire and cat’s eye chrysoberyl, nothing detracts from their magical characteristics.

Signet Rings, from ancient to fashionable, never go out of style. Today these rings are also popular amongst women. Most often they are crafted out of yellow gold with the flat surface adorned with a symbol or initial(s). Traditionally engraving is the sole embellishment, but today you can find variations with pave accents or a small, single stone. They can be bold or delicate and feminine. It’s always the wearer’s choice.

Pierre Mauboussin: The Jeweller-Engineer


Over the years there have been many books written about Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, exhibitions too. Books about modernist jewellers such as Jean Després and Raymond Templier and important survey books of the Art Deco period. When it comes to Mauboussin, aside from Marguerite de Cerval’s excellent 1992 monograph on the firm, and a handful of dedicated chapters in other publications not much attention has been given to the venerable house.  This article is not an attempt to re-write Mauboussin’s history, but rather shed some further light on one of the dynamic forces that led to the firm’s success in the inter-war years: Pierre Georges Yvon Mauboussin.

Fig. 3 Mauboussin shop at 3 Rue de Choiseul from an advert in 1925

Born in 1900. One of three children, and the only son of Georges Mauboussin, like many of his contemporaries (Jean Fouquet, Gérard Sandoz, Raymond Templier, André Rivaud et al.) he was born into a multi-generational jewellery business. Most portraits of Pierre from the 1920s and 30s show a sombre and pensive man (fig.1) and it is easy to form a quick opinion from these portraits. But he was by all accounts affable, charming, cultured, modest, debonair, amusing, highly intelligent, absent minded in the way only a professor could be and a natty dresser. A photo of him taken with his test pilot Léon Bourrieau (fig. 2) in the 1950s gives a better sense of the man. Pierre remains a fascinating creature. Unquestionably loyal and passionate about the family firm as well as possessing a great commercial mind, excellent taste, and a passion for art and design. However, his great love, was aeroplanes – a passion he shared with his father. Through much of the 1920s and early 30s he managed to nurture both, side by side, before fully committing to his airplane business by 1940.  His interests and his character informed the identity of Mauboussin and the nature of its output.

It is hard to be certain of what sort of father Georges was, but father and son seemed to have a good relationship that was, amongst other things, forged around shared interests: cars, planes and, in George’s case, bicycles. For Georges these were passions and hobbies, for Pierre these were obsessions that were to shape his path in life. Pierre, like André Rivaud, went to university before joining the family business. In Pierre’s case he graduated from HEC (École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris) the top business school in France, rather than an engineering school as some have written, and promptly joined his father at the firm in 1923-4. It is at this point that Mauboussin seems to begin to flourish. Rather than it being solely as a result of Pierre’s efforts, it seems down to the perfect alchemy that the partnership between Georges (the face of the company), Pierre and Marcel Goulet (George’s cousin and the commercial mind) created when Pierre joined the firm.

Mauboussin, during the interwar years – at the very least until 1935 – was an odd fish in an utterly compelling way. It had the appearance and the polish of a Place Vendome jeweller, yet it embraced its wholesale roots. George’s decision to establish Mauboussin’s headquarters and flagship store at 3 rue de Choiseul (fig. 3)  was telling. Although a hop skip and a jump away from Rue de la Paix, it remained amongst the workshops and stone dealers. As a firm it was technically and commercially innovative and yet had a solid business sense appealing to a varied client base. They were a wholesaler, a stone dealer, which they happily advertised unlike their contemporaries, as well as having their own, sizeable, in-house workshop and stone cutting enterprise. They were also a retail jeweller, which is what they are remembered for today.

As one can see by their first catalogue in 1923, they made very beautiful early Art Deco pieces, very much in fashion but it was nothing ground-breaking (fig. 4).  Pierre’s first independent project was to head to New York in 1924 and establish an office there as well as represent the firm at the French Exhibition (fig. 5). The jewels exhibited proved to be a great success and brought Mauboussin into the consciousness of American society through the considerable press coverage they received. This exhibition in New York along with the 1924 exposition in Strasbourg was to bring Mauboussin increased recognition and enabled the firm to spread its tendrils further across the Atlantic (adding to its established representative offices in Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires).

