Archives help shape today’s jewelry creations

For two heritage jewelry houses, inspirations from the past are back in modern versions at the fine jewelry shows this week in Paris.

For Benoît Verhulle, head of Chaumet’s jewelry atelier, Blé’s necklace has rehashed a familiar theme: Wheat has been part of the house’s lexicon for more than 200 years. (One of the most famous pieces in her archives is a wheat wreath, called Ear of wheatwhich was commissioned by Napoleon in 1810.)

But this necklace, in Le Jardin de Chaumet’s 68-piece set, is actually two.

One is a yellow gold wheat motif set with diamonds and the other, a more modern design in white gold, is set with a 10.25-carat emerald-cut diamond. They can be worn separately or together, for a bigger statement.

“When you look at the drawing, it seems rigid,” Mr. Verhall said in an interview at the headquarters of the jewelry house on Place Vendôme, “so I kept wondering how I could turn it into something so flexible and comfortable and also reinvent the theme in some way.”

It wasn’t until a customer asked the atelier to repair a mid-19th century wheat brooch – designed in a quivering (in English, quivering) style – that he came up with the idea to modernize the technique by developing a flat rather than using the traditional gold threads that are more fragile.

Mr. Verhulle and his team used yellow gold to make the spikelets, the elements that make up an ear of wheat, then set them with diamonds and used a laser to fit them individually onto a thin blade, forming the bundles. Completion of the piece required a total of 1,750 man-hours, with three or four goldsmiths working on various elements simultaneously.

“I’m not sure we would have been able to achieve such a level of detail even 10 years ago,” he said.

Reflecting the current sense of exuberance in jewelry, as in fashion, Blé’s necklace has already been purchased by the client who plans to wear it themselves.

At Buccellati, the inspiration for Mosaico, its new 36-piece high jewelry collection, was the elastic bracelets presented in 1976 by Gianmaria Buccellati, son of the Maison’s founder, Mario Buccellati.

But the jewelry house is a family affair. Andrea Buccellati, one of Mario’s grandchildren, and Andrea’s daughter, Lucrezia Buccellati Wildenstein, are its creative directors and design the new collection, to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Costes Hotel in Paris.

The craftsmanship has remained unchanged since his father’s time, Mr Buccellati wrote in an email, although some techniques have been perfected since the company was bought by Swiss luxury group Richemont in 2019.

As an example, he described the flexibility of a Mosaico bracelet: an 18-karat yellow and white gold design set with 520 brilliant-cut white diamonds and 296 white and yellow diamonds in others, priced at $240,000.

“It is a bracelet that reminds us of Byzantine mosaics, but the main thing that distinguishes it is the chain that makes it very soft and easy to wear,” he said, referring to a technique used by Mario Buccellati in the 1920s that combines small rings to create a kind of light and flexible net. “The real challenge was to maintain these regular geometries despite the thousands of chains that make them up.”