Trend-defying designs by trend-defining women

Though known today simply as Boivin, this maison’s short name belies the people behind it. For those in the know, the house of Boivin ties together the work of some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated jewellery designers.

Master jeweller Jules René Boivin (1864-1917) paved the way for the maison’s success by establishing his own firm, known as René Boivin, in the 1890s. Though his skills as a goldsmith led the firm to initially undertake work for the established maisons of Mellerio and Boucheron, Boivin’s talent as a designer and engraver quickly pushed the firm towards designing and making solely for private clients. René created spectacular jewels inspired by nature; his dazzling flowers, including his first orchid brooch, are effortlessly realistic, belying the hours of work put into them.

For René and his early designers, breaking away from the trends became part of their signature. The house was no stranger to using wood and vulcanite with stones and pearls, combinations that were then strikingly unusual. Though René passed away after only two decades at the head of his firm, his wife, Jeanne Poiret, deftly took control. Significantly, Jeanne raised an influential team of female designers at a time when much of the jewellery industry was a man’s domain. Together, they took the firm’s avant-garde jewellery designs and turned them on their head, again.

Though Jeanne preferred to be known as Madame René Boivin, she developed her own style through her designers. Crucially, she supported the up-and-coming Suzanne Belperron, Germaine Boivin, her daughter, and later Juliette Moutarde in their design work. Belperron embraced the Boivin ideal of mixing materials and diverted the maison from the strict lines of Art Deco to rounded forms in yellow gold. Moutarde remained with the firm until her retirement; in this time, she designed the much-imitated "Tranche" bracelet and followed René’s naturalistic theme with her articulated starfish brooch, first made in 1936 with voluptuous cabochon stones along the ridges of its star. Through this period, Madame Boivin entrusted these designs to her long-term master jeweller Davière and lapidary Adrien Louart.

Madame René Boivin believed that to own a Boivin jewel was to share in this trusted relationship. Moreover, the maison was reluctant to sign jewels, unless upon client request, knowing that their style and craftsmanship spoke for themselves.