A STORY WORTH TELLING: JOSEPHINE AND NAPOLEON IN CHAUMET’S EXHIBITION AT 12 VENDÔME

THEIR ROYAL FAVOR TOWARDS MAISON CHAUMET LINKED THE IMPERIAL JEWELER TO THEIR (EXTRA)ORDINARY LOVE STORY, AND TO THE HISTORY OF FRANCE

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The eagerly-awaited spring in Paris is about to witness an extraordinary event: not only the return of warmth and sun to the city of romance, but also an exceptional exhibition: “Joséphine et Napoléon, une histoire (extra)ordinaire”, an ode to the passionate and tender, turbulent and deep, fleeting and profound royal love and life of these two magnificent historical figures, and an inspired way to commemorate the bicentennial of Napoleon’s death.

The path of the royal couple first crossed with François-Regnault Nitot, son of the founder of Maison Chaumet Marie-Étienne Nitot, in 1805 in Milan, where Napoleon and Josephine were preparing to be crowned King and Queen of Italy.

Josephine was astounded by Nitot’s work, and he was appointed her favored jeweler. In turn, the modern and free, elegant and strong-willed, splendid and powerful Empress, who reinvented royal style and fashion, has remained for more than two centuries Chaumet’s muse.

Tiaras, aigrettes, laurel and oak leaves – symbols of power borrowed from Antiquity, sentimental jewelry featuring colored stones spelling out the names of her children, Eugène and Hortense, gold, pearls, diamonds and colored gems, joyful and elegant, bold and innovative combinations reflect the Empress’s unique personality, femininity and tender maternal love.

Napoleon himself looked at jewelry from a highly political perspective. During the French Revolution, the French crown jewels had been destroyed. When Napoleon declared himself the Emperor, one of his aims was to return to himself and his family the sumptuous royal aura of majesty. To that end, he requested that Nitot should create a new gold coronation crown, designed in the style of the ancient crown of France – the Crown of Charlemagne – a clear demonstration of Bonaparte’s identification with Charlemagne, or Charles the Great (King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, and Emperor of the Romans) destroyed during the French Revolution, along with a new set of crown jewels.

Napoleon also revived the tiara as a symbol of imperial power. This fashionable and majestic instrument of displaying dominance and authority became a trend that spread across Europe’s aristocracy.

In her research, jewelry historian Diana Scarisbrick mentions that Napoleon authorized the removal of over eighty cameos and intaglios from the state collection of the Cabinet des Médailles which were then nested in a set of tiara, necklace, belt and bracelets designed for the Empress, but which, due to the abundance of precious stones, proved to be too heavy for her to wear. Yet, as Diana tells in her research, Josephine found other ways to enjoy this magnificent parure: taking it from the jewelry box and discussing its splendor with close friends.

The story of Napoleon and Josephine is the story of a marriage, which was not well received by Napoleon’s family, since Josephine was six years older and a widow with two children. It’s the story of Napoleon being crazy in love with Josephine, time and again proved by the passionate letters he wrote to her during their separation as he was leading the French army into Italy. It’s the story of Josephine rarely writing back to him, and when she did, it was with lukewarm and less than enthusiastic responses. It’s the story of Josephine’s affair with Hippolyte Charles, a lieutenant in the Hussar regiment, which cooled Napoleon’s love for her. It’s the story of Napoleon’s subsequent affair with Pauline Fourès – “Napoleon’s Cleopatra” – and his other affairs, as well as his famous statement “Power is my mistress”.

“Joséphine et Napoléon, une histoire (extra)ordinaire” will feature over 150 exhibits: pieces of jewelry, paintings and other works of art, along with examples of correspondence and illustrated documents, from the historical collection of Maison Chaumet, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Musée de l’Armée, Archives Nationales, Fondation Napoléon, Musée du Louvre, Château de Fontainebleau, Musée National des Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau, Musée Masséna, Musée Carnavalet, Fondation Dosne-Thiers, as well as loans from private collectors.

The exhibition will be open from 10 April to 12 June 2021, at the salons of Maison Chaumet at 12 Vendôme, Paris.

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COLLABORATION CARVED IN STONE: SUZANNE SYZ & MATTHEW LUTZ-KINOY

COLORED MARBLE AND ONYX MASKS AS MISCHIEVOUS DISPLAYS OF WHIMSICAL JEWELRY.

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Serious pieces with a sense of humor and feminine touch: jewelry by Suzanne Syz is anything but conservative.

Ultimate luxury fused with a mixture of both traditional and unconventional materials which allows greater freedom of size, form and palette, coupled with the outstanding technical knowledge, material mastery and artistry of Suzanne’s Geneva-based team, and topped with imaginative flair taken to extremes.