It was in the 1925 Exhibition des Arts Decoratifs that Mauboussin shifted gears. The iconic jewels that Mauboussin displayed brought accolades including a Grand Prix (fig. 6). In the list of those credited for Mauboussin jewels. Interestingly, there is no mention of Georges, but rather three collaborators Pierre, Marcel Goulet and the designer Maurice Vellay. As was common practice in the trade at the time, Mauboussin employed a talented freelance designer to execute their designs (another example was Dusausoy’s 1925 award winning bracelet which was designed by the young freelancer Madeleine Chazel). Valley who, the year previous had won first prize in the Syndicale de Bijouterie de la Joaillerie et de l’Orfevrerie competition in 1924 with a design for a diadem (fig. 7), went on to work as an inhouse designer for a large workshop and his designs were retailed by Lacloche, Tiffany and Ostertag amongst other well-known houses in the 1920s. He also designed textiles and other decorative arts. Valley’s relationship with Mauboussin continued until 1938, or at the very least his design legacy – as can be seen in the diadem Mauboussin exhibited in Athens in 1928 (fig. 8), which is reminiscent of Valley’s 1924 award winning design.

Fig. 8 Coral, diamond and black enamel diadem exhibited by Mauboussin at the 1928 Exposition in Athens.
Source: Mauboussin Archives

Around the time of the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs Pierre was given the task of overseeing the design department at Mauboussin – a role he maintained into the 1930s. Although he wasn’t the one who created the final designs, he seems to have been actively involved in the process. Most directly in the choice of designers to work for the firm, which allowed Pierre to dictate and curate the aesthetic identity of the firm. He also may have done quick sketches for the initial ideas and defining what he wanted. Without a doubt it is from this point one can trace the influence of his other great love: aeroplanes and cars. Unlike his contemporaries, Gerard Sandoz and Jean Fouquet, who nurtured their passions and interests outside their work in the family business (for example Fouquet’s writing – he penned several detective novels and Sandoz’s painting, film making and graphic design), Pierre was allowed, and encouraged, to work on the jewellery business and his aeronautical business in tandem. Through much of the 1920s and early 30s he managed to nurture both, side by side, before fully committing to his airplane business on the eve of World War 2. His interests and his character, without a doubt, informed the identity of Mauboussin and the nature of the house’s output.

Around the time of the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs Pierre was given the task of overseeing the design department at Mauboussin – a role he maintained into the 1930s. Although he wasn’t the one who created the final designs, he seems to have been actively involved in the process. Most directly in the choice of designers to work for the firm, which allowed Pierre to dictate and curate the aesthetic identity of the firm. He also may have done quick sketches for the initial ideas and defining what he wanted. Without a doubt it is from this point one can trace the influence of his other great love: aeroplanes and cars. Unlike his contemporaries, Gerard Sandoz and Jean Fouquet, who nurtured their passions and interests outside their work in the family business (for example Fouquet’s writing – he penned several detective novels and Sandoz’s painting, film making and graphic design), Pierre was allowed, and encouraged, to work on the jewellery business and his aeronautical business in tandem. Through much of the 1920s and early 30s he managed to nurture both, side by side, before fully committing to his airplane business on the eve of World War 2. His interests and his character, without a doubt, informed the identity of Mauboussin and the nature of the house’s output.

Fig. 9 Clockwise from top left: Vitrine from the 1928 Emerald exhibition, vitrine from the 1930 Ruby exhibition, advertising for the Ruby exhibition featuring a ruby and diamond necklace (inset are other designs for the show) and the cover for the 1931 Diamond Exhibition catalogue.

In the years 1926-1931 for Mauboussin and in particular Pierre, were hugely successful and extremely busy. The first trace of his engineering projects is in 1926 when Pierre registered his first patent for a wing device. In 1927 he registered, with a partner, a patent for a clutch control device for cars. Mauboussin as a firm regularly exhibited, along with contemporaries such as Cartier, Dusausoy and Van Cleef & Arpels at the various International and French exhibitions across the globe, promoting French luxury goods. 1928 was a particularly important year for the firm and for Pierre and exemplifies more than anything the diversity and dynamism of Pierre. It was the year of Mauboussin’s Emerald selling exhibition, the first of three exhibitions (fig. 9) that Mauboussin was to hold to critical and commercial acclaim and was followed two further exhibitions: ruby (1930) and diamond (1931). It is hard to tell who instigated the concept of exhibitions at Mauboussin (Goulet, Georges or Pierre) but Pierre embraced it fully and while Georges was the face of the firm, Pierre was often the voice of the firm in the press coverage and interviews.

