The creator of prize-winning jewels and jewellery icons
Esteemed jeweller and historian Henri Vever once surmised that Frédéric Boucheron made pieces that "very few of his colleagues would have dared to make at the time". Similar praise for Boucheron’s jewels radiated round the international jewellery world: the maison won a gold medal at the 1867 World Fair, the first they had exhibited at, and coming only one year after Frédéric Boucheron established his own workshop. Boucheron and his workshop head, Paul Legrand, together amassed awards for their “outstanding innovation in jewellery”.
Boucheron’s quest for innovation was innate; the child of clothiers, he grew up appreciating the tactility and suppleness of fabric, which he sought to recreate in gold. The Grand-Duc Wladimir even commissioned him to make a gold necklace that was a close to fabric as possible. Boucheron’s workshop rose to the challenge and created a woven gold, draped scarf necklace as the ultimate sentimental gift for the Grand-Duc’s wife, who he had first met as he returned her dropped scarf at a ball. The Delilah necklace has been a main character of Boucheron’s jewellery box ever since.
Whilst Boucheron pushed the boundaries of what could be done with precious metals, he also created jewellery that recognised the power of its wearers. The Plume de Paon pin, which appears to effortlessly recreate a peacock feather in diamonds, emeralds and sapphire, was reinterpreted as a necklace in 1883 with an adaptable curved collar known as the Point d’Interrogation necklace. Its question-mark shape fits delicately around the neck without needing to be fastened and was Boucheron and Legrand’s emphasis of woman’s freedom and simple beauty.
With prizes and celebrated patrons galore, Boucheron moved his boutique and workshops in 1893 to number 26, Place Vendôme in Paris - now the heart of the fine jewellery world. The outrageous Countess di Castiglione lived at the same address and often popped down for a bauble or two. Over the years, everyone from Czar Alexander III to Jane Birkin has headed to the Boucheron store. Today, Boucheron is still the longest resident of the Place Vendôme.