Colorful and ironic, temperamental and lighthearted, complex and chic, Suzanne’s designs are a product of exceptional creativity, intelligence and refined taste, as well as remarkable attention to detail. Her creations effuse color and sensuality, freedom and joy. They defy the ordinary.

Suzanne, who is an art collector herself, breathes love into each and every one of her unique pieces. It’s not that she doesn’t take things seriously. She does—but always with a smile. A beautiful smile.

Suzanne has created more than a thousand inimitable pieces. The symbolic culmination of her jewelry journey—before she decided to switch her focus to organic winemaking—is this final artistic collaboration with Matthew Lutz-Kinoy which sums up 20 years’ work and her love for jewelry.

Over the past few years, Suzanne has invited a selection of contemporary artists and friends to re-envision in the form of sculpture some of the conservative ways jewelry is displayed. Her former collaborations—“Dorayaki” by John Armeleder, “Frozen Yogurt” by Alex Israel, “Magnifying” by Sylvie Fleury, and “Dino Runes” by Kerstin Bratsch—have now been complemented by five colored marble and onyx masks, created by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, which he calls “A Spear of Summer Grass”, after Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”.

The orifices, curves and nooks of the masks serve as vessels and carriers for Suzanne’s jewels, while her jewels in turn serve as means of self-actualization for the masks, complementing and interplaying with each other.

The theatrical marble displays are expressive and dynamic, changing with the source and angle of light, simultaneously changing the pieces of jewelry displayed on—and in—them as they go through the flow of transformation.

Each piece of jewelry changes its appearance and purpose depending on the way it is placed on the masks: in the mouth or the eye socket, under the eye, on the ear.

The narrative constructed by the interlacing and synchronization of the two art forms is physically and intellectually immersive. The freedom of interpretation and exploration yielded by this amusing, interdisciplinary collaboration, is infinite.

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HAUTE HORLOGERIE ON A PAR WITH SURGERY: NEW VERSIONS OF THE ICONIC CHANEL J12 WATC

ARNAUD CHASTAINGT, DIRECTOR OF CHANEL’S WATCHMAKING CREATION STUDIO, REWORKS THE LEGENDARY WATCH WITH SURGICAL PRECISION

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Illustration by Ellie Rahim

Indeed, it does sound like surgery. To create the new version of the Chanel J12 watch – and making the most of Chanel’s black and white hallmark – two single-colored (one black, one white) extremely hard, scratch-proof ceramic cases are produced, then cut and combined to form the Paradoxe watch,  

Hand-crafted at Chanel’s atelier in Switzerland, the name of the watch dates back to the year 2000. Jacques Hélleu, Chanel’s artistic director for almost three decades, named it after the 12-meter J-class racing yachts. When this black, ceramic watch, characterized by distinctive, minimalist, pure lines, first came to life, it revolutionized the watch world: both haute horlogerie and casual timepieces. This luxury watch changed the whole concept of luxury watches.  

The re-creation of famous, distinctive watches is anything but simple.

In 2013, when Arnaud Chastaingt joined Chanel’s Watchmaking Creation Studio, he was faced with a colossal dilemma: to create a new watch from scratch, or to remake the iconic J12 version, which—paradoxically—was a much more complex and ambitious task than working from zero.  

As a result, he reworked a whopping 70 per cent of the original components, which—again, paradoxically—yielded a subtle, modern result. The philosophy behind the remaking this legendary watch was a harmonious yet strong-willed evolution rather than abrupt revolution, with discreet aesthetic changes and advances. This reflects Mr Chastaingt’s personality and style: deliberately keeping a low profile and staying away from the spotlight, preferring that people talk about his creations rather than about him.  

Unisex, elegant and timeless, the reworked J12 will pave the way for future developments in the world of high jewelry and watchmaking.  

Among other recent horological creations from Chanel, my favorites are Code Coco, released in 2017, and Monsieur de Chanel, launched in 2016.  

In the dynamic and bold Code Coco, Arnaud Chastaingt manages to find the right balance between past and future. With a touch of retro, this streamlined, sophisticated and delicately luxurious timepiece does not look at all old or ‘historic’.  

Monsieur de Chanel was the brand’s first watch to be created with men in mind. Understated yet super-elegant, not overdesigned nor excessively extravagant, it’s slick, powerful and manly, but not over the top. This is a watch I would wear myself. The perfect reflection of Coco Chanel’s inimitable advice for stylish women and classy men: ‘It is always better to be underdressed.’

Underdressed, in the world of Chanel, stands for elegant and elite.

