Whilst paying tribute to the heritageof the 160-year-old jewellery maison, Boucheron’s new ‘Nature Triomphante’ high jewellery creations move far beyond the traditional methods typically used to marry gemstones with precious metals. Director of creations, Claire Choisne warmly welcomes Bazaar to the early preview of this latest collection, which deploys cutting edge techniques that are pushing the very limits of high jewellery production.
Having joined Boucheron in 2011, Claire oversees all of the maison’s jewellery and watch collections, and is the driving force behind these bejewelled innovations. As free-spirited as many of her creations, she moves enthusiastically around a private apartment in central Paris, where white-coated members of her team sit at six different workshops providing glimpses into the meticulous design process behind the pieces.
Dress, Dhs3,180, Mugler. Pompon Art Déco earrings, Boucheron high jewellery
Hat, Dhs1,145, Benoit Missolin. Dress; jacket, Dhs16,990, both Balmain. Pierre Graphique stud earrings from Nature Triomphante High Jewelry collection set with two round emeralds and onyx, paved with diamonds, on white gold; Rivière Art Déco necklace with chrome tourmalines, malachite and onyx, paved with diamonds on white gold; Rosée ring with a 7,23ct round diamond and rock crystal, paved with diamonds on white gold, all Boucheron high jewellery
Divided into three chapters – Naturaliste, Surréaliste and Alchimiste – Boucheron has taken its beloved Nature Triomphante theme and reinterpreted the collection using new designs and techniques. Claire deftly handles pieces from the first Naturaliste chapter whilst showing Bazaar their unique features, slipping on an elaborate Lierre de Paris diamond ear climber and drawing attention to the impossible lightness of the quivering Lierre Givré necklace.
This latter piece is a key example of the collection’s aim to fully emulate nature’s details using original methods, and captures ivy’s true-to-life appearance by replacing the customary sketching phase with a digital replication of a genuine ivy wreath. Imagined as a branch caught in snow, the diamond-drenched leaves with their cacholong opal tips have been mounted in blue-tinted light titanium instead of heavier gold, with intricate details extending through to the micro-paved diamond veins at the leaf backs.
In spite of such modern techniques and materials, the heritage of one of the world’s oldest maisons – Frédéric Boucheron was the first jeweller to open his boutique at Paris’ famed Place Vendôme in 1893 – is still apparent throughout the collection. Iconic designs from Boucheron’s archives make regular appearances: the second Surrealiste chapter, for example, reinvigorates a 1930s Rivière Art Deco necklace with tanzanites, lapis lazuli or chrome tourmalines, whereas an African-inspired bracelet displayed by Boucheron at the 1931 Universal Exhibition in Paris is the inspiration behind the Graphique set of jewels.
The maison’s celebrated Point d’Interrogation, or Question Mark, motif also appears in pieces such as the Fougẻre necklace, which features five leaves with their detailed edges and veins spelled out in diamonds. Introduced in 1879, Frédéric Boucheron’s asymmetrical claspless Question Mark necklace similarly curled around the neck and was a genius invention in its day, with Claire quick to attribute the latest fusion of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship to the house’s eponymous founder.
“Frédéric Boucheron was a visionary guy,” Claire says, “so I think it is important to stick with this ethos and keep pushing the boundaries while remaining true to the spirit of Boucheron. The Naturaliste chapter, for example, was inspired by one of my trips to the archives and some of Frédéric Boucheron’s pieces that he designed around nature. I really tried to understand what his goal was, which became obvious when I looked at them: it was to do something real.”
Blazer, Dhs6,990 Alexandre Vauthier. Lierre de Paris earrings paved with diamonds, on white gold, Boucheron high jewellery
It is a mission that Claire has pursued with gusto. Urging us to look closer at the Nuage de Fleurs neckpiece, for example, reveals every intricate detail of the original hydrangea petals that have been scanned onto their mother-of-pearl counterparts, all of which are mounted in pink gold and cascade over the wearer’s shoulders to an exceptional 42.96-carat centre pink tourmaline.
It is only when we arrive at the final workshop to view the third Alchimiste chapter, however, that the literal lengths the team have gone to in order to reach such real results are revealed: a line of nine Fleurs Eternelles rings that have preserved the actual petals of flowers including anemones, hydrangeas and peonies, using a closely-guarded treatment process developed over several years.
While the initial idea for these jewels seemed relatively simple at first (“We said, ‘let’s just choose a flower and make a ring with it’,” Claire recalls), it became apparent that the technique would require further specialist skills. To this end, the team sourced an artist-petalist to help. “I couldn’t just find one on the internet,” Claire quips, “but fortunately one of my team members had a friend…”
Dress, Dhs3,180, Mugler. Rosée necklace with a 10,08 ct cushion diamond, paved with diamonds, on white gold, Boucheron high jewellery
Dress, Dhs12,200, Versace. Lierre Givré necklace with cacholong, paved with diamonds, on titanium, Boucheron high jewellery
The result is these immortalised petals that enclose a single gemstone, be it a coloured sapphire, garnet, tourmaline, imperial topaz or a jonquil diamond, to the centre of each ring. While other pieces in the collection still emphasise exceptional stones (a 10.08-carat diamond is the proud centrepiece of the long Rosée necklace of the Naturaliste chapter, for example), the Fleurs Eternelles rings notably step away from viewing gemstones as the focal point of the jewel and instead prioritise its artistry and design.
