Above: Art Deco platinum, carved ruby and diamond bracelet, courtesy of Paul Fisher, Inc.
Celebrated present-day as the July birthstone, rubies have unceasingly enchanted and entranced humankind. From Greek mythology to Burmese tradition, the scarlet stone has served as a symbol for various societies, cultures, religions, and philosophies. Aptly referred to as the “King of Gems” in Sanskrit, rubies continue to be one of the most precious and coveted gemstones.
Ruby and sapphire are a variety of the mineral corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. Corundum is a 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, second only to diamond, making it a highly popular and wearable gemstone.
Ruby’s iconic red pigment comes from the presence of chromium in the compound: the higher the chromium concentrations, the stronger the red hue. Chromium can also cause fluorescence, which further increases the red color intensity. Rubies of the most saturated color, coupled with natural fluorescence, are referred to as “pigeon blood”. Untreated, gem-quality rubies with vibrant shades of red are especially rare and highly sought-after, asserting higher per-carat prices in the colored stone market.
The inimitable geology of Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Mozambique are all sources for exceptional ruby crystals. For centuries, deposits in Burma (now Myanmar), especially those from Mogok in Northern Myanmar, produced incredible specimens of rubies, some with extraordinary “pigeon blood” vibrancy. In the late 2000s, gem-quality rubies were discovered in Mozambique, and the country has since become the world’s largest ruby producer.
From armor augmentations to lavish ornamentation, craftsmen have employed the “King of Gems” for centuries, particularly as a mineral of choice for jewelry. Rubies have graced countless jewels through the various eras and design periods and continue to play an important role in the modern-day colored stone and jewelry fabrication markets.
Place Vendôme, besides the famous column of the world and the Ritz, the most famous French and international jewelry houses offer to dazzled eyes walkers and enthusiasts their most beautiful diamonds, their most beautiful emeralds and their dazzling ornaments. But this place contains well-kept secrets. Among its unknown places to the general public, there is one more surprising than the others: the Bureau Bleu. It is in this boudoir, beautifully restored, that I take you to discover a small part of one of the most beautiful treasures of the place : the archives of the house Chaumet.
François-Régnault Nitot first installs the house at 15 Place Vendôme where he acquires in 1812 the mansion. We find there his apartment and his shop. Almost a century later, Joseph Chaumet moved the house to 12 of the same place. We are in 1907, the address is now final. This mansion dates, like the rest of the square, from the end of the 17th century. On the first floor is the Chaumet museum and its famous “tiara hall”. This apartment was the on to Claude Baudard de Vaudrier, lord of Saint James, treasurer general of the navy of King Louis XVI. In 1777, he commissioned architect François-Joseph Bélanger for the Grand Salon. Now restored and classified as an historic monument, this place is one of the most beautiful on the Vendôme square. The Bureau Bleu was to be a room. It was especially for many years the one of Beatrice de Plinval: hired in 1969, she was a designer, curator, creator of the internal museum of the house, she is also the “memory” of the house. His successor was recently appointed. Guillaume Robic – passed by the Ministry of Culture, the CMN or the Monnaie de Paris, took office in the house on January 1, 2018.
The Chaumet archives
Discovering the archives of the house is first of all immerse yourself in an absolutely amazing and particularly complete set. Very early, the in-house jewelers gather documents to keep a trilateral order. Albums are made, gathering drawings, sketches and gouaches. Which ones are numbered. Some albums are ordered around a theme like knots when others date from a particular time. Even today, the archivists of the house do not know who made these albums. There are no documents or “mission orders” in a way. It seems that this fund was first created in a completely empirical way. The oldest drawings dating from 1810. We are in full period F.-R. Nitot whose head of workshop is Jean-Baptiste Fossin. It is not about gouaches as elaborate as those we could see during the last exhibitions devoted to this medium. It is about, in this album, sketches often made in graphite pencil. There are only a few colors, but the work of the volume is quite remarkable.
To understand the richness and the complexity of the fund, some numbers are needed. Also the archives of the house Chaumet are composed as follows:
80,000 drawings mainly in the famous albums
66,000 negatives of which 33,000 are actually glass plates.
300,000 photos on paper that represent jewels before delivery. A nuance however, this important figure incorporates duplicates. Indeed, some pieces could be the subject of 3, 5 or even 10 identical photo prints.
Then add accounting documents: account books, deposit books and even about 500 plasters mainly made in the nineteenth century.
Finally, and this is one of the richness of this fund, the house retains some 500 models in nickel silver (often enhanced with gouache) which represent a part of the achievements of the house. This is mainly about tiaras and brooches.
Among the important elements, it must be borne in mind that this fund is fairly homogeneous. Which is not always the case with archives. Wars and removals are all problems for conservation. Here, there is probably no talk of “white areas”. Archivists arriving to find the elements that researchers may need by consulting the various components of the fonds: drawings, photo plates, paper prints or accounting documents … etc.
Chaumet’s researches and willingness to perpetuate as well as to exploit its archives also made it possible to understand their constitution. We know for example that from 1870 the house have in-house photographers. The photo studio was also spruced up in the square because of the light. Before moving several times. But the study of some photos reveal the reflection of the column …
The digitization, a token of protection
From 1990, the house programs annual campaigns of restoration and conservation of its archives. Old albums are entrusted to graphic arts conservators (INP) in order to stabilize them when they are too damaged. Neutral papers and boxes of protection are thus integrated in order to preserve this fund for a long time. Work is also underway creating optimum hygrometric conditions for the preservation and consultation of documents. The heritage department of the Chaumet house is gradually growing. One, then two people to count today 5 people full time.
Photos are among the most complicated documents to keep. The papers dry and crackle, the prints pass and do not support the light of day. For example, the gouachés of the exhibition of La Piscine will have to find in the dark for 18 months after two months of exposure. A time necessary to “rest” and sustain them.
Since the 2000s, digitization has helped the work of archivists. Thus bill books between 1838 and 1958 are now available in digital format. Saving time for researches. Since last year, it is the photographic collection which is digitized progressively with the rhythm of recurring campaigns. Because it takes time, a photo sometimes requires up to 15 minutes of work to get a satisfactory result.
Be blown away
This visit and discovery of the archives will have been particularly inspiring. The album Fossin is remarkable for its content. But the thematic album on the knots is even more surprising. Hundreds of pages, sketches, gouaches testify to the talent of the designers of the house. And the bow, DNA of the house, has been treated more than sharp. At all times, in all styles and with all possible materials, it is reinvented perpetually. Exciting! Finally, I immersed happily in a 70s album where the yellow gold is perfectly treated. Work with thread and stones for timeless renderings. A real nice trip made possible by the team of the house who knew how to answer to my too many questions!
In March 2019, the Chaumet high jewelry house offered a beautiful temporary exhibition in the famous Parisian Drawing Fair. Last year, in 2018, it was about the art of the diadem and head jewelry, one of the specialties of the in-house workshop. Through numerous unpublished sketches, we had discovered rare and magnificent archives testifying to the wonderful pieces left the Chaumet workshops.
