Chaumet’s CEO, Jean-Marc Mansvelt, talks about the updated design and significance of the new high jewellery collection.
Chaumet, jeweller to royalty – most famously Napoléon and his wife Empress Joséphine, the house’s most beloved muse – has been closely linked to the history of France since its founding in 1780. Still located at its legendary address of 12 Place Vendôme more than two centuries later, the storied maison continues to serve as the cornerstone of French haute joaillerie.
Torsade de Chaumet, the house’s latest high jewellery collection, is a fitting tribute to one of Paris’ most famous squares on which the maison was the first jeweller to open in 1812. Offering a modern and dynamic update of the torsade, meaning twist in English, the creations are inspired by the sweep of the frieze (a horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration) wrapping the Vendôme Column, a historic monument at the prestigious location. What’s most striking on this imposing 44m-high obelisk, with a statue of Napoleon on its peak, is the 425 hand-sculpted bronze bas-relief panels that form an impressive 280m-long frieze, which coils around the entire sculpture like a ribbon.
Jean-Marc Mansvelt, CEO of Chaumet, adds: “While an existing collection named Torsade from a few years ago draws from the famous column as well, its motif is a much tighter one. We created this new collection as it’s the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, and the maison is also celebrating the story of power and love between Joséphine and Napoleon through an exhibition at 12 Vendôme. We thought it’d be a good time to rework and give Torsade a new dimension this year.”
An ode to movement and life
Spontaneous, free-spirited, and dynamic, the pieces exude such liveliness through a flourish of gold and gemstones that one might think the house’s artisans breathed actual life into them. Reminiscent of twirling ribbon streams in a dance, the diamond-set gold bands interlace in graceful spirals that stretch, relax and unravel in fluid arcs and curves. It is a poetic expression of the vitality of life or the dynamics of love – evocative of the romance between Napoléon and his beloved Joséphine.
“We’ve injected what I think is a true characteristic of Chaumet into this collection – a sense of movement and energy. It’s like a spring that’s alive, which gives a feeling of capturing a moment. More than just a reference, it gives an idea of life because I think this is also what we want now – to really celebrate life,” Mansvelt explains.
Presenting a collection like Torsade de Chaumet is an optimistic nod to never losing hope in the face of dark times. Mansvelt talks about the importance of unveiling it in this unprecedented period: “It can be a beautiful painting, architecture, photograph or high jewellery in this case, but I think the role of artistic creations is to bring a certain optimism… that we can survive. Looking at beauty and the acceptance of it bring about a positive emotion. I think that’s an even more important contribution in today’s world. And when you celebrate and reinterpret a motif that’s connected to Chaumet’s story for over 200 years, it gives you another dimension of positivity – that if we are still alive, there is hope.”
Artistic swirls and lines
The 23-piece Torsade de Chaumet collection is a conservative one, compared to last year’s architecture-inspired Perspectives collection of 80 pieces. “Torsade is more concise because people don’t care for accumulations as much now, but rather, they go for things that are more essential or meaningful. We thought it’s important to really focus on just a few designs with only diamonds and three precious gemstones first. Perhaps we might integrate yellow diamonds later, but for now this is a starting point from which we’ll see how our clients want this journey to continue,” Mansvelt says.
Capturing the elegance of asymmetric, rhythmic swirls sweeping around a curved line of diamonds is the collection’s pièce de resistance: a white gold tiara set with rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds. Highlighting the virtuosity of the maison’s high jewellery workshop, the signature Chaumet jewel is a delicate balance of the art of lightness and miraculous suspension that seems to defy gravity. “It’s the ultimate piece to express a new collection and of course, it’s important we demonstrate that even after 241 years and 3,500 tiaras, we continue the maison’s story by never reproducing any design,” says Mansvelt, of one of his favourite pieces.
A continuous piece of twisted gold stretches and relaxes asymmetrically on a necklace and bracelet in a play of artful tension. This exuberance can be found on drop earrings, as well as a ring adorned with brilliant-cut diamonds that line an unravelling coil framing a 2.19 asscher-cut diamond. Exuding the same dynamism is a necklace flaunting two asscher-cut stones, inspired by the spectacular négligée version made for the Maharaja of Indore around 1913. And no Chaumet high jewellery collection is complete without a bejewelled timepiece. Here, the twist elegantly weaves across its bracelet and around the miniature diamond pavé dial.
In a tribute to Chaumet’s emblematic colour, extraordinary blue, cushion-cut Ceylon sapphires accentuate a swirl of diamonds. Showcased on a ring and bracelet, the exquisite gems in a bright, cheerful blue shade play peekaboo from beneath voluminous arcs of the twist. Mansvelt points out an interesting feature of the stones on this articulated bracelet, which is another personal favourite: “You’ll notice that the blue on these five Ceylon sapphires is not the typical hue. The shade is full of tenderness and charm, and reminds me of the forget-me-not flower.”
The intense red of Mozambique rubies imparts warmth as majestic centre stones on rings and earrings. They also add a beautiful contrast, while amplifying the fluidity of an asymmetrical twist on a spectacular sautoir or emphasising the fall of a négligée necklace. The fiery stones also captivate as a pair of rings on which they appear to bloom in colour, enclosed between twists of almost organic whorls.
Next, a beguiling 2.32-carat vivid green Colombian emerald adds the finishing touch to the harmonious twist on the collection’s second diamond tiara. This creation is echoed in a pair of stud earrings and a ring, on which luminous and perfectly matched emeralds nestle within a coil of diamond ribbons. The men are not forgotten too. The gender-neutral motif of Torsade allows for the creation of modern pieces such as a brooch that seemingly floats over a jacket lapel or a ring with a spiral of diamonds that can be worn on his last finger. “We’ve created many brooches over the years as we like this idea of a dandy man. Rather than wear something extravagant, it’s the little touches that lend this sort of elegance,” Mansvelt says with a smile as he points to the brooch in question on his own jacket.
(All images: Chaumet)
This story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.