Boucheron’s new collection Carte Blanche, Ailleurs is a magnificent showcase of surprising materials rarely seen in the world of high jewellery. HÉLÈNE POULIT-DUQUESNE, the maison’s CEO, tells Allyson Klass what went on behind the scenes in an exclusive interview.
Boucheron’s latest high jewelley collection wasn’t conceived under normal circumstances. It was the beginning of 2020, during a total lockdown in France, when the maison’s creative director Claire Choisne and her team found that they couldn’t travel or move around freely to get inspired. This, however, didn’t hinder their artistic journey. In true Boucheron fashion, where creativity and innovation are the driving forces, Choisne revealed the solution in a podcast: “We created for ourselves a different type of journey; an emotional, imaginary journey.”
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, Boucheron’s CEO, is most proud of the teamwork and believes that Carte Blanche, Ailleurs is the maison’s best collection yet: “We’ve completely integrated the storytelling with this collection. I’d discussed with Claire about working with looks, which features a man or woman, because I think it’s a strong concept. And so, we created five different characters, of which one has a male protagonist. In terms of the storytelling, what the jewellery pieces convey, and with the supporting assets created by the communications team, it’s probably the first year that we are so aligned. Everything really came alive!”
Enriching Boucheron’s Carte Blanche high jewellery collection, Ailleurs (French for elsewhere) takes us on a journey without any borders, where everything and anything is possible. There was only one rule in dreaming up this “elsewhere”: to reveal the beauty and poetry of nature. Choisne imagined five worlds, each conveying a different emotion – Sand Woman, Leaf Woman, Earth Woman, Pebble Woman and Volcano Man – in which anyone can find a piece of themselves.
Poulit-Duquesne points out the silver lining in creating the collection during a pandemic: “Although the lockdown was extremely stressful for everyone, it pushed the team even more in terms of creativity because they were in a safe place. There was nothing to do but to be creative. And that’s probably the reason why the collection is so poetic and creative, because we were in a lockdown and we all wanted to escape.”
Both Choisne and Poulit-Duquesne feel a sense of duty to continue contemporary jeweller and founder Frédéric Boucheron’s legacy and obsession with innovation, the DNA of the maison. As the only heritage jeweller at Place Vendôme in Paris to be headed by two women, their dynamic relationship is very much a force to be reckoned with.
“We’re both very empathic and emotional, and we love the challenge. We’re also extremely stubborn and never give up, especially when we want something. Another thing that sets us apart in the market is that when men design jewellery, they see it as a work of art, which it is. But as women, we’re obsessed about how they’ll be worn by our clients. Each time a piece comes out of the workshop, we try it on. If it’s earrings, for example, we don’t want them to be too heavy because that’ll give you a headache. You could say we’re physically linked to our products,” adds Poulit-Duquesne.
The Ailleurs collection is one that sees a mix of plants, stones and animal elements selected for their aesthetic value. These include rattan, pebbles from the beach, wood and meteorite, among others. Choisne has a penchant for creating unexpected contrasts by combining the ordinary with precious materials typically used in high jewellery: “We want to show that we can make high jewellery with materials that might be humble, but are, in actual fact, magnificent.” We discover the five themes and the pieces here.
The grounded Earth Woman invites us to celebrate the power of nature. A palette of ochre, brown and clay is associated with organic shapes, both plant and animal. For instance, each petal of the Bois Diamant (diamond wood) magnetic shoulder brooch was scanned before being recreated in santos rosewood, then set on an openwork gold structure. The large, imaginary flower’s titanium pistils vibrate delicately with every movement, emphasising its realism.
The Papillon Diamant (diamond butterfly) single earring with natural butterfly wings delicately rests on the top of the ear. A pear-shaped brown diamond surrounds the earlobe to add serious sparkle. An illustration of telluric forces, the Cristaux (crystals) earrings seemingly multiply with cubic effects. Merging vintage design with geometric crystallisation, they are interpreted here in rose and white gold, smoky quartz and diamonds.
An oversized Jack Coquillage (shell Jack) brooch perfectly pairs two flecked conus marmoreus shells that mimic Boucheron’s emblematic Jack design. The shells’ subtle beauty is celebrated through a gold and diamond line that highlights their graceful contours, while rock crystal embellishes their ends.