With “Dess(e) in de Nature”, the Heritage Department explored one of the main sources of inspiration for the house: nature in all its beauty and complexity. Were exhibited a hundred drawings from the internal graphic cabinet that preserves more than 88,000 documents dating back to the late eighteenth century and the creation of the workshop by Nitot.
This highly qualitative ephemeral museum let us discovered documents whose oldest date back to 1830. Through the selected sketches, we admired beautiful botanical representations including most of them gave birth to high-end jewelry pieces. And we have seen, how, by their respective talents, jewelers have sublimated nature without betraying or embellishing it.
In order to guide us in this jeweler’s herbarium, the house appealed to the knowledge and the scientific guarantee of Mr. Marc Jeanson: agronomist and botanist – he is responsible for the collections of the National Herbarium at the National Museum of Natural History at Paris since 2013, and was, in particular, associate curator of the “Gardens” exhibition at the Grand Palais, in 2017. He has done an important work of recognition of the species sublimated by the designers of the house to enlighten you on their natures.
All of these drawings were absolutely stunning, showing us how nature is a perfect and timeless source for jewelers and designers. Looking now for new exhibitions with incredible drawings. Hope so soon!
Platinum Art Deco Emerald and Diamonds Ring. New York, circa 1925. Courtesy of J. & S.S. DeYoung, Inc.
The Art Deco era was a very interesting and dynamic period in jewelry history. Even the depression happened in the middle of this era — people bounced back with luxury and style! Diamonds sparkle everywhere! Nothing is too much!
“What do you mean I can’t get a purse finished with diamonds?” Not in this era! Geometric cut diamonds such as baguettes, trapezoids, and marquises were introduced — creativity jumped to a higher level and innovation was tickling in the hands of jewelry craftsmen.
The most glamorous rings, bracelets, sautoirs, headbands, cuffs, and clips were designed. The pieces were living up along with the growing haute couture. One of the famous designers back then was Madame Grès. She was known for her elegant pleated Greek dress designs. She was quoted as saying, “For a dress to survive from one era to the next, it must be marked with an extreme purity.”
Others shared her vision in their creations: Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Chaumet, Boucheron, and many other leading jewelry houses. Their quality and outstanding design were reflected in their jewelry. Many other anonymous artists were pushing to deliver the same quality as their leaders.
And here we are; their creations survived from one era to the next. Art deco glamour remains one of the most desirable styles in jewelry. Why don’t you treat yourself or your loved ones with something that is just as beautiful today as 100 years ago? It is the ideal accessory to mark the word “chic” in the “casual-chic” dress code of today.
Blue jeans topped with a white shirt and rocking an art deco cocktail ring might just do it. Or for an evening look, that same ring can be dressed up to celebrate even something as festive as New Year’s Eve… It will dazzle just as fabulously in the disco lights as in the morning daylight. Diamonds dance in any kind of light with a different charm.
If you want to go deeper into the history of glamour and luxury, a must-visit is the exposition “Luxes” in Paris. It is taking place at the musée des arts décoratifs and it runs until May 2nd 2021. There is a flow of different themes and it brings appreciation for designers and artists that made a difference in luxury history. Enjoy!
Silver over gold or silver-topped jewelry was very popular during the Georgian jewelry period. It dates from circa 1714 to 1835, spanning the reigns of four kings of England, all named George. It makes it easy to remember.
Back then, they used silver and gold for jewelry design. Platinum, although discovered in the 1700s, was not widely used in jewelry until the late 1800s.
The jewelry designs were inspired by the Baroque and Rococo style. Bow motifs and teardrop shapes were in fashion. Jewelry was set with colorful large stones such as sapphires, emeralds, topazes, citrines, amethysts, garnets, and diamonds, of course.
It was especially important for the security of the gemstones that they were set in gold. A layer of silver over the gold was added afterwards to get a different shiny look than the glowing gold one.
The silver topping works its magic when the diamonds sparkle in candlelight. It looks like the diamonds are floating out of their mountings. This unique appearance actually happened unintentionally.
We can all picture the elegant balls, dinners, and parties that were held with huge chandeliers and candle holders everywhere as electricity did not exist yet. The ladies were dressed up in large elegant dresses, wearing wigs and shined up with a ton of jewelry. The movie of “Marie Antoinette” of 2006 with Kirsten Dust has a few scenes where you can see this floating effect of the stones in candlelight (Fig. 1).
How to wear this jewelry today?
The elegant flows and romanticism in its design is in line with the boho chic dress code. Earrings, rings, headbands and necklaces are especially popular in style.
This article was born from a purchase. One day, my Partner came back from the USA with a beautiful object in his pocket: A gold Cartier cigarette case adorned on both sides with extraordinary Persian hunting scenes, probably inspired by a page of a Persian manuscript, and made in delicate mother-of-pearl and hardstone inlays by Wladimir Makowsky, the master of jewelry marquetry of the Art Deco period. This box was signed “Cartier Paris Londres New York”, but it also bore a mysterious mention: “incrustations de Linzeler Marchak” (inlays by Linzeler Marchak) (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). It was curious, to say the least, to find a double signature on an Art Deco box. To my knowledge, Cartier and Linzeler-Marchak did not work together. Another enigma was then added to the first. I knew the jeweler Linzeler more for goldsmith’s pieces rather than for jewelry and Marchak more for his post-war creations and, in particular, his big “cocktail” rings rather than his Art Deco creations, but I had only very rarely seen the association of the two names on a pièce. And suddenly, I remembered that most of the silver pieces made by Cartier in the 1930s bore the maker’s mark of Robert Linzeler. There were a lot of such pieces, because if, for the common people, Cartier is a jeweler above everything else, a very important part of the sales during the Art Deco period was represented by silverware, in particular, table silver, household silver, centerpieces, torches, etc. (Fig. 2). At the time, I was doing research for the book I was writing with Alain Cartier, Cartier: Exceptional Objects. It was therefore time to put a little order in all this to see more clearly and to understand the relationship between three famous names in Parisian jewelry: Linzeler, Marchak, and Cartier.
Robert Linzeler was born on March 9, 1872. He descended from a dynasty of jewelers-goldsmiths who had been settled in Paris since 1833. In 1897 he moved to 68 rue de Turbigo, when he bought the workshop of Louis Leroy. By the same occasion, he registered his hallmark of master goldsmith on April 14, 1897. It consisted of the two letters R and L surmounted by a royal crown (see maker’s marks below). As tradition among the French jewelers, this hallmark takes the symbol of the hallmark of its predecessor, i.e. a royal crown (see maker’s marks below). One could believe considering the name of Leroy (“the king” in French) that this symbol was chosen by the latter because in general the symbols were chosen according to puns referring to the patronymic of the manufacturer, but in reality, this symbol was that of Leroy’s predecessor, Jules Piault, a goldsmith who specialized in the manufacture of knives whose workshop in the rue de Turbigo had been bought by Leroy in 1886 (Fig. 3) (see maker’s marks below).