“They’re a prerequisite for our maison and we will use precious and amazing stones each time,” Claire responds when quizzed about the role of gems. “But I think it is important to go further. For the Fleurs Eternelles rings my goal was to give eternity to ephemeral flowers, so the focus was on getting the volume and colour of the petals. We are still jewellers ultimately, so of course we used precious stones, but we chose these particular ones because of their capacity to match the colours of the petals. In fact, in this chapter, it was much more difficult to achieve the fine colours of the petal than it was to find the stone.”
Alongside these innovations, traditional methods are still retained and adapted throughout the pieces. The Lierre Givré necklace, Claire says, is one such mix of old and new techniques that has combined its 3D digital design with the 18th century French ‘tremblant’ system, whereby different parts of the piece are mounted on wire-coiled springs to create movement and volume. “The digital scan no doubt also encapsulated the real volume of the ivy wreath,” she explains. “But if you do not inject some old techniques such as this the piece would be static.”
This marriage of old and new hints at the ongoing design possibilities that Claire and her team are constantly exploring. Despite the annual high jewellery launches, she reveals that they are often working on up to three collections at a time to ensure the research and development and production teams have sufficient time. While the innovations introduced in the 2018 Nature Triomphante collection are bound to make further appearances in future creations (the preserved petals of the Fleurs Eternelles pieces, for example, only exist as rings for the moment), it is the idea of the final jewel itself that always comes first in design. “It is only then that we try and make them succeed with a new innovation,” Claire says.
These ideas emerge from a range of sources. In spite of extremely limited time, Claire tries to organise at least one trip per year for “quiet inspiration”; her 2015 trip to Russia, for example, was behind last year’s Hiver Impérial high jewellery collection, whereas the natural themes seen in this year’s Nature Triomphante creations lie closer to home in the extensive Boucheron archives housed at the Place Vendôme headquarters.
Much of Claire’s creative success is down to a laser focus. “I don’t look behind or to others,” she shares. “I prefer to stick to my ideas and the goal they give me and find a way to succeed. It’s not a competition to me, and I don’t like innovation for innovation’s sake. I simply have an idea and then think, ‘what can we do to make it succeed?’ Of course, innovation will then come with that.”
Her nine-strong all-female creative department, along with her research and production colleagues, is a clear source of support to Claire, with an easygoing yet deferential rapport apparent even during this short visit. CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne further offsets the prevalent female presence at Boucheron, yet Claire doesn’t believe this has a creative impact on the collections. “I’m quite a simple lady,” she states, “And when I want to work with someone I just choose the best person regardless of gender.”
Such a decisive nature lends itself well to her overall aim of creating pieces that will stand the test of time to become the jewellery classics of tomorrow. She draws parallels to the Nature Triomphante collection from Frédéric Boucheron’s own original designs, many of which have evolved to become the signature style of the maison today. Using the Question Mark necklace as an example, Claire notes, “When he created the jewel it was a totally unique and visionary piece. Yet today these necklaces are utterly timeless. Only time will tell for my own creations, but we are making them with a clear vision and I hope in time they will also become timeless. For now, however, I want to be new, innovative and strong at the same time.”
Dress, Dhs9,310, Givenchy. Lierre de Paris earrings paved with diamonds, on white gold; Fougère ring paved with diamond, on white gold, both Boucheron high jewellery
For such bold pieces, the Middle East is the foremost market that springs to Claire’s mind. “I adore the way women in this part of the world love to wear jewels. It’s not the same anywhere else; I really feel the love of jewellery there. I think Arab women are confident enough to wear amazing pieces like the Nuage de Fleurs necklace or a Fleurs Eternelles flower ring, no problem. For designers and creatives this is super, because we can express our artistic freedom knowing that the Middle East woman will understand and embrace these types of pieces. There are no limits for us there.”
The region therefore clearly resonates with her perception of the typical Boucheron woman. “I don’t want to stereotype,” she muses, “But when I think about her, I see someone free, audacious and feminine. And this is what helps me create.”
Such characteristics evidently lie behind these new Nature Triomphante creations, with their scientific edge helping to create jewels that often appear as real as nature itself. Such unique design is one of the reasons why Claire believes women step into Boucheron in the first place. “The flower rings are the perfect example of this,” she states. “Our woman knows that she cannot find this type of jewel anywhere else, so the only way to have it is to come to Boucheron.”
This uniqueness is one result of the groundbreaking innovations used to bring the Maison’s historical reputation for exceptional jewellery firmly into the 21st century. Whilst remaining true to many elements of Boucheron’s 160 year-old legacy, 2018’s Nature Triomphante collection nevertheless succeeds in entering a new world of creative finesse that demonstrates both timeless and global appeal.
Via Harper's Bazaar July/August 2018 Issue
Photography: Tamara Arne
Styling: Saraj Cazeneuv
Hair & Make Up: Alena Moiseeva at MMG Artists
Model: Lusia at Metropolitan Models
Location: La Réserve Apartments, Paris