Born in to a family of drapers, as a child Frédéric Boucheron was fascinated by gemstones and thus broke from this tradition in order to pursue a career as a jeweller. At the age of fourteen, he began an apprenticeship with the Parisian jeweller Jules Chaise, and subsequently worked for Tixier-Deschamps. In 1858, he set up his own shop at the Palais Royale, which was at that time the centre of the Parisian jewellery trade. Success quickly followed as the boutique soon drew clients from amongst the nobility and elite.
In these early days, Boucheron drew inspiration from ancient jewellery, incorporating stylistic influences from Etruscan, Greek and Roman jewellery in to his designs which reflected the burgeoning taste for revivalist fashions, and later in the Belle Époque period, the firm began to produce delicate diamond and pearl set pieces in the Louis XVI style. In 1867, Frédéric Boucheron was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in recognition of the innovative spirit of his jewellery. Subsequent accolades followed, and in 1893 Boucheron became the first jeweller to open on Place Vendôme. It is said that he chose the sunniest position in the square so that his diamonds would sparkle even more brilliantly in the windows. Further premises in Moscow, London and New York swiftly followed.
Frédéric sought to acquire only the best gemstones for his creations, many of which were illustrated and detailed in the firm’s Book of Stones. The political upheaval that existed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century lead to the collapse of several monarchies. Many of the jewels belonging to these royal families came on to the market and were subsequently acquired by Boucheron. In 1887 for instance, an auction of the French Crown jewels was held at the Louvre. Frédéric Boucheron, the only French jeweller in attendance, purchased thirty-one diamonds at the sale, to include the Mazarin diamonds weighing respectively 18 and 16 carats. As a designer, he was innovative in his use of materials and techniques, exploring plique- à-jour enamels thirty years before they became a staple of the Art Nouveau style.
Upon Frédéric’s death in 1902, the firm passed to his son Louis and under his direction Boucheron remained at the cutting edge of fashion, producing exquisite Art Nouveau, Edwardian and Art Deco pieces. Like his father, Louis Boucheron sought to acquire only the highest quality gemstones to be added to their ever-expanding inventory and from 1909, he travelled regularly to India in search of gems. The firm grew even more successful during this period, attracting wealthy clients from the East. One notable customer was the Maharajah of Patiala, who arrived at Place Vendôme in 1927 with an entourage of forty servants, bearing six caskets of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. Boucheron was commissioned to transform these stones in accordance with the latest fashions. A trained engineer, Louis sought to incorporate the technological advances of the period in to his designs and created an entirely new style of contemporary jewellery which he debuted at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes which was held in Paris in 1925. These pieces featured large solid blocks of coloured materials (coral, lapis, turquoise), set amongst diamonds and catered to the tastes and needs of the emancipated woman.
Louis’s son, Gérard Boucheron was credited for the return to beautiful jewellery after the lapse of the war years, and under his direction the firm produced pieces inspired by flora and fauna designed to complement the ‘New Look’ fashions launched by Dior in 1947. Gold replaced platinum as the metal of choice in these designs, and was innovatively fashioned in a variety of different shapes and textures. The firm passed to Gérard’s son, Alain in the 1960s and they returned to materials that they had used at the beginning of the century, to include rock crystal, coral, turquoise and lapis. The use of these materials continued in to the 1970s and 80s, when they were mixed with diamonds and other precious stones to create bold, three-dimensional pieces.
Since its inception in 1858, quality and innovation have been at the forefront of Boucheron’s jewellery. Louis Boucheron felt that in order to build a reputation as a great jeweller one must use only the most beautiful of stones – a sentiment that was upheld by subsequent generations of the family. It is this focus on quality that has placed Boucheron amongst the most prestigious of makers, appealing to royals and celebrities, including Tsar Nicholas II, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, the Maharaja of Patiala, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, the Shah of Iran, Princess Grace, Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman, and Cameron Diaz.
At Berganza, we are fortunate to have a selection of pieces by Boucheron, all of which are available to view online and in store.