Business was flourishing because in April 1903, Robert Linzeler left rue de Turbigo and acquired a 480 m2 mansion located on rue d’Argenson in the luxurious 8th arrondissement of Paris to set up both his workshop and a showroom to receive private customers (Fig. 4). This period before the First World War was a fertile one. The genius Paul Iribe, who also had Cartier as a client and for whom he made silverware, designed jewelry for Linzeler (Fig. 5), as Hans Nadelhoffer points out in his book, Cartier Jewelry Extraordinary. He was, therefore, as often was at the time, both a manufacturer for others and a retailer for himself. After the Great War in December 1919, the company was renamed ROBERT LINZELER-ARGENSON S.A. This change of name was accompanied by the installation of a magnificent store decorated by Robert Linzeler’s friends, Süe and Mare, who were known for their Art Deco decoration (Fig. 6 and 7). Unfortunately, business was poor. It should not be forgotten that the aftermath of war is a period of crisis that makes business difficult. This is when the Marchak brothers step in.
The brothers Salomon and Alexandre Marchak, born in Kiev in 1884 and 1892, respectively, were the sons of Joseph Marchak, nicknamed the “Cartier of Kiev”. He was a jeweler and goldsmith whose high-quality production made the reputation of the company. In 1922, the Marchak brothers entered the capital of Robert Linzeler, and the company became LINZELER-MARCHAK (Fig. 8). They signed the pieces accordingly, and it was still under this name that they received a Grand Prix at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The company LINZELER-MARCHAK was changed to the A. MARCHAK (Société Française de joaillerie et d’orfèvrerie A. Marchak) in December 1927. This period corresponds, I think, to the intervention of Cartier in the Linzeler case but only for the part regarding the mansion of the rue d’Argenson, because, let’s not forget, Linzeler owned this mansion and the store at 4 rue de la Paix. I do not know whether Cartier had entered Linzeler’s capital at the end of the 1920’s, but this hypothesis is probable since in 1932, René Révillon, Louis Cartier’s son-in-law, proposed to increase the company’s capital and give part of it in shares to Robert Linzeler in exchange for the sale of the business and the private mansion on rue d’Argenson. The remaining shares were bought by Cartier-Paris and especially by Cartier-New York, which became the majority shareholder. This date also corresponds to the end of the association between Robert Linzeler and the Marchak brothers. It seems, therefore, that at this date, Cartier took total possession of rue d’Argenson and the Marchak brothers of the store on rue de la Paix.
The Linzeler-Marchak company was definitively dissolved on June 10, 1936. Finally, Robert Linzeler died on January 25, 1941.
Thus, from 1932 onwards, the Robert Linzeler workshop at 9 rue d’Argenson produced many silver pieces for Cartier, its new owner. The workshop became, in a way, the workshop of the House specializing in the manufacture of silverware, especially for Cartier-New York, the owner of most of the company’s capital. This explains why many pieces bear the hallmark of Robert Linzeler, not in a lozange shape, but in a shell shape, meaning that the piece is only intended for export (see maker’s marks below) as is the case on this extraordinary pair of gold, silver, lacquer and glass Cartier candelabra that I was lucky enough to buy. These are now in the Lee Siegelson collection in New York (Fig. 9). It is worth noting that it was in this vast mansion that Cartier would install the Ploujavy workshop in the 1930s, another manufacturing workshop specialized in the making of silver and lacquer objects such as cigarette boxes and vanity cases (Fig. 10).
Robert Linzeler’s hallmark was definitively crossed out in 1949. On July 23rd of that year, the LINZELER-ARGENSON company became the CARDEL company by contraction of the names Cartier and Claudel. This was in reference to Marion, the only daughter of Pierre Cartier, the owner of Cartier-New York. She was born Cartier and became Claudel following her marriage to Pierre Claudel (son of the writer Paul Claudel). Linzeler’s crown was preserved as the symbol on the new maker’s mark (please see maker’s marks below). Finally, to answer the first riddle, why is there a “Linzeler-Marchak” signature on a Cartier cigarette case? I see only one hypothesis: The box was born Cartier. With its frieze of geometric motifs engraved on the edges without enamel, its thumbpiece, and its hardstone corners, it belonged to the series of “Chinese” cases. They were relatively little elaborate cases whose two faces were probably decorated with burgauté lacquer in the image of another specimen of 1930 (Fig. 11). Was the box damaged, or did the customer want a box with a more elaborate decoration, the mystery remains. However, it passed around 1925, under unknown circumstances, into the hands of Linzeler-Marchak, located at 4 rue de la Paix opposite the Cartier store. It was then transformed by adding an enameled surround and two magnificent Makowsky miniatures and was signed with the mention “incrustations de Linzerler-Marchak” (Inlays by Linzeler-Marchak), but the Cartier signature was not removed. The history of this case clearly illustrates the complexity of the relationship between Parisian jewellers and goldsmiths in the first third of the 20th century, where, in certain circumstances, people did not hesitate to buy back objects of competitors, add their own signature, and sell the items on their own behalf.
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : R.L Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, then 9 rue d’Argenson and 4 rue de la Paix, Paris Registration date : 14/04/1897 Deregistartion date : 1949
Maker’s mark of Robert Linzeler stamped on the pieces intended for export. the number 950 means that there are 950 parts of pure silver in weight for 1000 parts of alloy.
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : J.P. Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, Paris Registration date : 1856 Deregistartion date : 1887
LEROY, Louis et Cie
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : L et Cie (the distribution of the letters in the punch is hypothetical) Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, Paris Registration date : 15/11/1886 Deregistartion date : 04/05/1897
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : Two crossed lines Maker’s mark : Letters : P.L.J.V. Address : 66 rue de de La Rochefoucault, then 9 rue d’Argenson, Paris Registration date : 08/08/1929 Deregistartion date : ?
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : S.A.C.A. Address : 9 rue d’Argenson, Paris Registration date : 19/09/1949 Deregistartion date : ?
O. BACHET, A. CARTIER, Cartier,Exceptional Objects, Palais Royal 2019. M. DE CERVAL, Marchak, éd. du Regard, Paris, 2006. Articles on Marchak and Linzeler in J. J. RICHARD, BIJOUX ET PIERRES PRECIEUSES, Blog, August 2017, March 2018
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark: Symbol : A vaporizer Maker’s mark : Letters : A.A. Address : 16 rue Saint-Maur, Paris Registration date : 02/02/1889 Deregistration date : ?
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : An ear of wheat Maker’s mark : Letters : C.A. Address : 54 rue Rambuteau, Paris Registration date : 06/12/1918 Deregistration date : ?
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A stork Maker’s mark : Letters : A.A. Address : 117 rue Saint-Martin, Paris Registration date : 31/10/1919 Deregistration date : ?
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : 2 wings and a star Maker’s mark : Letters : M.A. Address : 8 rue Rambuteau, Paris Registration date : 19/10/1920 Deregistration date : 20/05/1934
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A lion Maker’s mark : Letters : A. F. Address : 68 rue de la Folie-Méricourt, Paris Registration date : 09/03/1888 Deregistration date : ?
ABEL, Charles et Cie
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A star Maker’s mark : Letters : C.A. & C. Address : 5-9 passage Violet, Paris Registration date : 08/10/1919 Deregistration date : ?
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : An Arrow piercing a circle Maker’s mark : Letters : E.A. Address : 20 rue Hérold, Paris Registration date : 03/07/1885 Deregistration date : ?
