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French jewellery maisons get a modern makeover

Behind the historic facades of place Vendôme’s jewellery houses, innovation is taking its place alongside tradition. The leading Parisian brands are adapting to a new generation of jewellery lovers, creating new collections, reinterpreting archive designs and embracing technology to truly capture a younger audience.

Lucinda Turner
Lucinda Turner,

The elegance, grandeur and historic appeal of place Vendôme are hard to surpass in any other shopping destination. This stunning square conjures up images of La Belle Epoque, lavish parties at the Ritz in the Roaring Twenties and, of course, noblemen and women on the hunt for a timeless jewel to be passed down for generations to come. However, look behind the enduring facades and you may see a change occurring.

Jewellery houses old and new are adapting and changing to meet demand from a youthful market with money to spend

The historic jewellery houses of the first arrondissement are shifting gears as the 21st century progresses, taking the sparkling stones and precious metals that define one of the wealthiest areas of Paris and transforming them into pieces that are contemporary and fresh. While grand necklaces still await the discerning customer searching for old-world glamour, the windows dance with delicate sparkle and modern motifs, luring in the fine jewellery connoisseur of 2018.

The house of Boucheron has stood at 26 place Vendôme for 125 years. Frédéric Boucheron was the first jeweller to set up shop here, and chose this particular corner of the square as it attracts the most sunlight; that special light still shines through the collections today.

To mark the house’s 160th anniversary (it was founded 35 years prior to moving to place Vendôme) Boucheron has launched the Quatre Clou de Paris collection, a reincarnation of its iconic Quatre line targeted at a younger customer. The delicate diamonds sit in modern, almost chunky, geometric settings on a thin gold bangle that has a wearable, everyday appeal. The Quatre range is written into Boucheron’s DNA, but the clear, understated aesthetic of this latest addition is a revelation from a house known for its opulent designs.


Van Cleef & Arpels has reinterpreted an archive collection to create the quirky Lucky Animals range

© Oliver Astrologo

Another historic house seeking the youth vote is Boucheron’s place Vendôme neighbour Van Cleef & Arpels. Rather than modernising a design for a younger audience, Van Cleef & Arpels has rediscovered a classic archive collection that was originally intended for a more youthful consumer and brought it back into circulation. The Lucky Animals range is a 2018 interpretation of the 1954 La Boutique collection, which showcases a jovial side of this grand house. Nine animal clips, created in onyx, tiger’s eye, malachite, lapis lazuli and carnelian, offer an accessible price point and a perfect introduction to the brand for younger customers. The timeless appeal of these versatile, charming, almost childlike pieces stems from expert craftsmanship.

While some houses are focusing on product to draw a younger clientele, others are thinking more widely about the jewellery business. Chaumet, once jeweller to Napoleon, is showcasing its glistening jewels in video campaigns across its website and social media.


Chaumet is embracing modern technology, with video campaigns and even an app to help clients explore the city of Paris

One of these beautifully shot films features a young couple following in the footsteps of Napoleon’s wife Josephine, running through a dream-like version of Paris to a modern soundtrack. The female character wears her diamonds with a leather jacket and subsequently a masculine tuxedo, while later in the film the couple race around the first arrondissement at dawn in a fun and carefree manner that feels perfectly Parisian. The characters wear both fine and high jewellery and break down the stuffy stereotype that pieces this special must be kept in a vault and only be worn by ‘grown ups’.

A further addition to Chaumet’s modern approach comes in the form of the You Me Paris app, created in collaboration with Parisian city expert My Little Paris. The app offers guided tours to hidden parts of the city while teaching the user about the history of the brand and how heavily the city influences its creations.


Messika has recently launched a capsule collection of jewellery with global superstar Gigi Hadid

It’s not just the old guard which is keen to appeal to a younger market. Messika, a fine jewellery brand based just off place Vendôme that launched only 12 years ago, has turned to global superstar Gigi Hadid to create a capsule collection. ‘When I founded Messika, women were only used to buying diamonds for special occasions, such as getting engaged or to wear with traditional eveningwear,’ remarks founder Valerie Messika. ‘I really wanted to change this idea and break down any age or style barriers. With the Messika by Gigi Hadid collection I wanted to attract millennials. A millennial client who invests in our entry-level pieces will hopefully grow with the brand over time and build their Messika collection over the years.’

The pieces range in price from a few hundred euros to several hundred thousand, but there’s no doubt that they have all been created with a modern consumer in mind. The diamonds are set in edgy, contemporary chokers and ear cuffs, translating expert skills and precious stones into items that certainly don’t belong in a vault.


The Messika x Gigi Hadid collection ses diamonds set in contemporary chokers and ear cuffs, translating expert skills and precious stones into items that certainly don’t belong in a vault

Fine jewellery was once the preserve of the nobility who frequented the historic houses of place Vendôme; clients with an invitation to a private salon and years of brand loyalty behind them. Today jewellery houses, both new and old, are adapting and changing to meet demand from a youthful market with money to spend. What better place to spend it than here?



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