Historical Spotlight: Frédéric Boucheron

July 31, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

Like many of the great French jewelry ateliers, the Boucheron company was formed in the mid-19th century. The first jeweler to move the legendary Place Vendȏme, with the unit at number 26 being chosen due to Boucheron believing it to be the sunniest location in the square, and therefore all the better for the pieces in the window to capture as much light as possible.

Although beginning from a foundation far from some of the more modest initiations of other jewelry houses, Boucheron still had to prove the worth of his creations. His skill as a designer, and his eye for quality during the overseeing of his craftsmen meant Maison Boucheron quickly came to the attention of many of Europe’s prominent families, partly through the award of several medals at global exhibition events.

In 1888, Frédéric Boucheron made a gift to his wife of a necklace which incorporated a snake in the design. Snakes are symbols of protection, and Mme Boucheron always wore the necklace when her husband was away. The snake symbol has remained central to the Boucheron philosophy to this day, and is considered something of a talisman for the company.

In 1887, an auction took place of the French Crown Jewels in a bid to allay fears of a return to the royalist past, and Frédéric Boucheron was the only major French dealer in attendance. He managed to acquire a total of 31 diamonds, including two of 16 and 18 carats, respectively, along with a diamond belonging to the Empress Eugénie. Despite rumors of who had commissioned Boucheron to purchase the much sought after stone, he had bought it to set into a ring for his wife. The auction, and Boucheron’s success there, led to a further increase in demand for pieces produced by his workshop, and necessitated a move the larger Place Vendȏme premises in 1893.

By 1900, the Boucheron company was firmly established as a leader of the Art Nouveau movement, using previously unheard of combinations of precious stones and other materials, as well as pioneering the use of more unusual elements such as onyx, ivory and bronze. It is believed that Maison Boucheron created the first Dragonfly brooch in 1903, a design that is still highly symbolic of the Art Nouveau movement.

Vintage Boucheron Engagement RingFrédéric Boucheron died in 1902, and the company was passed down to his children, notably Louis, who kept up his father’s well established practices and high standards. A keen proponent of the emerging Art Deco movement of the time, Louis also oversaw the expansion of the company overseas, with boutiques being opened in Moscow, London and New York.

Throughout the 20th century, Maison Boucheron continued to be one of the most prominent suppliers of jewelry and precious stones to many of the world’s royal families, and Louis Boucheron himself often acted as consultant to prominent regimes to assist in the appraisal of jewelry collections that had been acquired, often over centuries.

Following Louis Boucheron’s death in 1959, the company still remained firmly as a family-owned business until the mid-1990s when it was sold to the Schweizerhall Corporation and then onto Gucci in 2000. Expansion continued, and the company now have 34 boutiques around the world, all selling creations inspired by the founder of the company.

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