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A pear and a star Maker’s mark : Letters : G.A. Address : 50 rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, Paris Registration date : 06/03/1918 Deregistration date : 27/05/1925
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A watch winder Maker’s mark : Letters : L. A. Address : 11 rue du Croissant then 35 rue Lamartine, Paris Registration date : 16/10/1912 Deregistration date : 03/05/1916
Specialty : Jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A lamp shade Maker’s mark : Letters : L. A. Address : 186 rue Saint-Martin, Paris Registration date : 29/11/1877 Deregistration date : 27/08/1880
Coral is a living polyp, which lives in colonies, and forms an external calcareous skeleton, which can reach the size of underwater reefs. It occurs in several nuances of red, white, and a pink called “Angel skin” and is frequently used in jewelry. From the beginning of the 20th century, purveyors of coral, such as Herbet Frères who had factories in Naples, Genoa, and Livorno, were amongst those who supplied the House. However, at the time, it was only used on the rare occasion to make accessories or objects. It started to be used more frequently during the 1920s. Due to its arborescent growth underwater, the size of coral was limited. It was for this reason — with the exception of ancient Chinese elements already sculpted, such as the head of a large chimera acquired in the 1920s and mounted as a paperknife in 1943, or a long piece carved into fruit and mounted as a parasol handle in 1928 — that the only coral elements used by Cartier were modest in size.
The small size of coral elements did not present the same disadvantage for jewelry making as it did for objects. It was also after the First World War that the use of coral became widespread in the manufacture of jewelry. All different shades were used, although red coral, the most expensive, was most frequently found in small touches on the House’s jewelry. Some pieces were carved at the head of chimeras to form elements of bracelets or jabot elements in the Chinese taste. More precisely, these elements in the shape of a chimera’s head “combined the tradition of animal-head bangles of the ancient Mediterranean, the Indian makara, the Chinese dragon and even African variants,” writes Hans Nadelhoffer in his book “Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary”. Louis Bozzacchi’s workshop in the rue de Turenne was entrusted with carving the chimera forms. In 1922, Louis Cartier ordered a bangle made of two chimera heads of carved coral with bejeweled combs and two carved spherical emerald (Fig. 1). In 1923, this bangle was followed by a chimera jabot pin also ordered by Louis Cartier for his wife (Fig. 2).
Although the neoclassical style had gone out of fashion in Paris, the Cartier branch adapted its production and made pieces in this taste to cater to New York where neoclassical elegance remained appealing. This is the case of a beautiful jabot-pin decorated with a Greek mask (Fig. 3). As a bead, cabochon, or sugarloaf (Fig. 4), coral served as secondary motifs on necklaces, brooches, or bracelets, or were placed on the top of perfume bottles (Fig. 5), on handbag clasps (Fig. 6) or on the tops of lids. Sculpted into rods and half cylinders, they covered vanity cases and desk clocks (Fig. 7). As in the field of jewelry, they were used especially on Oriental and Chinese-inspired pieces where the coral was often carved as figurative details. Chimera heads were placed on smoking sets. A sculpted seated dog was set on the top of a pen. An Egyptian head covered with a Nemes was applied to a handbag clasp made in onyx, and small Chinese plaques, sculpted as an effigy of Buddha, were placed at the center of some vanity cases. Lastly, small branches of coral were mounted realistically on some objects to give them a natural aspect.
Despite the crisis at the beginning of the 1930s and the progressive abandoning of expensive materials and intricate decor, coral remained a frequently used material. Its colour allowed for a contrast with black and lacquer used on a multitude of objects and jewels, the most famous being undoubtedly the ladybug brooch (Fig. 8). In many cases, it remained the only coloured element to brighten up finished objects. In the 1940s, the strong contrast between red and yellow gold, which characterised production at the time, permitted coral to be used as decorative elements on a large number of accessories, handbag clasps, vanity cases, powder cases, etc. Sometimes, it was used in a much larger scale, for example, on a yellow gold clock, reminiscent of the oriental fashion of the “Roaring Twenties”, where a statuette sculpted in coral was the central decoration. After World War II, coral continued to be used extensively, often in the manufacture of many different types of brooches. It formed the face of a beefeater (Fig. 9), ducks’ feet (Fig. 20 and Fig. 11), or the shell of a turtle. In these cases, orange coral became the norm, the beautiful red coral becoming almost impossible to find.
Introduction and Interview by Olivier Bachet | The original interview in French can be found below.
If the great names of French Jewelry — Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef, Chaumet, etc. — are known by all, but very few know that behind these famous names are others without whom the creation and manufacture would be very poor. These names, unknown even amongst professionals, dealers, and retailers, are those of the workshops that, since the XIXth century, have elevated the international reputation of Parisian jewelry. From this large cohort, a few names emerge. However, it is not clear why they are identified when others, of equal importance and value, are not. This is the case of the workshop Péry et Fils. It is one of those whose hallmark is known and immediately recognizable. His long and fruitful collaboration with the House of Van Cleef & Arpels is obviously not unrelated to this.
Like other antique jewelry dealers, I knew the Péry et Fils hallmark without knowing that the hazards of life would put me on the road to the last director and owner of the workshop, Brigitte Péry-Eveno, heiress of almost a century and a half of history. During our first very brief encounter, I took the opportunity to ask her if she would agree to tell me the great, but also small, story of Péry et Fils. She kindly accepted and we met again a few days later in my Parisian offices for an informal interview that could have lasted for hours as the personage and the story are so fascinating. Here are a few extracts:
My name is Brigitte Péry-Eveno, and I represent the 4th generation of directors of the Péry et Fils workshop, which bears its name wrongly because, as you can see, I am a woman. I don’t think it was planned for a woman to become the director of the workshop, but in 1975, during a family dinner, my mother suggested to my father, Bernard Péry, that he take me on to the workshop he was running. That is how I got my start: as a secretary. So, it was exactly a century after the creation of the workshop, which dates back to 1875, a date which, incidentally, I have long ignored. I knew it was at the end of the XIXth century but no more. And then, one day, the safe opening system broke down. I never opened this safe, but since the workshop manager was away, I had to manage on my own, and then it clicked! The combination of the safe was “1875”, and suddenly, I remembered the words of my father who told me that the numbers in the combination of the safe corresponded to the year of birth of Péry et Fils. So, it all started that year. Before that, my great-grandfather, Lucien Péry, was a glove-maker. He used to travel all over France to sell his gloves, and he then started making small pieces of jewelry, which were mostly small gold chains that he sold to all the retailers.
But things really started to get serious in the 1920s. At that time, the workshop was located at 7 Boulevard Saint-Denis, Paris 3ème. I remember that when I arrived, on the facade of the building in large advertising were the letters “Fabricant-Joaillier” were written, which is unthinkable today, for security reasons.
The workshop Péry et Fils is especially known for its proximity to Van Cleef & Arpels. When did it all start?