Illustration by Ellie Rahim

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AMAZONIA BAMBOO JEWELRY BY SILVIA FURMANOVICH: THE EXQUISITE ELEGANCE OF NATURE

IN HER NEW COLLECTION, AS AN ARTIST WHO LOOKS INTO THE VERY HEART OF THINGS, SILVIA FURMANOVICH DELVES DEEP INTO THE ESSENCE AND PHILOSOPHY OF BAMBOO

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Illustration by Chris Gambrell

For true art, whether sculpture or painting, jewelry or perfumery, there is no such thing as ‘inappropriate’, ‘unconventional’, or ‘not precious enough’.  

It’s not—at least, not only—gold and diamonds which make jewelry both couture and exclusive. It is also the muse of the artist, the imagination of the designer, the mastery of the goldsmith, and the craftsmanship of all the other experts involved in the lengthy process, from conception to creation of a chef-d’oeuvre, from a fuzzy image, shape or smell in the artist’s head to the unveiling of a finished masterpiece.  

This is especially true of the new Amazonia Bamboo collection by Silvia Furmanovich, a São Paulo designer, who found inspiration in her journey to Japan, where she discovered the centuries-old art of weaving bamboo into intricate knots and basketsm, and who transformed the miniaturized versions of those techniques, beautified with gems and gold, into unique pieces of jewelry.  

Bamboo is a pretty commonplace plant and an everyday building material and food product in South, East, and Southeast Asia. Who would have thought that building blocks and edibles could be turned into refined pieces of art? And yet, the flight of Silvia’s imagination, her bold visions and designs have elevated it to the realm of fine jewelry.  

Through the alchemic combination of daring designs, attention to detail, passion for ancient, traditional and innovative craftsmanship, styles and materials, love of travel and fresh interpretations of different cultures, Silvia creates unique and timeless pieces.  

It made me recallmember Serge Lutens’ sensual and revolutionary perfume Féminité du Bois—a philosophical and memorable mixture of Atlas cedar, cinnamon and clove, candied plum and pear, an elegant flash of violets, rose, orange blossom and earthly sandalwood, contemplative and tantalizing, dusty and dry, yet sophisticated and tender, symbolizing the duality of woman’s nature.                                                            

 

In her new collection, Silvia Furmanovich uses a mix of precious and semiprecious stones, pearls and metals, matching the shades of natural and colored bamboo: gold, diamond, citrine, tourmaline, garnet, emerald, jasper, amethyst and topaz, to elevate the value of this humble natural material, awakening a sense of warm, spicy yet delicate feminine refinement. Shapes, shades and smells that are often missed in the hectic routine of hurried and overcrowded lives.  

Although you might intuitively think otherwise, bamboo does not degrade quickly over time: the masterpieces of bamboo artists, exhibited in museums around the world, have lasted for centuries. Beyond that, light in weight and extremely strong and resilient, bamboo makes an ideal material for wearable jewelry.   The lines and shapes, the graceful woodiness and – when combined with the right stones and pearls, characteristic of Silvia Furmanovich – the balance between exquisite craftsmanship and pure beauty, rustic and, at the same time, gracefully elegant, makes this a unique and outstanding collection.  

The way perfume acts like a living creature, changing its behavior, revealing new notes and moods the longer it lingers on your skin, Silvia’s masterpieces, coming from the very core of the natural world, work together with your outfit, your mood and the essence of your feminine nature.

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CARAMEL, EBONY, PEARLS AND GOLD: THE SWEET MELANCHOLY OF NICHOLAS VARNEY’S JEWELS

AUTUMN COLORS REVEAL ELEGANT GRACE IN AN EMOTIONAL RENDERING BY A TRUE ARTIST

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P. Picasso Maternite' (Mother and Child), 1963 Lithograph

It never rains in Nicholas Varney’s universe.

The soft, warm and earthy hues of his earrings and rings bring out the best in the melancholic and meditative palette of autumn.

Nicholas has been drawing since he was a child; now his designs come to life in sophisticated and whimsical jewels. Never building his ideas around specific stones, he first creates the design on paper and then seeks the perfect materials, using nature and juxtapositions as his main sources of inspiration and the driving force for his singular creations.

The jewelry pieces by this artist and educated gemologist carry a strong emotional charge: once they find the soul with whom they resonate, a strong transcendent, artistic bond is built.

 

In his earrings, Varney combines laconic, caramel candy-like bubbles of natural pearls with stripy agate, balanced with ebony wood—for a more solid, heavier, statement look—resembling joyful maracas that whisper a rhythm to the rustle of steps on dry, fallen leaves. Or a beautiful pestle for a magic mortar, in which you might grind and mix a pinch of cinnamon with a few seeds of autumn glamour.

The smooth, subtle pearls on the rings evoke memories of late berries, caught in the first frost: no longer edible, but so enchanting against the greyish air of the dusky and moody season that you can’t take your eyes off them.

Together, the colorful pearls, agate, ebony and gold come together in a light and fluent autumn waltz. A dance for the loving and for the beloved.

 

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