The story begins in the year of 1858 with Frédéric Boucheron, who ventured away from his family line of clothiers, and opened his first Galerie de Valois boutique in Paris. He brought the fluidity and suppleness of fabrics into his gold work, which in turn garnered flocks of people into his Palais Royal boutique. Frédéric’s innovative spirit won him a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867 and 11 years after, he won the first prize (Grand Prix) at the same exhibition for creations that included a 159-carat sapphire necklace made for a wealthy customer named Marie Louise Mackay.
The achievements were indeed a foretelling of all the heights Frédéric’s work would touch for in the following years, he received more Grand Prix wins and another gold medal. In his days, Frédéric was known not just for his work but the love he had for his wife, Gabrielle. The latter was proved when he acquired 31 diamonds at the auction of the French Crown Jewels, held in 1887, and gifted one of the most beautiful jewels of Empress Eugénie’s to his wife, in a manner to pledge his eternal affection.
Within the 19th century, the most significant landmark since its birth, was when Boucheron became the first jeweller to open a boutique in the famous Place Vendôme, a square in Paris which is credited of showcasing French elegance at its best. Word is that he chose the mansion house at number 26 so that the sunlight would reflect well against the gemstones inside the store.
Upon Frédéric’s demise in 1902, the future of the house passed down to his children. In particular, Louis Boucheron, who oversaw the name’s expansion overseas. Ownership remained within the family, up until 1994.
The Serpent & Its Significance
The serpent is an icon, a symbol of eternity and the protective spirit of Boucheron. Its use dates back to the 19th century when Monsieur Frédéric Boucheron made a special necklace in the design of a snake and gifted it to his wife as a sort of talisman or lucky charm for her while he travelled. Today, the animal lives not just in the house’s archives but through a variety of designs, and under the collection titled, ‘Serpent Boheme’.
In 1988, the maison ventured into the world of fragrance with ‘Boucheron’ which encapsulated a sweet perfume in a ring-shaped bottle. The Quatre, Boucheron Place Vendôme and the Jaïpur Homme are a few other collections available today. As of 2010, Inter Parfums SA and Boucheron signed a 15-year license agreement to produce perfumes under the brand’s name, replacing the earlier license with L’oreal.
The record of the first timepieces from Boucheron was in the year 1859, and they were delicate pocket watches. Later, in the year 1885, wristwatches were introduced. Today, the brand has collections such as Epure, Epure d’art, Ajourée, and Serpent Boheme but perhaps the house’s most revered watch is the Reflet. Launched in 1947, the design is a rectangular gadrooned case with interchangeable straps, and it stands to personify elegance and innovation.
Fun fact: Edith Piaf, heralded as France’s national chanteuse, is known to have owned at least 21 Reflet watches.
Fine Jewelry Collections
From among a list that includes Nature Triomphante, Hiver Imperial, Animaux de Collection, Architecture and Jack de Boucheron, we picked these three core collections by Boucheron:
The celebrated Serpent Boheme line from 1968 is a dedication to the house’s iconic serpent, presented in a symbolic way rather than a figurative one. The designs are characterised by a dance of gold and precious stones with the order of beaded contours, pear-shaped motifs and coiled accents mimicking the serpent’s textured skin. Originally, only diamonds were used as gemstones, however as the years went by, the house added amethyst, citrine, onyx, white mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli and for their Fall 2018, turquoise was introduced.
The Quatre collection can be recognised by the use of four gold bands: yellow, white, rose and the brand’s own ‘chocolate’. Launched in 2004, each band is sculpted to be different in material and texture, thus offering a rather edgy and defiant look. The collection pays tribute to the architectural reverence of Paris with details like the ribbed ‘gadroon’ referring to the Grand Palais or the Eiffel Tower.
Cup-like motifs achieved through artistic sculpting techniques define the Frou Frou collection. The motifs are carved using gold and given ribbed textures that look like subtle pleats. As for the stones, sparkling diamonds and colourful tourmalines are used in the collection.
Gucci acquired the house of Boucheron in the year 2000 from Schweizerhall. Four years later, PPR, now known as Kering, bought Gucci. So today, Boucheron exists in the cradle of Kering with Claire Choisne as the Creative Director. Since then, multiple stores have opened up, and the Place Vendôme has been renovated to gift customers an experience to remember.
The world of luxury needs brands like Boucheron to live on. This way we will always know how to trace back the journey of the evolution of fine jewelry-making and map the progress we have achieved. Over 161 years of existence and a growing clientele that includes royal patrons as well as film stars; at this, one can only ponder: What else will the future add to this remarkable history?