A visit to Chaumet’s new boutique in Sydney’s historic center is a rare opportunity to come in close contact with the maison’s exquisite creations. The space itself carries an air of grandiosity and elegance – a fine expression of Parisian luxury many shores away from the maison’s iconic address at 12 Place Vendome in Paris.
Chaumet has crossed paths with Empress Joséphine – the luxury jeweler’s first major client – and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, which has resulted in collections executed to the highest standards and made to last for eternity.
The maison’s founder, Marie-Étienne Nitot, was widely known as ‘the jeweler of the tiara’ whose creations were grounded in the realm of nature. Nitot’s affiliation with royalty formed roots while he worked for Queen Marie Antoinette’s jeweler. Later, Nitot would go on to create the coronation crown for Napoleon and Empress Joséphine’s tiara, which led to an aristocratic clientele and the creation of many more tiaras to come.
“Jewelry is even more important today, so it’s a great opportunity, particularly for a maison like Chaumet, because we bring something very different to the market.”
The luxury jewelry house hasn’t just stood the test of time – time itself is reflected in its archival drawings and in the jewelry pieces themselves, which have strong influences from Romanticism, Naturalism, Belle Époque and Art Deco, to name a few.
“We understand that we are here because we had amazing predecessors. If not, we would not have been around for 243 years,” Chaumet CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt tells The CEO Magazine.
Against the backdrop of the French Revolution, two World Wars and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, Chaumet continues to thrive and progress at its own pace. The strength to navigate these external calamities with grace and a focus on longevity is impressive for a centuries-old jewelry house.
“We are not in a hurry,” Mansvelt says. “We think that it’s more important to do things the right way at the right time, but be successful and be understood by the client when we open in a new country or open a new store before going to the next one.”
This thoughtful and steady approach hints at the origins of the maison – a bygone era in which highly skilled craftsmanship and a refined aesthetic stand out in a world characterized by mass production and speed.
Surprisingly, these values hold a great deal of weight for younger generations, who are fascinated by Chaumet’s history and lasting legacy. “We see young people coming to us very much prepared with thousands of questions,” Mansvelt says.
“I think they [younger generations] are very interested in a maison like us with this sense of eternity because, again, that’s the paradox. The more the digital world is expanding, the more they are interested in things that are in the real world,” he says.
Staying true to the DNA of the brand finds expression in the physical experience of visiting a store.
“We are not in a hurry. We think that it’s more important to do things the right way at the right time.”
While the world may be turning to digital solutions to stay ahead of the competition, Mansvelt believes that the maison’s boutiques are an important bridge to understanding the company’s heritage and its collections on a deeper level.
“Today, the core of what we do and what we experience is really through the store,” Mansvelt affirms. “And, of course, once you know Chaumet a little bit more, you already know the different collections and understand a little bit more about the maison, then the digital becomes a service.”
The in-person experience also makes sense at a time when, Mansvelt explains, the jewelry market is expanding and capturing new clients is paramount.
“An enormous portion of our clients are new to us because the market is expanding,” he explains. “Jewelry is even more important today, so it’s a great opportunity, particularly for a maison like Chaumet, because we bring something very different to the market.”
To this day, Chaumet’s fine creations are connected to special occasions and declarations of love through tiaras, engagement rings and bridal sets. At the same time, expanding into new markets has led the maison to launch pendants that reflect what consumers are currently wearing.
Telling the story of Chaumet with creative flair
While Mansvelt spends his days listening to clients and the Chaumet team to uncover and learn about what piques people’s interest, this is balanced with a lens into the past.
“I always try to bring it back to the question of, ‘does it make sense potentially in the history of Chaumet?’ It’s a nice filter because it avoids a certain number of things that could be nice right now,” he suggests.
With an extensive collection of drawings, totalling 65,000 at 12 Place Vendome, the possibilities of unearthing new insights into the evolution of the maison are endless.
“At the 12 Vendome, because we have kept everything since the beginning, we have more than 60 [metric] tons of documents,” he explains. “So, as you can imagine, we know a good portion of what we have, but we don’t know everything.”
This rare collection of works is akin to a visual journey through history that’s captured within the drawings. “You see the evolution of the trends, the different periods of art because, of course, you create pieces in the Chaumet style at a certain moment in time,” Mansvelt enthuses.
In recent years, Chaumet’s CEO has endeavored to take a more audacious approach to sharing the maison’s rich history and High Jewelry collections.
Last year, for instance, the company’s latest exhibition entitled, ‘Botanical – Observing Beauty’ in Paris captivated audiences with its eclectic mix of 400 botanical-themed works, including luxury jewelry pieces.
“We had huge success,” Mansvelt recalls. “It was almost fully booked during the two months because people were discovering things that had never been put together. It drew people interested in jewelry, but also many other people who had no clue about jewelry, but who discovered jewelry in the middle of paintings, photos and videos.”
While publishing books and holding exhibitions has always held a great deal of significance for Chaumet, creating podcasts is another avenue the company is exploring.
“We have created a podcast where one person from Chaumet, typically the master of the workshop, has a conversation with someone, an artist or craftsman.”
The meeting of two different perspectives provides yet another portal into the Chaumet universe, which Manevelt tells The CEO Magazine isn’t about making a powerful gesture, but rather about making a choice of distinction.
“The style of Chaumet is always about lightness, as light as possible, the presence combined with the lightness. It’s not a demonstration of power,” he admits. “You are ready to wear things that are very unusual, not conventional.”
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