Chaumet in London: a new chapter in the alliance

A jewel pop, Chaumet’s biography unfolds in France. It was in Paris that Marie-Étienne Nitot first founded his gold and silversmith business in 1780, and it was also here, in the French capital, that the company, then headed by his son François-Régnault Nitot, moved to a building on Place Vendôme in 1812.

Today, Chaumet is the oldest jeweler operating on Place Vendôme; it first operated from the Hôtel de Gramont mansion at number 15, before moving across the square to 12 Place Vendôme in 1907. Here, at the Hôtel Baudard de Saint-James, Joseph Chaumet brought together the work of about 175 employees under one roof. jewelry, stone carving and watchmaking workshops next to a photo studio. In the city center of Paris, Chaumet’s team completed small treasures of great beauty, taking the company’s name far beyond the city limits.

And in addition to the geographical coordinates of the heritage brand, there is also the customer list that Chaumet has seen in different chapters of French history. Chief among these is the house’s appointment in 1805 as official jeweler to Empress Joséphine (Joséphine de Beauharnais), the first wife of Emperor Napoleon I.

But, as ongoing research into his historical records reveals, Chaumet has long charmed many on the other side of the canal as well.

Chaumet's 1931 Bessborough tiara

Hidden stories

Right now, the brand is busy digitizing and indexing its vast assets; it is a process that gradually reveals vignettes of its heritage. “The more we go into it, the more we will gradually discover new stories,” said Chaumet CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt about the company. He then admires a hand-drawn sketch of a brooch, the naturalistic design of which is centered on a wreath. The drawing dates from May 1851 – later that same year Chaumet exhibited work at the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park – and its creator was Queen Victoria. “It’s unbelievable”, says Mansvelt enthusiastically. “I think there are some hidden stories.”

Also on the ledgers: Orders placed by members of the Churchill family, Winifred Anna Cavendish-Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, and Indian-born British actress Merle Oberon. The year of her marriage to the Duke of Windsor, Wallis Simpson fell for a Chaumet timepiece spotted in Cannes in 1937. Alice Grosvenor, Lady Wimborne and Roberte Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough once wore Chaumet tiaras. Lady Wimborne, set with diamonds and rubies, wore her 1925 bandeau-style jewel in a portrait taken by Cecil Beaton; At the heart of the 1931 Art Deco Bessborough tiara is a striking 12-carat marquise-cut diamond.

A noted philanthropist and activist, Meherbai, wife of Indian businessman Sir Dorabji Tata, kept Chaumet workshops busy with a number of orders, including a 1920s brooch that worked with Indian diamonds and opals. Four years later, Chaumet completed a diamond and ruby ​​pendant necklace, detailed with a duo of pearl tassels.

But Lady Tata was caught off guard by Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster. Among his numerous orders recorded in the Chaumet books: a powder box with diamonds on it (1923); a 1920s emerald and diamond brooch; a selection of pendants.

1922 Chaumet Diamonds for the 9th Duke of Marlborough

‘Beauty is about essence’

Tiaras are also listed as one of the Duke’s orders, the most famous of which being a 1907 creation in the form of a pair of wings glistening in blue enamel and diamonds, their bird-inspired design in line with the belle’s naturalistic motifs. époque and a nod to the winged helmets that crowned the Valkyries described in Wagner’s operas of the time.

Another famous tiara made in Paris for customers across the canal is a 1934 design of intertwined floral flowers studded with diamonds, finished for Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma. Mountbatten also owned a Chaumet bracelet (rock crystal, sapphires, and diamonds), a wristwatch with a diamond-set bezel, and a Baroque pearl and diamond Gormette bracelet—her tiara Mountbatten famously wore to George VI’s coronation in 1937.

“It’s always what people see first at Chaumet,” Mansvelt said when I asked about Chaumet’s expertise in making the headpiece. “They know it’s Chaumet’s summary. If you dream of Chaumet, you may be dreaming of a Chaumet tiara.”

Elsewhere, Chaumet jewelery and rare items made for British customers stand out for their modernity of design. It’s something Mansvelt calls ‘essential’ today, a clean line that lets superior materials shine. For Mansvelt, it’s about how “beauty is about essence and not about jam on chocolate on Chantilly [cream]”.

A 1926 diamond, which stands out for its minimalist design, makes Mansvelt’s point clear. The necklace – in the center is a pear-shaped diamond of breathtaking dimensions – was worn by Lady Iya Abdy. Born Iya Grigorievna de Gay around the 20th century in Saint Petersburg, de Gay arrived in Paris after the Russian Revolution and married Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy in 1923. A patron of the fine arts – she supported French painters Balthus and André Derain – Lady Abdy was also a noted beauty, photographed by the Man Ray and George Hoyningen Huene, among others. Also of essential beauty: a necklace of 14 diamonds lined up for the Duke of Marlborough, in 1922.

And today in London, Chaumet has entered a new chapter of its alliance with the UK. Last summer, the brand reopened its boutique on New Bond Street. A short walk from Chaumet’s first London pied-à-terre, an 1848 arrangement opened in New Burlington Street, this completely renovated space is a jewelbox-esque proposition. “It is such an important country for us,” says Mansvelt. “Such an important place, such an important city, such an important street. You can’t pretend to be a great jeweler if you’re not in the UK, if you’re not in London, if you’re not in New Bond Street. It’s part of being a great jeweler.”

Leave a Comment