The house of Boucheron has been pushing the boundaries of jewellery-making in the most spectacular – and avant garde – fashion. Ahead of his time, founder Frédéric Boucheron created the first necklace without a clasp in 1879: the flexible, open Question Mark that allowed ladies to wear it on their own in one simple step. The contemporary jeweller was also known to boldly combine precious gems with unusual materials such as rock crystal, hemp, onyx and haematite.
Claire Choisne, creative director at Boucheron, is continuing the visionary’s legacy and dedication to innovation. Judging from various innovative technologies employed in the maison’s recent high jewellery collections, it’s clear that she’s unafraid to take the high-tech path rarely seen in the haute joaillerie realm. In 2018, the hyper-realistic Fleurs Éternelles rings and Lierre Givré necklace from the Nature Triomphante collection were created via state-of-the-art scanning and 3D imaging respectively for true images and proportions of the actual flowers. In last year’s collection Contemplation, the Goutte de Ciel necklace literally captured a piece of sky as it incorporated Aerogel – the world’s lightest material that Nasa uses to gather stardust in space.
Now, the maison presents its latest high jewellery collection – Carte Blanche, Holographique – comprising nine sets that explore the spectrum of light in its entirety. Choisne elaborates: “I’ve wanted to create a collection that focused on colours for a while now, but I also wanted to find a new approach. I chose the theme of holography as it’s really the link between light and colours, where you can have all the colours on all the pieces.”
She cites two sources of inspiration for the collection: natural phenomena like rainbows or the Northern Lights, and the works on light and colour by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and Mexican architect Luis Barragan. The prismatic effect was realised in two very different ways in the pieces. The first was through opals, which naturally express an incredible infinity of colours, while the second is an innovative coating that’s never been used in high jewellery.
The latter resulted in a collaboration with French company, Saint-Gobain, a dichroic coating specialist that manufactures lenses and glass with a holographic glaze. Choisne recalls what she saw on an airport tarmac that intrigued her: “I’d seen a light reflector created by Saint-Gobain on the runway, which was transparent with a holographic layer on top of it and I loved the effect.”
The high-tech coating process involves applying layers of a molten spray of titanium and silver powder oxides onto white ceramic and rock crystal. “Every piece is a prism through which white light is diffracted. The hues are perpetually changing, so I like that the pieces are not frozen and have a path of the unknown to them,” Choisne says. She reveals that the unprecedented endeavour was a challenging one: “Creating this collection was an emotional roller coaster. You can’t anticipate results with the coating technique. Even the shape of the piece effects changes on the coats, so we did 150 or more tests on the materials.”
The collection’s magnum opus was the most challenging creation and Choisne’s personal favourite – the Holographique necklace with a 20.21-carat octagonal yellow sapphire from Ceylon. Complemented by a matching ring with a 4.61-carat oval blue tourmaline and cuff bracelet set with a 14.93-carat cushion-cut pink tourmaline, the avant-garde white gold piece features a mesmerising arrangement of wafer-thin 2mm rock crystal slices. Sprayed with 10 layers of holographic coating to achieve a dazzling moving rainbow effect, each sliver is also lined with diamonds.
A mock-up of plastic slices had to be created because the jewel’s volume didn’t allow for a design sketch. “We found a way to link the slices by using an iPhone flashlight to project shadows of all the pieces and the necklace structure was designed around that. Achieving the necklace’s flexibility was also very tricky since you can’t hide anything in transparent rock crystal, but we did it. I fell in love with this piece because it’s hypnotic and poetic in a futuristic way,” recounts Choisne.
Beyond the pieces in the Faisceaux, Halo, Laser and Prisme chapters, which boast the holographic coating as well, the Chromatique line celebrates the imperfect beauty of nature. A continuation of the epic Fleurs Éternelles, each peony and pansy petal was scanned to allow for all curves and volumes to be recreated precisely. Molded from white ceramic, the flowers impart a surreal look when combined with the special coating. Set in titanium and white gold, the parure consists of a brooch and two rings, each showcasing a precious gemstone in its centre.
Choisne explains the distinctive aesthetics that the holographic coating creates on different materials: “There’s an opacity and watercolour-like effect on white ceramic, while rock crystal imparts a light or strong prismatic effect, depending on how the piece is angled and lit.”
While a softer, subtler side of opals is presented in the Opalescence and Ondes lines, Illusion’s magnificent trio of opal rings perfectly expresses the holographic effect that occurs in the natural world. Matching each stone’s uniquely dynamic kaleidoscopic palette are multicoloured pavé-set gems ranging from Paraiba tourmalines and emeralds to tsavorites and pink sapphires. Set in almost-invisible white gold, the voluptuous stones’ sizes are amplified by their trompe-l’oeil frames.
“Sourcing for these opals was another highlight of this collection. The over 50-carat white Ethiopian opal is rather impressive. The other two hail from Australia: a black opal with blue and green weighing over 30 carats, and a dark opal with red inside that’s over 10 carats. Opals are usually flat, so it’s rare for them to have this perfect shape. The black opal is especially outstanding because it’s almost a cabochon and has great volume,” adds Choisne.
(All images: Boucheron)
This story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.