1928 was also the year that Pierre produced his first aeroplane. It was designed and constructed in collaboration with Louis Peyret former head of design the airplane manufacturer Morane Saulnier during the First World War. Rather than target competition aircraft (those that undertook land-speed records and circumnavigated the globe with the intention of breaking records) Pierre targeted the growing field of tourism aviation, creating airplanes for non-commercial pilots. Planes were inexpensive, economical to run, and also able to effortlessly cover distances. The first plane (fig. 10) was the PMX (their planes were classed “PM” and are known as Peyret-Mauboussin”) which set several records in 1929: For altitude, speed over 100 km, distance in closed circuit and in a straight line distance. A modification (the PMXI) equipped with an additional tank was to break the record for distance, covering 1258 km in 12 hours and 3 minutes in 1930 and break further records in 1931 (fig. 11).

In 1928-29 he worked on another modification of the PMX – a seaplane called the PMXH, which was to break distance records in 1930. It was very much on Pierre’s mind as he had the firm produce a diamond-set miniature of the plane, in brooch form, was exhibited in 1928 at the Salon Des Artistes Decorateurs (SAD). From 1927 onwards, Mauboussin – probably a decision made by Pierre – began to exhibit at the Salon Des Artistes Decorateurs. Notably, under his own name and not Mauboussin’s. His 1927 display was well received, but it was his 1928 exhibition that brought great acclaim (fig. 12). Exhibited alongside with the seaplane brooch and one other nod to his aeronautical interests – the wheel and wing hat brooch, was the star of the show and one of the more iconic jewels (they produced a few) by Mauboussin in the 1920s: a platinum and diamond ‘Sphere’ necklace, bracelet and matching ring. This suite of jewels, designed by draftsman Marcel Mercier, featured spheres set with round brilliant-cut diamonds and divided by a band of baguette-cuts (fig. 13). Although much has been discussed about this design, little has been written about how it was received in a broader context which is worthy of note as it gives an understanding of the unusual breadth of Mauboussin’s scope.

Fig. 14 Ruby and Diamond brooch 1929

The SAD exhibitions, in terms of jewellery we usually the purvey of the jewellers and silversmiths who held a fascination with the machine age and subscribed aesthetically, technically and philosophically to the Modernist doctrines such as Adolf Loos’ 1908 essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ and Le Corbusier’s ‘The Decorative Art of Today (1925) – both of which railed against ornamentation. Pierre Mauboussin, and in turn the firm Mauboussin, was the only one of the large jewellery firms, that exhibited at SAD and the more commercially minded international exhibitions. Moreover, they did so with great success. For Pierre Mauboussin, and his designers, were not only au fait with the Modernist doctrines, technical and philosophical ideals but also prevalent artistic influences such as Cubism, abstraction and later Surrealism. This resulted in jewels that greatly appealed to critics, commentators and arbiters of taste who published their views in the pages of art and design journals of the period. Magazines that otherwise championed the modernist jewellers.  These publications include L’amor de l’art, L’Art Vivant and Les Echos des industries d’art to name but a few.  Whereas the Modernists created flat, streamlined jewels Pierre gravitated to more sculptural forms. His references to machines and his experiences as an engineer were at times literal (the seaplane brooch) but more often they were subtle and can be seen in the complex patterns of the stone setting. Unlike the Modernists, his jewels were also extremely commercially viable, appealing to a broad client base and Mauboussin’s jewels graced endless pages of the fashion journals of the period – publications that rarely gave column inches to the Modernists. It is worth noting that from 1928 Mauboussin seems to have made a concerted effort to maintain these separate identities. A ruby and diamond brooch (fig. 14) that was displayed in the 1930 Ruby exhibition was attributed to Mauboussin in fashion journals, and to Pierre Mauboussin in the decorative arts journals in which it appeared.

The 1928 ‘Sphere’ jewels appeared on pages of both the fashion and decorative arts periodicals. Fashion journal Fémina devoted a whole page to the designs. There was also a poem penned by the poet Francis de Miomondre in the journal L’Europe Nouvelle in 1928 which was an ode to Pierre Mauboussin and his necklace.

“The modern woman got rid of everything: her high heels, her prejudices, her big hats, her underwear, her long dresses and her hair…
But her necklace.
And that’s how we grab her back, that little slave.
And while we’re at it, let’s make this necklace beautiful! and with spheres! and by Pierre Mauboussin!
And nothing prevents her from escaping… with it.”

Mauboussin continued to use this seemingly simple motif. They produced at least one other necklace, which now forms part of Neil Lane’s collection and which was exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt in 2017. The motif appears again in the following years: adapted in designs by Van Cleef & Arpels (fig. 15) in an advertisement from 1931 and Mauboussin used it again, probably many times, for example in 1934 it appeared as a modern take on a tiara (fig. 16).

One last thing from that 1928 SAD vitrine that is worth mentioning. The inclusion of watches for both men and women, including a belt watch for women (fig 17). Mauboussin, during this period began to produce watches, not simply gem encrusted dress watches but gold and white metal watches, which formed part of the exhibition displays. In their pricelist for the 1930 ruby exhibition Mauboussin said the following:

“Watches. – To this marvel of the art of watchmaking, the jeweller gives a new meaning. He now turns it into a pin-clip that attaches to the edge of the sleeve, a staple in the skilful fold of a drape; she is also the beating heart of a bracelet; it’s still the bag watch, tiny – and so flat! Finally, a clock, it is a lovely and precious trinket.”

Watches were in part a nod to the growing fashion for watches, but also a reflection of Pierre Mauboussin’s understanding of the accessories that appealed to the modern woman, of which he had an innate understanding. As testament to this relationship with women, during the late 1920’s and 1930s he entrusted celebrated aviatrix to pilot his planes in competition. His successful [professional] relationship with these women is well documented. In 1933 Helene Boucher (fig. 18 & 19) set an altitude and in 1935 Maryse Hilz (fig. 20) set a women’s altitude record in his planes. The Aviatrix in the 1920s and 30s, exemplified by Emelia Earhart, had become one of the ultimate symbols of the modern woman.

Pierre continued to exhibit successfully at the SAD until the early 1930s (fig. 21 & 22). And in addition to their celebrated emerald, ruby and diamond exhibits, Mauboussin exhibited, to much acclaim, at the 1929 Les Arts de la bijouterie, de la joaillerie et l’orfèvrerie exhibition at the Paris Musée Galliera and the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale in Paris. In both these seminal exhibitions Pierre was recorded as the designer, though in truth he no doubt worked with draughtsmen/draughtswomen employed by the firm on these jewels. In these exhibitions, he continued to focus on the clean minimal lines that so appealed to him, featuring trademark intricate patterns with baguette-cuts that were prominent in the jewels the firm exhibited in the 1929 show at the Musée Galliera (fig. 23). He also began to play with abstract forms, such as a piano brooch, punctuated with a small cabochon ruby. This abstraction was to be further elaborated on at the Ruby Exhibition with a series of other designs relating to the piano brooch (fig. 24). He also began to include coloured stones such as sapphires and emeralds and carved coloured stones which were a nod to the substantial, and hugely successful, ‘Jardinière’ jewels that were laden with coloured carved stones that Mauboussin produced in number during that period. (fig 25). He also designed a modernist ruby and diamond take on a ‘Jardinière’ brooch for the 1929 exhibition (fig 26). These jewels serve to illustrate the diverse aesthetic identity of the firm and yet all the jewels remained easily identifiable as Mauboussin.