Yes, you are right. Stanislas de Quercize, the boss of Van Cleef, even told me one day that such loyalty between a manufacturer and a retailer was unique in the world. In reality, the true great friendship between Péry and VCA begins between 1930 and 1940 and is strengthened after the Second World War. During the war, my grandfather, Albert, who had been running the workshop since 1923, was taken prisoner, and his son, Bernard, was only 12 years old. As a result, the Péry workshop was forced to close for 5 years, but his wife, Madeleine, and my great grandmother, Sidonie, decided to bury all the gold stock of Péry as well as the orders of customers, including those of Van Cleef, under an apple tree in his garden in the suburbs of Paris. At the Liberation, the stock of gold, stones, and the pieces intended for VCA were returned to him. I think that the Arpels brothers were very touched by the gesture and from this, an extraordinary friendship was born between Claude, Jacques, and Pierre Arpels and my grandfather, and thereafter, my father. They made a promise to put Maison Péry ahead of all other suppliers.
Claude Arpels, returning from New York where he oversaw the branch, faithful to this promise, received my grandfather and father first before all other suppliers. They presented them with drawings so that orders could be placed.
Does that mean that the jewelry was designed by Péry?
Yes, this was the case until 2000. We then had 5 designers.
But then did an iconic piece like the disheveled little lion, for example, come out of the imagination of a designer from Péry?
Absolutely! The creation of this little lion is something incredible and caused us a lot of trouble at the time because Pierre and Jacques Arpels were never happy with what we were proposing to them. So, between the first draft and the final version, there were perhaps 15 drawings made. And I can tell you that we were wondering, but in the end they were right. That is what excellence is all about, because, considering the success of this jewel, we can really say that they did well to make us start over again so many times. The creation of the “boutique VCA” was a nice story. It is the fruit of the collaboration between my grandfather Albert Péry and Pierre Arpels to offer affordable jewelry to customers. VCA was very criticized because everyone thought that it was not on the level of a big jewelry house. Even Jacques Arpels did not believe in it. And yet, they were so successful that they were copied everywhere.
It is also from your home that comes another emblematic jewel of high jewelry, the“zip” necklace.
Yes, it is also a very nice story of collaboration between our two houses.
The story begins in 1938-39, just before the war. The zipper was everywhere. It started in the United States where zippers appeared on the uniforms of GI’s and nurses. They arrived in France, thanks to Mr. Hermès, who brought this technique back and adapted it on suits with the slogan, “closes everything and opens everything”. At the same time, Elsa Schiaparelli created a large dress with trompe-l’oeil zippers. In short, it was really in the air of the time. One day, Louis Grin, a designer at Péry, brought the drawing of the “zip” necklace to my grandfather. At that time, he used to receive customers and suppliers at the Tour d’Argent (a famous restaurant on the Quai de la Tournelle, in Paris) because the owner of the restaurant was one of his best friends. There were the Arpels brothers; my grandfather, of course; and Marcel Rubel, the diamond dealer who completed the gang, so to speak. And one day, at the Tour d’Argent, my grandfather presented them with this drawing of a zip necklace. Today, tradition has it that the Duchess of Windsor conceived the idea. In fact, it is likely that it was the Arpels brothers who told the Duchess of Windsor about it, and she said, “I want one!”. The story is ironic because she did not actually buy or wear one. Due to the war and the cessation of all activity, the first necklace was only made and delivered in 1951. It was immediately very successful so 48 were made in 6 years. It was always the same one in yellow gold with scattered diamonds. There are two clasps to form a bracelet. The pompom has to be made in a very methodical way because it must be neither too heavy nor too light to stay in the right place. And contrary to popular belief, no necklace is made out of platinum, apart from the settings. In white gold, yes, but not in platinum, because this metal is too soft and the closure would wear out too quickly. This “zip” necklace was an incredible success. Thanks to Nicolas Bos, who had the idea to update it for the 100 years of VCA, we made more than fifty between 1996 and 2012. I know only one best seller in high jewelry, all brands combined: it is the “zip” necklace from VCA.
Despite its privileged position with Van Cleef & Arpels, did Péry work with the other big houses on Place Vendôme and Rue de la Paix?
Yes, practically with everyone: Boucheron, Chaumet, Mauboussin, Fred, Bulgari, Tiffany, Harry Winston, Lacloche, Sterlé, Graff and Cartier. But all the big houses had their favorite workshops, and even though we worked for everyone, there was a kind of affiliation as 60-70% of our orders were for VCA. For my part, I also have had very good encounters with Mikimoto, the London Ritz, Fabergé and Christian Dior, with whom I have worked very closely.
But beyond the friendship that united the Péry and Arpels, your workshop was, I imagine, also chosen for the quality of its products.
Yes, of course. It is obvious because the motto of the Péry company was “no concession with quality”. That is why today all the pieces that pass in the auctions are sold more expensive when announced. That is the Péry hallmark, and I’m very proud of it. The retailers are not mistaken. You cannot lie to them about quality. But going back to the pre-war years, friendship really played a big role in the relationship between the workshops and the retailers. For example, my great-grandfather, Lucien, and my grandfather, Albert, were also very close to Renée Puissant (daughter of Alfred Van Cleef, co-founder with Salomon Arpels of the company Van Cleef & Arpels). She also called my grandfather “my little florist” because every week he delivered her flowery jewelry such as “passe partout” necklaces or “Hawaii” brooches. You know that in the world of high jewelry, there were three important women: Suzanne Belperron, Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier and Renée Puissant for VCA.
Here is another anecdote that explains the friendship between Péry and Arpels. My grandfather used to buy his suits at the Belle Jardinière (a very famous Parisian department store at the time, next to the Samaritaine (ndla)). The costume salesman who was called Monsieur Salière (?) also had the Arpels brothers as customers. He was such a good salesman that the Arpels brothers asked him to come and work for them at Place Vendôme, and since he was a friend of my grandfather’s, they put all their trust in him. With “friendship”, here is the other word that was fundamental in our business: “trust”. I never signed an order form, and all the orders I placed were “without delay, without price”.
Were your father and grandfather jewellers-workers or simply administrators?
No, they were like me after them, CEO-sweepers (laughs), that is, they were never “at the peg”.
Yes, that means they never made it themselves. It is called “the peg” because it’s the little piece of wood that the workers work on and that is pegged to the workbench. When the workers change houses, they take this piece of wood with them, shaped to their actions. To do this, they just have to take it off.
How many workers did the workshop have at the height of its activity?
There were more than 50: 15 people in the offices and then the workers. We always did everything in-house except the cutting of the precious stones. We even had lapidaries to cut the hardstones. We also did lost wax casting. We were really very complete, which reassured the customers, because the pieces always stayed with us and didn’t go from one workshop to another, which avoided risks.
Did you also make objects?
Some, yes. We made a very beautiful clock for Mauboussin, with two bears throwing a ball at each other. We also made swords for the academicians of Maréchal Juin and the couturier Pierre Cardin. And then a whole bunch of small office objects like paperweights, but that was not our specialty.
Do you think that jewelry arouses as much passion as it used to?
Yes of course and fortunately. Jewelry always makes you dream.
To dream of those who wear them, what a pleasure and what a chance to be able to do so. And to dream of those who always make them with real passion. In the past, we were lucky enough to be able to admire the stars who wore the jewels on many occasions. It was unthinkable to see them without jewelry and they inspired other women. Today, it is more difficult. There are 200 new billionaires a year that we do not know and of which there are not even pictures. We do not know how they wear them, or where, or on what occasion. It is such a pity and frustrating. But fortunately, the desire to wear jewelry still exists. The purpose of a jewel is to be seen, to be worn with a beautiful dress for example. But today outside the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival, I must say that we see too little of it. And that is a pity.