The Leaf Woman lives in a world of vibrant tropical colours, like those of an untouched, lush rainforest. Adorned with a stunning 37.97-carat green tourmaline, the commanding Feuillage Diamant (diamond leaf ) cuff bracelet is distinguished by the appearance of what resembles plant weaving. Made of lightweight aluminium, its intense green hue is derived from a cataphoresis treatment, which is highlighted by thin lines of diamonds.
The Papillon (butterfly) brooch is adorned with Ideopsis vulgaris butterfly wings that are first treated to be long-lasting, then scanned to create a gold structure featuring the wings’ original curves to hold them. One of the collection’s standouts, the Toucan Bracelet displays a unique play of volume and colours. The bird’s powerful beak is sculpted from three distinct citrine blocks that perfectly interlock with one another to create a gradation of colours. Made of onyx and blue titanium, its lifelike eyes are set against a background of white diamonds and black spinels, lending the toucan its unique character. Next, the Fleur de Paradis (flower of paradise) can be worn as a brooch or head piece. It is executed in titanium, which mimics the silky aspect of this tropical flower.
Picture a woman walking barefoot in a landscape with a palette of beige, sand and blonde, illuminated by sunlight as a warm wind sculpts the dunes. The Sand Woman parure is an invitation to a dream-like desert, a vast space of harmonious curves home to extraordinary animals. Here, precious materials meet rattan and shell.
The Rotin Diamant (diamond rattan) necklace features natural rattan fibres that were humidified before being dried on a brass frame. A gold rod was then inserted to maintain its final shape. While high jewellery typically imparts suppleness to hard materials like metals and stones, the craft rigidifies a naturally supple material here to create a spectacular fusion of rattan and diamonds.
Creating the Pie (magpie) ring was a challenge as artisans had to hollow out a rock crystal block before inserting a white gold skull set with diamonds. Then, there’s the pair of Coquillage Diamant (diamond shell) earrings, in which natural shells were scanned to recreate their texture, curves and shape in gold and diamonds. The result: natural shell literally blends with gold and diamonds in an unprecedented manner, forcing one to ponder the meaning of “precious”.
The melancholic Pebble Woman lives in a quiet world imagined by Choisne to have a fresh breeze blowing from a lunar ocean and vast astral beaches in different shades of white and light grey. The soft shapes of white pebbles sculpted by the waves on a Greek island are found on the Galet Diamant (diamond pebble) earrings, necklace and ring. Hollowed out to achieve their surprising light weight, the stones have become almost translucent from the process and are adorned with pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds.
At the crossroads of Earth and water are the Corail Diamant (diamond coral) brooch, and single earring sculpted in mother-of-pearl to express the organic shape of white coral.
A sea urchin was scanned and reproduced identically in silver, then treated to give the final Oursin Diamant (diamond urchin) its milky whiteness on which pearls and diamonds are set. The Oursin Diamant necklace displays the frosted radiance of a princess-cut diamond, as well as a brilliant- cut diamond and can be worn six ways.
Two animals live in this singular environment, depicted as an Ours Polaire (polar bear) ring, set with 246 rose-cut diamonds that impart it a unique frosted aspect, and an elephant ring, whose hide dazzles with full-cut diamonds.
The Volcano Man lives in a more hostile, arid environment in the depths of the earth. Here, Choisne explores the magmatic power of an extreme world, where black meets white. The spiral structure of a shell, as viewed through an X-ray, is airbrushed onto mother- of-pearl pieces on a white gold Coquillage (shell) necklace. The intricate, airbrushed motif gives the piece a three-dimensional aesthetic from a world unknown.
Next, burnt wood meets the clean lines of the minimalistic Bois Brûlé Diamant (diamond burned wood) necklace. Choisne first saw burnt wood in Kurashiki, Japan – a small village that specialises in manufacturing denim – where some of the houses were built with black burnt wood that looked understated yet beautiful. The 3,500-year-old marsh oak on the necklace was charred according to the Japanese shou sugi ban technique, which confers it a silky, matte look and extraordinary resilience. Its fusion with diamonds reveals a powerful yet unexpected contrast that is breathtaking.
The Loup (wolf) ring depicts the animal howling at the moon. Its subtle realism is brought to life through sculpted meteorite, diamonds, white gold, platinum and onyx. Part tattoo, part sea creature, the Octopus single earring adorns the side of the head with its white gold arabesques, highlighted by 178 mother-of-pearl pastilles and 443 brilliant-cut diamonds.
This story first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore