In an industry where “pushing the boundaries of design” has become somewhat of a cliché, a trailblazer like Claire Choisne, creative director of Boucheron, comes along and reminds us that there are still true innovators out there.
Last year, as I perused the grand pieces of Boucheron’s new 62-piece Hiver Impérial high jewellery collection, it was a ring that was perhaps the best example of Choisne’s virtuosity. The idea was to create a snowball that “can shine like the sun,” she told me.
To that end, a round rock crystal was hollowed out and filled with 1,700 minuscule diamonds. Special tools were developed to carve out the crystal through a microscopic hole until the dome was a mere 1.3mm thick. Then Choisne and her team used a special technique to inject more than 30 carats of melee diamonds into the dome, creating the illusion that the rock crystal had disappeared. It was a work of genius.
As Choisne modestly acknowledged achieving what she described as a “near-impossible task,” I learned she had already set herself an even bigger challenge. “To be honest, I’m not sure I will succeed,” she told me last year. “It freaks me out thinking about the work yet that lies ahead.”
Fast-forward one year and, voila, Choisne, has outdone herself. The Nature Triomphante high jewellery collection, which involved three years of research and development, was unveiled in July during Haute Couture Week in Paris.
Among its many majestic stunners are the Fleur Graphique necklace, set with an exquisite 5.65-carat Colombian cushion-cut emerald, and the Nuage de Fleurs necklace in pink gold, mother-of-pearl and pavé diamonds set with a 42.96-carat cushion-cut pink tourmaline. But, again, it is a delicate ring—actually, a set of nine—that deserves special attention.
The hyper-realistic Eternal Flowers rings have frozen nature in time. Using state-of-the-art techniques, the petals of live flowers, including peonies, roses and anemones, have been preserved and set in fine layers of titanium, finished with a light lacquer gloss and then ornamented with precious stones such as garnets and sapphires, while the stamens have been covered in pink gold.
“I knew I had to create a nature-inspired collection for Boucheron’s 160th anniversary because it’s very important to the brand’s DNA, but I had to find a new way to present it,” says Choisne.
“And I thought that while the flower is one of the most beautiful products of nature, it’s also very fleeting. Thus, I went to find a way to keep these flowers in a state of perpetual beauty. And the result, I feel, is quite emotional—it stirs something in you as you wear or look at it. At the same time, it’s also a humble jewel, really, because it isn’t a showy piece with a huge stone or an audacious design. It’s just nature immortalised.”
Indeed, the magnificence of the Eternal Flowers rings is in their rawness. On close inspection, you see all the details—the flower’s veins, uneven petals. “As a designer and a jeweller, the natural tendency is to create something impeccable—correct its flaws, perfect its proportions,” explains Choisne, “but nature is perfect with its imperfections.”
I’ve been in awe of Choisne’s work since she took the helm of Boucheron’s creative team. She has so brilliantly and consistently been able to fuse old-school, traditional crafts with cutting-edge technology, all while being completely respectful of Boucheron’s heritage and traditions. “I’m not a purist,” she says.
“Yes, in this industry we love romanticising the art of traditional crafts—watching craftsmen making jewellery the old-school way, and with reason; these are valuable techniques that are tested and have been perfected with time. But today, we have access to technology that will allow us to do more, so we need to learn how to combine both old and new tools.”
In spite her accomplishments, though, Choisne is quick to add that innovation has in fact always been in Boucheron’s DNA. “Frédéric Boucheron, our founder, was a designer whose instinct was guided by a taste for innovation and entrepreneurial vision. We were ‘modern’ even then and I’m simply continuing the work he started 160 years ago.”
Frédéric Boucheron’s are enormous shoes to fill, but Choisne has proved she has the wherewithal to fill them.