The quality of the French workers and the high jewelry creations is fantastic. And in this field, Paris is still the stronghold, because still here in France are the best designers and the best workshops.
However, we must be honest, the crises of 1991, and especially 2008, have left their mark. At the time, I felt I was going to say like a change of civilization. All the great jewelers are no longer family businesses — they all belong to large groups with all the advantages and disadvantages. I have the feeling that I lived in a kind of golden age when, for example, I dealt directly with Paolo Bulgari with whom we were very close and for whom we made sumptuous pieces. Or when I had an appointment with Mr. Laurence Graff, Mr. Jacques Arpels or Mr. Alain Boucheron, it was them and me, nobody else. The exchanges were direct, frank, and clear, sometimes difficult, but always constructive. Today, the manufacturer-retailer relationship is totally different. In my day there was much less red tape, and the relationship was much more direct and easy in my opinion. But you must live with the times.
It took me a long time to resolve to sell my workshop, but for personal reasons, especially as my 3 daughters did not want to take over the company. A solution had to be found. And I found the best solution: selling to VCA because our two names, “Péry and Van Cleef & Arpels”, are inseparable.
It is our DNA, our stories are linked forever. Together, we have done wonders. And during all these years, I have always heard, “But Péry is VCA,” with a bit of jealousy from my colleagues, I must admit.
NO, Péry is not VCA, but YES Péry is VCA.
In 2012, I sold the workshop to Van Cleef & Arpels. When I say the workshop, I also mean the archives, the old tools, the 3500 plasters, the 65.000 drawings and all my “precious staff”. This is probably what I am most proud of. Knowing that the people who worked at Péry with me are now at work in the Van Cleef workshop. And among them, there is even my nephew Pierre Péry who represents the 5th generation of the Péry family.
I have also passed on my passion as a “workshop woman” during my lectures at the Ecole des Arts Joailliers for 5 years.
Today, I have only one regret: that of no longer being in the midst of these people with golden fingers among whom I worked with passion for forty years.
Ma rencontre avec Brigitte Péry-Eveno, ancienne directrice de l’atelier Péry & Fils
Par Olivier Bachet
Si les grands noms de la Joaillerie Française, Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef, Chaumet etc. sont connus par tous, bien peu savent que derrière ces grands noms s’en cachent d’autres sans lesquels la création et la fabrication seraient bien pauvres. Ces noms-là, que bien peu connaissent, y compris parmi les professionnels, marchands et revendeurs, ce sont ceux des ateliers de fabrication qui, depuis le XIXe siècle font la renommée internationale de la bijouterie-joaillerie parisienne. De cette grande cohorte, quelques noms émergent toutefois sans que l’on sache bien pourquoi ils sont identifiés quand d’autres, d’importance et de valeur égale, ne le sont pas. C’est le cas de l’atelier Péry et Fils. Il fait partie de ceux dont le poinçon est connu et immédiatement reconnaissable. Sa longue et fructueuse collaboration avec la Maison Van Cleef et Arpels n’est évidemment pas étrangère à cela.
Comme les autres marchands de bijoux anciens, je connaissais donc le poinçon de Péry et Fils sans savoir que les hasards de la vie me mettraient sur la route de la dernière directrice et propriétaire de l’atelier, Brigitte Péry-Eveno, héritière de presque un siècle et demi d’histoire. Lors de notre première rencontre très brève, j’ai profité de l’occasion pour lui demander si elle accepterait de me raconter la grande mais aussi la petite histoire de Péry et Fils. Elle a gentiment accepté et nous nous sommes retrouvés quelques jours plus tard dans mes bureaux parisiens pour un entretien à bâtons rompus qui aurait pu durer des heures tant le personnage et l’histoire sont passionnants. En voici quelques extraits.
Je m’appelle Brigitte Péry-Eveno et représente la 4e génération de directeurs de l’atelier Péry et Fils qui porte bien mal son nom car, comme vous pouvez le constater, je suis une femme. Je crois qu’il n’était pas prévu qu’une femme devienne directrice de l’atelier mais, en 1975, lors d’un dîner familial, ma mère a suggéré à mon père, Bernard Péry, de me prendre à l’atelier qu’il dirigeait. C’est comme cela que j’ai fait mes débuts comme secrétaire. C’était donc très exactement un siècle après la création de l’atelier qui date de 1875, date que, entre parenthèses, j’ai d’ailleurs longtemps ignorée. Je savais que c’était à la fin du XIXe siècle mais pas plus et puis, un jour, le système d’ouverture du coffre-fort est tombé en panne. Ce coffre, je ne l’ouvrais jamais mais comme le chef d’atelier était absent il a bien fallu que je me débrouille seule et là, ça a fait « tilt » ! La combinaison du coffre était « 1875 » et me sont soudainement revenues en mémoire les paroles de mon père m’ayant dit que les chiffres de la combinaison du coffre correspondaient à l’année de naissance de Péry et Fils. Tout a donc commencé cette année-là. Auparavant mon arrière-grand-père, Lucien Péry, était gantier. Il voyageait dans la France entière pour vendre ses gants mais les femmes se sont mises à moins porter de gants au début des années 1900 ; il a donc eu l’idée de commencer à fabriquer des petits bijoux, qui étaient pour la plupart des petites chaines en or très travaillées qu’il vendait à tous les détaillants.
Mais les choses sérieuses commencent véritablement dans les années 1920 où l’atelier s’agrandit beaucoup. A cette époque l’atelier est installé au 7 Boulevard Saint-Denis, Paris 3ème. Je me souviens que quand je suis arrivée, il y avait écrit sur la façade de l’immeuble en grosses lettres publicitaires « Fabricant-Joaillier », ce qui est impensable aujourd’hui, pour des raisons de sécurité.
L’atelier Péry et fils est surtout connu pour sa proximité avec Van Cleef & Arpels. Quand tout cela a-t-il commencé ?
Oui vous avez raison, Stanislas de Quercize, patron de Van Cleef, m’a même dit un jour qu’une fidélité pareille entre un fabriquant et un détaillant était unique au monde. En réalité la vraie grande amitié entre Péry et VCA, commence entre I930 et 1940 et se renforce au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Durant la guerre mon grand-père Albert qui dirigeait l’atelier depuis 1923, est fait prisonnier, dès le début de la guerre, son fils Bernard n’ayant que 12 ans l’atelier Péry a été obligé de fermer pendant 5 ans, son épouse Madeleine et mon arrière grand-mère Sidonie, décide alors d’enterrer tout le stock d’or de Péry mais aussi les commandes des clients dont celles de Van Cleef, sous un pommier dans son jardin de la banlieue parisienne. A la Libération, tout le stock d’or et de pierres et les pièces destinées à VCA, lui sont rendus. Je pense que les frères Arpels ont été très touchés par le geste et de là est née une amitié extraordinaire entre Claude, Jacques et Pierre Arpels et mon grand-père puis mon père. Ils ont fait la promesse de faire passer la Maison Péry en premier devant tous les autres fournisseurs.
