Chaumet tiaras sold like hotcakes in 2021 – if hotcakes were hand-crafted works of art rendered in diamonds and precious metal, that is. “You may be surprised to know that last year was our absolute record year for the number of tiaras sold,” says Jean-Marc Mansvelt, Chaumet’s faultlessly elegant CEO.
“High jewellery sales have increased a lot, for everyone,” he says, perched on a sofa in the historic grand salons of 12 Place Vendôme, the hôtel particulier (grand townhouse) that Chaumet has called home since 1907. “Is it because it’s more visible, or because jewellers are making more high jewels? Perhaps it’s now seen more as a form of art, and people are wanting to invest in it. We don’t know.”
Déferlante, the high jewellery collection presented last week in Paris, is a compact collection of just seven jewels and one secret watch, the latter coming in a run of three. (It has become something of a tradition for the Place Vendôme jewellery houses to present a small high jewellery collection in January, if one at all, followed by a much larger one in July. Mansvelt confirms that the next collection is an impressive 70 pieces strong.)
Déferlante, which translates as waves crashing, is an echo of the maison’s past. Chaumet has, since its beginnings, taken water as inspiration – be it frozen, cascading, shimmering or dripping. A waterfall bodice ornament shown at the 1900 World Fair in Paris was described by one critic as “the largest, the most sumptuous, the most magical… the limpidness of the gems sparkle like the waves of a waterfall…”
A heritage brooch on display amongst the new collection, harking from 1905, sees rivulets of textured yellow gold culminating in diamond-set sapphires and pearls, but today’s water is nothing but white – white diamonds and white gold set in strong, undulating lines with the occasional imperfect diamond splash sweetly interrupting the flow. “This collection is about waves, and the idea of energy and flow, and movement,” Mansvelt says. “But it is perhaps less figurative than the pieces of the patrimoine.”
True, today’s diamond waves are sharper, whiter, and more modern. Even the tiara – that most old-fashioned seeming of jewels – is bolder, more sculptural and fixed than the usual delicate en tremblant concoctions of the past. The three-row necklace seems to knot rivulets of water at the throat, before sensually cascading down the décolletage, and one of the two pairs of earrings arches gracefully up the lobe while the other pair pours luxuriously downwards.
A spectacular transformable ring features an exquisite 6.05 carat, emerald-cut diamond, part-framed by a dramatic splash of stones which can be removed, and a brooch – generously proportioned – sees seven diamond waves cresting with large stones at their tips. It is echoed in miniature in the secret watch, where a diamond wave can be swept aside to reveal the time, and again in the second ring.
Déferlante may be a small, compact collection, but it expertly takes its cues from the archives to make an impressive splash. It just may need a few more tiaras to satisfy demand.