The oldest jeweller on the Place Vendôme in Paris is also the most forward-thinking. We talk to Boucheron’s Claire Choisne about her latest high-jewellery collection and how she’s making history by turning jewels holographic.
Frédéric Boucheron, who founded his maison in 1858, set up shop on Place Vendôme in Paris 35 years later, the first jeweller to do so. Old the name may be, but its collections are anything but traditional. Under the hand of creative director Claire Choisne, Boucheron has consistently revealed jewellery collections that stun with their avant-garde aesthetics, unusual sources of inspiration and mind-boggling techniques. Some of her best works could be seen in Boucheron’s Carte Blanche high jewellery collections, such as the Fleurs Éternelles rings in 2018, which immortalise real flower petals in gorgeous rings that will never lose their vibrance, shape or colour, and last year’s Contemplation collection, inspired by the sky, for which the house used NASA technology to capture stardust into rock-crystal shells, then set them with diamonds in a completely otherworldly necklace. Needless to say, I’ve admired Choisne’s creations for a long time.
This year, Choisne yet again exercises her creativity and technical prowess, this time with the Holographique collection. She’s long studied the relationship between light and colour, and the collection is her thesis. “I wanted to bring a new meaning to light,” she says. “To capture its very essence, which is colour. Every piece is like a prism, catching the complexity of light by representing every single colour held within it.”
Choisne studies Boucheron’s archives often, and colour has always been an important pillar to the house. “But I didn’t want to do something that I already see a lot of,” she says. “Normally, a colour collection was about one stone and how that stone gives you one colour. And then you play with different stones to form a palette. But I didn’t want to do that at Boucheron. For me, you see, I wanted to propose something new. And to work on distinguishing between light and colour and playing with holographic effects. That’s what I think colour means for Boucheron.”
Frédéric Boucheron would have approved of this collection, I tell Choisne, but she laughs and says she can’t know for sure. But her admiration for the founder is evident. “When I first arrived at the maison and discovered the collection of Frédéric Boucheron himself, I understood immediately that he was a visionary. He was quite free to create and invent new techniques. He was bold enough to cut rubies in the style of diamonds, which at that time was not a common thing to do,” she says.
Frédéric Boucheron also created the first question-mark necklace, which is now an emblematic design for the house. “It was a surprise for me to learn that it was Boucheron himself who invented this technique,” says Choisne. “I’m a jeweller too and I make jewellery, but when I looked at those question-mark necklaces, I said, ‘Wow.’ It looked really simple and pure in design, but it was so technically creative.”
Embodying the spirit of her predecessors, Choisne also chooses to be completely bold and innovative in her approach to jewellery. She says all her collections start out as dreams and of free brainstorming without limits. Then, she looks externally to express her vision. “I’ll ask people from different sectors other than jewellery what tools existed that could help me achieve those dreams,” she says. “I try to be as open-minded as possible and I’m not afraid to ask for help or advice from others to find a technique or a way to work with non-traditional jewellery materials.”
Choisne was inspired by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Luis Berragan for the Holographique collection. She visited an exhibition in London when she began working on the collection in 2019 and found many parallels in Eliasson’s works, which she delighted in. As for Berragan, she had the chance to visit a house he designed in Mexico where she met someone who’d worked with the late architect and explained to her his creative processes, and the way he handled the link between light and colour.
Wanting to create the effects of a prism on jewels, Choisne sought to find a way to make holographic jewellery, something that’s never existed in the world of jewellery. When she shared her ideas with her team, they responded with a mix of fright and joy. Says Choisne: “They know they have a big challenge, but at the same time it’s quite fun to do something new. It’s a mixed feeling of stress and excitement, but we’re very much together in on it.”
To make it happen, Boucheron’s team discovered Saint-Gobain, a French company that made mirrors in the past but now produces high-performance materials for a variety of applications. Saint-Gobain had the capability to create a holographic effect but had never tried it on jewels.
It was a challenge, but the team succeeded – from discovering three rare opals, a 10.38-carat pear-cut and rose-coloured opal and a 30.98-carat blue-green cabochon opal from Australia and a 50.95-carat pearly white opal from Ethiopia, which became the central stones of the Illusion rings, to slicing rock crystal to a thickness of less than 2mm and applying a holographic effect to them.
“It’s poetic and futuristic at the same time,” says Choisne says of the Holographique necklace, deeming it a personal highlight in the collection. “I love the fact that craftsmen successfully hid the moving parts of the necklace, even though all of the necklace was transparent with the rock-crystal blades, making it really flexible.”
Continuing with the epic of Fleurs Éternelles, the Chromatique sees each petal of peony and pansy moulded in white ceramic, which Boucheron’s craftsmen had to shape by hand. The material is then adorned with holographic coating and turned into a pair of rings and a brooch, taking the treasured floral theme to new realms.
It’s not only Choisne’s methods and imagination that are forward-thinking at Boucheron, but its new campaigns break with tradition by capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary culture. High jewellery is not confined to the necks and arms of women; men can wear jewellery too – and wear it well. “In the last Contemplation collection, we started putting jewellery on men,” says Choisne when we touch on the topic.
“For me, I didn’t care whether it was men or women. What’s important for me is the aesthetic effect. I really thought some pieces worked differently when they were worn by a man or a woman. In this collection, for example, when you saw the brooches on men, it became so much more interesting. So for each piece, I’d ask myself, ‘What’s the best aesthetic result?’ That’s how we decided to put several pieces on men.”
This story first appeared in Prestige Online – Hong Kong