Chaumet CEO presents its new exhibition, A Golden Age: 1965-1985
“Nothing could stop the creative drive of the Chaumet brothers in the 70s”
The jeweler on 12 Place Vendôme is introducing an unprecedented exhibition covering a previously unexplored period of its history, that between 1965 and 1985. Its president, Jean-Marc Mansvelt gives us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the event.
What is this “Chaumet Golden Age” that the exhibition celebrates?
It encompasses collections by our workshops, primarily produced from the ‘70s up to the mid-80s. Besides the iconic “Lien”, which is still today part of our collections, René Morin, artistic director of the Maison at the time, was very prolific and conceived many other pieces. He gave free rein to his imagination and asked the workshops to embrace his creative drive.
How did that impetus take form?
It resulted in pieces of absolute freedom, something that we cannot reproduce today in any of the Maisons on Place Vendôme. At the time, there wasn’t really a marketing strategy. The artistic director created, the atelier produced, and then they just saw if the piece would sell. It goes the same for fashion, design, the automobile industry, watchmaking, sculpture, painting… Paradoxically, this particular period saw the birth of some of the most iconic pieces ever created, some of them became emblematic but there’s also a whole ocean of forgotten creations!
Why wait so long to unveil these jewels?
First of all, we had to get a hold of them. Certainly, we had multiple archives and preserved heritage pieces, but many others were in the possession of private collectors. Depending on each case, we managed to acquire or secure loans. We must also take into account that this golden period came to an end in 1987, when the Chaumet brothers went bankrupt. For a while, it was impossible to even tackle the subject, as it was inevitably linked to the financial setback.
How far back did your first investigations go?
It’s been a bit over three years since we started working on it, with meticulous attention to detail. Our heritage department has done a remarkable job, and I want to take up this opportunity to praise their work. So has René Morin’s widow, who has helped us enormously. Her memory and her private collections are invaluable treasures. Some pieces also required investigative work, for instance, several creations had been crafted from a crystal block shaped by the Baccarat manufacturer, in Alsace. The only way to get access to them was through their private archives. Not to mention Mr. Schwarts, a former collaborator who approached me with with suitcases filled with zealously preserved jewels. We had lost track of those pieces and we would have never found them without his help. All these factors account for the time it took us.
We are astonished by the inventiveness and technical feat that some pieces reveal…
And all that without 3D modelling! Pieces were drawn freehand, both artistic directors and workshop chiefs trusted their innate senses of proportion to embark on the creation of astonishing pieces. Today, you’ll find plenty of transformable pieces in our collections. While it is tempting to think that this is a recent development, back then designers already had versatile jewellery in mind and created pieces that could be worn on different parts of the body. One such example comes to mind: a long glove stretching all the way up the arm, elaborately worked and ornamented, matching a pendant worn on the opposite ear!
Finally, can you tell us about this pop-up ahead of its time, the “Arcade”?
At 12 Place Vendôme, the carriage entrance separated our two boutiques. The one on the left was reserved for traditional jewellery, like all neighbouring boutiques. The one on the right, however, was entirely devoted to experimentation and it was a rather futuristic setting, where many breathtaking creations were born. The Arcade was 50 years ahead of its time, also in terms of furniture, screens, carpets, and staging. This is precisely what the exhibition aims to capture, a truly exceptional world.
Propos recueillis par Nicolas Salomon
Photos: Jean Picon
Chaumet’s exhibition “A Golden Age: 1965-1985” will be running from October 5 to November 5, 2023. Free admission upon reservation on https://www.chaumet.com/