Claude Arpels revenant de New York où il était en charge de la succursale, fidèle à cette promesse, recevait mon grand-père et mon père en premier avant tous les autres fournisseurs. Ils leur présentaient des dessins pour que des commandes soient passées.
Cela veut-il dire que les bijoux étaient dessinés par Péry ?
Oui, cela a été le cas jusqu‘en 2000. Nous avions alors 5 dessinateurs.
Mais alors une pièce emblématique comme le petit lion ébouriffé, par exemple, est sorti de l’imagination d’un dessinateur de chez Péry ?
Absolument ! La création de ce petit lion est quelque chose d’incroyable et nous a causé bien des soucis à l’époque car Pierre Arpels était très très exigeant. Donc, entre la première mouture et la version finale il y a eu peut-être 15 dessins de réalisés. Et je peux vous dire que nous pestions mais finalement c’est lui qui avait raison. C’est ça « l’excellence » car, compte tenu du succès rencontré par ce bijou, on peut vraiment dire qu’ils ont bien fait de nous faire recommencer tant de fois.
La Création de la « boutique VCA » a été une jolie histoire. Elle est le fruit de la collaboration entre mon grand Père Albert Péry et Pierre Arpels dans le but d’offrir à la clientèle des bijoux abordables. VCA a été très critiqué car tout le monde estimait que ce n’était pas du niveau d’une grande maison de joaillerie. Même Jacques Arpels n’y croyait pas. Et pourtant, ils ont rencontré un tel succès qu’ils ont ensuite été partout copiés.
C’est aussi de chez vous que vient un autre bijou emblématique de la haute joaillerie, le collier « zip ».
Oui, c’est également une très jolie histoire de collaboration entre nos deux maisons.
L’histoire commence en 1938-39, juste avant la guerre, la fermeture éclair était dans l’air du temps. Cela a commencé aux États-Unis où sur les uniformes des GI’s et des infirmières sont apparues des fermetures éclair. En France, elles arrivent grâce à Monsieur Hermès qui rapporte cette technique et qui l’adapte sur des costumes avec un slogan « Le ferme tout et l’ouvre tout ». Au même moment, Elsa Schiaparelli crée une grande robe avec des trompe-l’œil en fermeture éclair. Bref, c’était vraiment dans l’air du temps. Un jour, Louis Guérin qui était dessinateur chez Péry a apporté le dessin du collier »zip» à mon grand-père. A cette époque, celui-ci avait l’habitude de recevoir clients et fournisseurs à la Tour d’Argent (fameux restaurant du quai de la Tournelle, à Paris, ndla) car le propriétaire du restaurant était un de ses meilleurs amis. Donc tous ces messieurs se voyaient là et discutaient, Il y a avait les frères Arpels, mon grand- père bien sûr, Marcel Rubel, le diamantaire qui complétait la bande, si l’on peut dire. Et un jour, à la Tour d’Argent, mon grand-père leur a présenté ce dessin de collier « zip ». Aujourd’hui la tradition veut que ce soit la duchesse de Windsor qui ait apporté l’idée. En fait il est probable que ce sont les frères Arpels qui en ont parlé à la duchesse de Windsor qui leur a dit « j’en veux un ! ». L’histoire est drôle car en fait elle n’en a ni acheté ni porté. Mais à cause de la guerre et de l’arrêt de toute l’activité, le premier collier n’a été fabriqué et livré qu’en 1951. Il a rencontré immédiatement beaucoup de succès si bien qu’on en a fabriqué 48 en 6 ans. Presque toujours le même. En or jaune avec des diamants et des petites pierres de couleurs de ci de là. Il y a deux fermoirs afin de pouvoir former un bracelet. Le pompon doit être fabriqué de façon très méthodique car il ne doit être ni trop lourd ni trop léger pour rester à la bonne place. Et contrairement à ce que l’on croit, aucun collier n’est fabriqué en platine, en dehors des sertissures. En or gris oui mais pas en platine car ce métal est trop mou et la fermeture s’userait trop vite. Ce collier « zip » a vraiment été un succès absolument incroyable. Grâce à Nicolas Bos qui a eu l’idée de le remettre au goût du jour pour les 100 ans de la maison VCA, on en a fabriqué plus d’une cinquantaine entre 1996 et 2012. Je ne connais qu’un seul best seller en haute joaillerie, toutes marques confondues : c’est le collier « zip » de VCA.
Malgré sa position privilégiée auprès de Van Cleef & Arpels, Péry travaillait-il avec les autres grandes maisons de la place Vendôme et de la rue de la Paix ?
Oui, pratiquement avec tout le monde : Boucheron, Chaumet, Mauboussin, Fred, Bulgari, Tiffany, Harry Winston, Lacloche, Sterlé, Graff ou Cartier. Et j’en oublie. Mais toutes les grandes maisons avaient leurs ateliers préférés et même si on travaillait pour tout le monde, il y avait une sorte d’affiliation et 60 à 70% de nos commandes étaient destinées à VCA. Pour ma part, j’ai également eu de très belles rencontres avec les maisons Mikimoto, Ritz de Londres ou Fabergé ou Christian Dior, avec lesquelles j’ai eu une collaboration très étroite.
Mais au-delà de l’amitié qui unissait les Péry aux Arpels, votre atelier était, j’imagine, choisi également pour la qualité de ses fabrications.
Oui, bien sûr c’est évident car la devise de la société Péry c’était « aucune concession avec la qualité ». c’est pour cela qu’aujourd’hui toutes les pièces qui passent dans les ventes aux enchères sont vendues plus chères quand on annonce que c’est le poinçon Péry et j’en suis très fière. Les détaillants en s’y trompent pas. On ne peut pas leur raconter d’histoire sur la qualité.
Mais pour en revenir aux années d’avant -guerre, l’amitié jouait vraiment un grand rôle dans la relation entre les ateliers et les détaillants. Par exemple mon arrière-grand-père Lucien et mon grand-père Albert étaient aussi très proches de Renée Puissant (fille d’Alfred Van Cleef, cofondateur avec Salomon Arpels de la société Van Cleef & Arpels, ndla). Elle appelait d’ailleurs mon grand-père « mon petit fleuriste » parce que chaque semaine, il lui livrait des bijoux fleuris comme des colliers « passe partout » ou des broches « Hawaï ».Vous savez dans le monde de la haute joaillerie il y a avait trois femmes importantes : Suzanne Belperron, Jeanne Toussaint pour Cartier et Renée Puissant pour VCA.
Voici une autre anecdote qui explique l’amitié entre les Péry et les Arpels. Mon grand-père achetait ses costumes à la Belle Jardinière (grand magasin parisien très connu alors, voisin de la Samaritaine, ndla). Le vendeur de costumes qui s’appelait Monsieur Salière avait également comme clients les frères Arpels. Il était si bon vendeur que les frères Arpels lui ont demandé de venir travailler pour eux place Vendôme et comme c’était un ami de mon grand-père il lui ont accordé toute leur confiance. Avec « amitié », voilà l’autre mot qui était fondamental dans le métier : « confiance ». La confiance, la parole donnée…Je n’ai jamais signé un bon de commande et toutes les commandes passées l’étaient oralement « sans délais » et « sans prix ». Cela parait incroyable aujourd’hui. Et à cette époque, nous les fabricants, nous fournissions toutes les pierres, sauf les pierres du centre.
