Royal families, aristocrats and the upper echelons of high society have always favored jewelry as the ultimate status symbol – priceless family heirlooms to pass down through generations. With their enduring links to the aforementioned ‘elite’, Chaumet has been supplying and creating exceptional jewels throughout its 240-year history. An exhibition, ‘Chaumet in Majesty – Jewels of Sovereigns since 1780’, featuring some of the world’s most exquisite tiaras, took place last year at the resplendent Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Now, we take a closer look at some of the pieces within Chaumet’s breathtaking archive – pieces once worn by the likes of Empress Josephine (Chaumet’s original muse), and Princess Grace herself.
Tiara belonging to Princess Henckel von Donnersmarck - attributed to Joseph Chaumet (1852-1928) circa 1900, in platinum, gold, silver, emeralds and diamonds. Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck amassed a huge fortune from his steelworks and coal mining businesses; he would commission Chaumet to create generous gifts for both his first wife, Esther Lachman, and second wife, a Russian aristocrat named Katharina Wassilievna de Slepzow. The origin of this tiara, dating from the turn of the twentieth century, is complex. The central band, resting on a garland of laurel leaves, is formed of eleven cushion-cut yellowish diamonds alternating with pairs of lily-of-the-valley. Crowning the diamond-set base are eleven pear-shaped emeralds, traditionally believed to come from the private collection of Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. When the empress went into exile, she left the Crown jewels behind but took away her large private collection – this tiara is a fitting reminder of her love for emeralds.
Les Ciels De Chaumet Tiara ‘Soleil Glorieux’ or Glorious Sun tiara in white and yellow gold, set with a cushion-cut fancy intense yellow diamond, cabochon-cut rock crystals, brilliant-cut diamonds and yellow diamonds.
Fuchsias tiara belonging to Princess Hedwige of Bourbon-Parma. By Joseph Chaumet (1825-1928) in 1919 in platinum and diamonds. Armand, Duke of Doudeauville commissioned Chaumet to create this tiara for his daughter Hedwige, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma on November 12, 1919. Taking place so soon after World War I, the union was widely covered in society magazines. Princess Hedwige died in 1986 but her daughter Isabelle continued to wear the tiara regularly for receptions at the grand ducal court in Luxembourg.
Sunburst Aigrette – Joseph Chaumet (1852-1928) in 1916, in gold, platinum, emerald and diamonds. Since ancient times, the solar system – with its richly symbolic motifs – has provided a constant source of inspiration for jewelry designers. Within the Chaumet Archives, sun, moon, and star motifs, in brooches and tiaras, were particularly popular from the late Belle Époque to the Roaring Twenties. This Sunburst tiara takes the form of a large sun whose rays radiate from a central emerald, haloed with two rows of diamonds.
Wheat-ear tiara – François-Regnault Nitot (1779-1853) circa 1811, in gold, silver and diamonds. Following the proclamation of the Empire on May 18, 1804, Empress Joséphine chose to wear diamond wheat-ears for her first appearance as sovereign of the French for the Légion d’Honneur ceremony at the Hôtel des Invalides on July 15. Throughout her reign, the Empress was particularly fond of wheat-ear tiaras, like this one composed of nine ears of wheat set with more than 66 carats of antique-cut diamonds mounted on gold and silver. Ever since, the ear of wheat has been a part of Maison Chaumet’s naturalistic repertoire.
Baroque pearl tiara – Chaumet, circa 1930 in platinum, natural pearls and diamonds. Twenty-six baroque pearls form an elegantly majestic halo on this tiara, which was loaned on several occasions to Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza, Countess of Paris. A popular figure in Parisian society, the Countess was well liked for her affable nature and good humor and despite access to a number of head ornaments and historic pieces from the family collection, she was always fond of this diamond and pearl tiara, which she often borrowed to wear for official portraits.
Firmament Apollinien Layral tiara – Chaumet, La Nature de Chaumet collection 2016 in gold, silver and sapphires. For over two hundred years, Chaumet has continued to reinterpret the laurel motif. Designed in 2016, the convertible Firmament Apollinien tiara is set with a central 14.55kt Ceylon sapphire, diamonds, and a row of cabochon sapphires, and can be transformed into a simpler bandeau tiara by detaching the upper part affixed with a discreet system of clips.
Tiara with trefoils belonging to Countess Mountbatten of Burma, last Vicerine of India – Chaumet (private collection), 1934, in platinum and diamonds. In 1928, Marie Dow, Baroness Émile de Cartier de Marchienne, made the acquisition of a tiara in the art deco style. A few months earlier, her husband was appointed Belgian Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. In order to respect protocol, the baroness returned to Chaumet to commission a new frame for her tiara – the design she chose was made up of a series of elegant scrolls surrounding trefoil motifs in the Indian style.
Vertiges tiara – Scott Armstrong for Chaumet, 2017, in white gold, rose gold, diamond, citrines, yellow garnets, green beryls, green tourmalines and emeralds. To mark the opening of the exhibition ‘Imperial Splendours: The Art of Jewellery Since the 18th Century’ in Beijing’s Forbidden City in 2017, Chaumet asked students of Central Saint Martins, London, to create a tiara for the twenty-first century. The winner of the competition was Scott Armstrong – now a designer at the Chaumet studio. He drew inspiration from the Maison’s naturalistic tradition, combined with 1974 tome, The French Formal Garden. Comprising of tourmalines and garnets in a succession of green and yellow hues, the classicism of formal gardens combined with surprising design features result in a light, elevated style that is signature Chaumet.
Carnation tiara commissioned by Madame Henri de Wendel – Joseph Chaumet (1852-1928), 1905, in platinum and diamonds. Commissioned in 1905 for Galliane de Wendel, the wife of a wealthy French industrialist named Henri de Wendel, on the occasion of the wedding of their son François Odette Humann. The Wendels were a powerful family belonging to a famous dynasty of steelmakers and were typical of Chaumet’s clientele during the Belle Époque. Moving away from the Romantic models of the previous century, Joseph Chaumet reinterpreted naturalistic flower motifs, in keeping with the influences of Art Nouveau. The result is a boldly stylized depiction of a delicate and wild nature, with a 19.56kt antique-cut brilliant central diamond, which can be detached and worn as a pendant.