In 1930-31 his, and his designers, began to create complicated jewels set with diamonds and colour stones. Such as the sapphire, diamond and ruby hair ornament and pendant brooch that appeared at the Ruby exhibition (fig. 27).  In 1931, Le Bulletin de l’art ancien et moderne wrote about these jewels:

“Mr. Pierre Mauboussin has produced works whose colourful complication sometimes asserts itself at the expense of form. Its jewels nonetheless retain, by the pleasure of their tonal relationships and the ingenuity of their arrangements, a certain seduction.

Fig. 32 Escadrille charm bracelet amongst other patriotic jewels by Mauboussin that were advertised in Vogue in March 1940 – 2 months before the Battle of France began
Fig. 31 A gold ladies chronograph watch by Mauboussin, 1936.
Fig. 30 A crystal, silver and vermeil trophy by Mauboussin to commemorate the crossing of the North Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh (1927) as well as the reciprocal crossing by Dieudonné Coste and his navigator Maurice Bellonte (1930). The trophy dates from 1932.

In Pierre’s jewels one can also see reference to the artistic developments of the time, biomorphic abstraction, organic surrealism and collage to name but a few. The motifs became increasingly stylised and the jewels began to employ layering through the use of metals, enamel and stone setting to create jewels that were like no other being produced. One of the most striking examples of this is a rose brooch that Mauboussin exhibited at the 1930 SAD, the 1931 Diamond exhibition as well as the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale in Paris. The original design for the jewel (fig. 28) gives some sense of the designer’s reference to art movements of the time and the photograph gives a sense of the layering, which gives the impression of a collage. An illustration celebrating the jewels which were exhibited at the Exposition Coloniale Internationale that featured in a 1931 issue of Harper’s Bazaar allows one to see the varied hues of blue enamel that were used. Note the necklace made in the same vein and the gold vanity case mounted with a diamond and ruby motif that references the abstract jewels exhibited in the Ruby exhibition in the previous year. Pierre and his team went on to further develop this stylised and layered technique. In 1931-2 he produced a series of diamond and platinum jewels, some of which featured enamel work (fig 29). Unfortunately, none have appeared on the market in recent years and so the colour palette is hard to ascertain.

Fig. 33 Diamond and platinum sliding brooch by Mauboussin from 1934 that was featured in Vogue that year

From 1935 onwards, following the collapse of Mauboussin’s business in the U.S.A., the retirement of Georges Mauboussin and Marcel Goulet taking the helm of the firm with the help of his son Jean, Pierre Mauboussin gradually withdrew from his involvement. One can still see traces of his influence, from the large scale aeronautical trophies (fig. 30), the production of a ladies chronograph watch (fig. 31) which was inspired by his aviatrix colleagues, and other jewels such as a patriotic charm bracelet themed around all the French Escadrilles retailed on the eve of World War 2 (fig. 32), and more mechanical pieces such as this sliding brooch (fig. 33). At the same time his aeronautical business grew from strength to strength. Still, in 1940 when the French government took control of his aeronautical enterprises as part of the drive for the war effort, Pierre is registered as having his offices at Rue de Choiseul.

Although this article is about Pierre his design legacy at Mauboussin, it would be remiss to not mention some of his engineering achievements. In 1933 Pierre turned his hand to car design. He believed that the fundamentals he had developed with his planes could apply to a car. The result was the Mistral (fig 34), which was built by Chenard and Walcker and exhibited in 1934. The car proved to be hugely expensive (75,000 francs) and as a consequence few were built and sold, but it generated a huge amount of publicity of Mauboussin and Chenard and Walcker.

Following the death of Louis Peyret in 1933, Mauboussin established his own company and named it Avions Maboussin. Some of the PM models were relabelled M to recognises that they were now Mauboussin planes. During this period he developed a Corsair plane. The M120/32 Corsaire (1932) which was based on his earlier designs. Variants of the M120 were built until 1948 and it remained a popular plane with French flying clubs in the post-war years. In the mid 1930s he approached a woodworking firm by the name of Fouga to manufacture his planes. Fouga, who had traditionally produced rolling stock (railways) saw the benefit in shifting into aeronautical production and by 1936 they bought Avions Mauboussin and all of Mauboussin’s designs. At Fouga, Mauboussin worked alongside another engineer by the name of Robert Castello, and both men played a leading role in the firm. As a result, Fouga’s planes were designated CM in reference to the Castell-Mauboussin team. Fouga focused on military aircraft, initially assault gliders such as the CM 10, but after the war they focused on jet propulsion energy. One of their most lasting legacies was the CM Magister (fig.35), first developed in 1948, which was used by the French, Belgian, Israeli, German and Finnish air force in conflicts and later used for military aeronautical displays. They remained in use until the 1990s. Mauboussin went on to run Fouga until 1967, at which point he retired. His contribution to aeronautical engineering was profound and long lasting and as a consequence he was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion D’honneur and the prestigious La médaille de l’Aéronautique for his services to the field.  Pierre left behind no children, although he married (twice) these marriages were later in life. He died in the Oisne in 1984 While his passing did not dim the memory of his contributions to the evolution of aeronautical engineering and design, the same fate did not befall his jewellery legacy – much like the innovative jewels he was responsible for, it is largely forgotten through the vagaries of time, more’s the pity.

Cartier and the Use of Natural Materials: Ivory

By Olivier Bachet

Since the dawn of mankind, man has been making jewellery from shells, amber and teeth. Amulets, liturgical figurines as well as grips on spears were sculpted in natural materials for which man had easy access. Inspired by these ancient human traditions, Cartier introduced a certain number of natural materials originating from the worlds of flora and fauna into the making of their jewellery and objects which they offered to their clientele. We shall describe different articles the main elements which were used and for which their use has been known since the beginning of time bearing in mind that Cartier has used throughout its history, elements which few people could even imagine being used in the making of an art object, such as a carved, openwork stork’s beak which covered the extremities of a vanity case made in Paris in 1926.


All civilisations have drawn upon ivory to make objects which have been both practical as well as decorative. It comes from mammal tusks. It can be assumed that the ivory used by Cartier comes from elephant tusks even though it is possible that some ivory came from other species such as narwhal, hippopotamus, walrus and even boar.

During the Belle Epoque, ivory was not rare and its use was diversified and widespread. Cartier used it mainly for secondary elements, that is, for elements on the inside or elements which were hidden including for example, the supporting plaques of dance cards or beneath an object such as table bells. In this case, the ivory plaque was stamped with Cartier’s signature using delicate cursive letters as well as the inventory number of the piece.

Easy to sculpt, ivory was also used to make more visible and elaborate elements such as the perches for lovebirds, owls and parakeets. Easy to dye, Cartier also used it to create the branches on a Japanese cherry tree in 1907.

When the size of the tusks or the teeth allowed, the goldsmith didn’t hesitate to make pieces whereby ivory was the principal material. In 1910 and 1912, including those with a folding strut, many round, square and arched desk clock models were made in ivory.

In the 1920s, the use of ivory in the manufacture of objects became more restrained. Some pieces continued to be made in ivory as its whiteness allowed for bold contrasts with enamel or coloured gemstones as was found on a vanity case from 1927 which was decorated with sapphires and emeralds. However, at the time, this did not represent most of the production at rue de la Paix. On the contrary, the use of ivory in the manufacture of jewellery was increasing. In 1919, Cartier began to produce the famous « Sudanese » bracelets, directly inspired by traditional African jewellery. The body of these bracelets was most often made of ivory with some enamelled motifs and the ends in coral, jade or onyx. An organic porous material, ivory is sensitive to dehydration. Fragile, it can crack with time and its beautiful cream color tends to yellow.

The development of synthetic materials such as bakelite, galalith and ebonite creating the illusion of ivory meant that these new materials could replace ivory. This was the case for the ivory casing of a Chinese desk clock which was replaced in the Cartier workshops by an ebonite casing which was more resistant to the ravages of time. After the Second World War, the use of white chalcedony, both resistant and easy to obtain, was frequently used in the manufacture of jewellery and tends to replace ivory. It is only in the 1960s that we find again pieces made of ivory. Its ease to be carved allows for example to perfectly render the delicate petals of white roses which, mounted on a brooch, will meet a great success. Since the end of the 1990s, awareness of the fragility of nature and the desire to protect wildlife has imposed a total ban on ivory. It is a safe bet that Cartier, like other great jewellers, will never again use ivory in its creations.