Votre père et grand- père étaient-ils ouvriers-joailliers ou simplement administrateurs ?
Non, ils étaient comme moi après eux, PDG-balayeurs (rires), c’est-à-dire qu’ils n’ont jamais été « à la cheville ».
La cheville ?
Oui, ça veut dire qu’ils n’ont jamais fabriqué eux-mêmes. On dit « la cheville » car c’est le petit morceau de bois attaché à l’établisur lesquels les ouvriers travaillent et qui est chevillé à l’établi. Lorsque les ouvriers changent de maisons, ils emportent ce morceau de bois façonné à leurs gestes. Pour cela, on a juste à le décheviller.
Combien d’ouvriers comptait l’atelier au plus fort de son activité ?
On a été plus de 50, 15 personnes dans les bureaux, et puis les ouvriers. On a toujours tout fait en interne sauf la taille des pierres précieuses. On avait même des lapidaires pour tailler les pierres dures. On faisait aussi la fonte à cire perdue. On était vraiment très complet ce qui rassurait les clients, car les pièces restaient toujours chez nous et ne passaient pas d’un atelier à un autre, ce qui évitait les risques. C’était assez rare d’avoir tous les corps de métiers ensemble dans un même lieu.
Fabriquiez-vous aussi des objets ?
Quelques-uns, oui, nous avons fabriqué une très belle pendule pour Mauboussin, avec deux ours qui s’envoient une balle. Nous avons fait également les épées d’académiciens du Maréchal Juin et du couturier Pierre Cardin. Et puis tout un tas de petits objets de bureau comme des presse-papiers, mais ce n’était pas notre spécialité.
Pensez-vous que la joaillerie suscite autant de passion qu’autrefois ?
Oui bien sûr et heureusement. La joaillerie fait toujours rêver. Rêver ceux qui les portent, quel plaisir et quelle chance de pouvoir le faire. et rêver ceux qui les fabriquent toujours avec une réelle passion. Autrefois, on avait la chance de pouvoir admirer les stars qui portaient les bijoux dans de multiples occasions. Il était impensable de les voir sans bijoux et elles inspiraient les autres femmes. Aujourd’hui c’est plus difficile, il y a 200 nouveaux milliardaires par an que l’on ne connait pas et dont il n’existe même pas de photos. On ne sait pas comment ils les portent, ni ou, ni dans quelle occasion. C’est tellement dommage et frustran . Mais heureusement que le désir de porter des bijoux existe encore. La finalité d’un bijou c’est d’être vu, d’être porté avec un belle robe par exemple. Mais aujourd’hui en dehors du tapis rouge du festival de Cannes, je dois dire qu’on en voit trop peu. Et c’est dommage.
La qualité des ouvriers français et des créations de haute joaillerie est fantastique. Et dans ce domaine Paris reste toujours la place forte, car il y a encore ici en France , les meilleurs créateurs et les meilleurs ateliers de fabrication.
Cependant il faut être honnête, les crises de 1991 et surtout 2008 ont laissé des traces. A l’époque, j’ai senti, j’allais dire comme un changement de civilisation. Tous les grands joailliers ne sont plus des affaires de famille, ils appartiennent tous à des grands groupes avec tout ce que cela comporte d’avantages et d’inconvénients. J’ai le sentiment d’avoir vécu une sorte d’âge d’or quand, par exemple, je traitais directement avec Paolo Bulgari avec qui nous étions très proches et pour lequel nous avons fait des pièces somptueuses. Ou quand j’avais rendez vous avec Monsieur Laurence Graff, Monsieur Jacques Arpels ou Monsieur Alain Boucheron, c’était eux et moi, personne d’autres. Les échanges étaient directs, francs et clairs, parfois difficiles, mais toujours constructifs. Aujourd’hui les relations fabricants/détaillants sont totalement différentes. A mon époque il y avait beaucoup moins de lourdeurs administratives et les relations étaient beaucoup plus directes et faciles à mon avis. Mais il faut vivre avec son temps.
j’ai mis du temps à me résoudre à vendre mon atelier, mais pour des raisons personnelles, surtout mes 3 filles ne voulant pas prendre la suite de la société. Il a fallu trouver une solution. Et j’ai trouvé la meilleure solution, vendre à VCA car nos deux noms « Péry et « Van Cleef & Arpels » sont inséparables
c’est notre ADN, nos histoires sont liées pour toujours. Ensemble nous avons fait des merveilles. Et pendant toutes ces années, j’ai toujours entendu dire mais Péry c’est VCA avec un peu de jalousie de la part de mes confrères, je dois l’avouer.
NON, Péry ce n’est pas VCA, mais OUI Péry c’est VCA.
En 2012, J’ai donc vendu l’atelier à Van Cleef & Arpels. Quand je dis l’atelier, ce sont aussi les archives, les vieux outils, les 3500 plâtres, les 65.000 dessins et tout mon «précieux personnel». C’est sans doute ce dont je suis la plus fière. Savoir que les gens qui ont travaillé chez Péry avec moi sont maintenant à l’œuvre dans l’atelier de chez Van Cleef. Et parmi eux, il y a même mon neveu Pierre Péry qui représente la 5ème génération des Péry.
J’ai également transmis ma passion de « femme d’atelier » lors de mes conférences à l’Ecole des Arts Joailliers pendant 5 ans.
Aujourd’hui, je n’ai qu’un seul regret : celui de ne plus être au milieu des ces personnes aux doigts d’or parmi lesquels j’ai travaillé avec passion pendant une quarantaine d’années.
After browsing through Elle and Vogue‘s reporting, this AW 2020’s jewelry style is all about bold gold jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets and cuffs especially stand out. Even brooches have made their comeback. Occasionally, baroque style jewelry pops up as well.
The looks and trends spotted on the runways and down the streets during these fashion weeks can be traced back to the flamboyant style found in retro jewelry and the eclectic 1980s jewelry period.
The scrolls, knots and buckle motifs of the 1940’s are what we find in the bold style of today’s fashion as well as the typical “two tone”: the combination of rose gold and yellow gold from that period reappears today. Sophisticated gold wires, plain or twisted fringes and tubular gold linking necklaces and bracelets jewelry of the late-1940’s/early-1950’s are emerging once again. The 1980’s large curb link gold necklaces and bracelets finished with pearls and diamonds are back as well as spray or gold brooches.
Show it off OVER your clothes
The clothing style of this season has a formal and masculine look, from moccasins to oversized blazers.
The gold jewelry plays in to upgrade the outfit and gives a chic finishing touch. To bring it to the spot, bracelets are worn over the blazer or pull over. Same for necklaces, which are often worn over the shirt.
This winter is about capturing attention — maybe if you wear another necklace every other day no one will notice that you have been wearing the same clothes!
Have a look and get inspired!
Below are some examples of estate jewelry in fashion:
Here are some looks spotted by different fashion magazines: