Mauboussin's history

1827 - 1880

The political upheaval that rocked France over the course of these fifty years stood in contrast to the determination, courage, boldness and foresightedness of a certain Mr Rocher who, in 1827, dared to gamble on what would happen in the future by opening a jewellery workshop in Rue Greneta, near to the Porte Saint Martin, in a Paris that at that time bore none of Haussmann’s influence and where Boulevard Sébastopol did not yet exist. Rocher and his successor, Jean-Baptiste Noury, faced many challenges during this period, including two revolutions, a coup d’Etat, a war and a cholera epidemic.

Despite all this, Paris, the City of Light, was regrouping. The Romantic Movement fostered artistic creation, while interest in classical artefacts and techniques grew following Napoleon III’s acquisition of the Campana collection. Etruscan, Greek and Roman artefacts were exhibited at the Louvre, to the delight of Parisians, and served as models for the city’s many and increasingly skilled jewellers. However, the oppressive social hierarchy of the time meant that the formal and religious aspect of the language of jewellery served mainly to demonstrate prestige and social power, with ostentatious pieces in purple and gold.

Hoping to consolidate its colonial conquests in Africa and Oceania, France increased the number of Universal Exhibitions, which also helped to stimulate the sharing of ideas and knowledge, as well as competitions. In Paris in 1878, Maison Noury finally gained the recognition that had been both expected and deserved – a medal !

1880 - 1923

At the same time as diamonds were becoming less rare thanks to newly discovered mines in Kimberley (South Africa), France was seeing a rise in industrial powers and a period of political calm. Noury’s nephew, Georges Mauboussin, started out as an apprentice at his uncle’s company, before taking over the management of its workshops in 1883. In 1898, he took sole control of the company. Although the period was calmer and the increasingly wealthy middle classes aspired to wear fine jewellery, the young Mauboussin still faced fierce competition from the likes of big names such as Falize, Massin, Mellerio, Vever and Wièze, as well as newcomers Cartier and Boucheron, who were then taking their first steps onto the jewellery scene, to great acclaim. Paris was becoming the international capital for expertise in jewellery. It was there that platinum was first used to make settings lighter. Popular styles were widely reproduced but 19th century motifs – fleur-de-lis, foliage, palm leaves, garlands of flowers, knotted ribbons à la Marie-Antoinette – ended up falling out of fashion. Women at that time were so conventional that, for the most part, they took little interest in the designs offered by Art Nouveau, which, with its whiplash lines and depictions of ephemeral women, soon gained a nefarious reputation.

After the First World War had ended, the visionary Georges Mauboussin felt the need to be closer to the Opéra district and moved to Rue de Choiseul in 1923. He reorganised the different jobs, checking each phase of the production process and relocating the lapidary and diamond-cutting workshops to the top of the building. Designers, setters and polishers worked above the sales rooms and showrooms located on the first floor, where none of the windows looked out directly onto the street, as clients remained fiercely private about their purchases.

In 1928, the Maison opened outlets in New York, London and Buenos Aires under the leadership of Georges’ son, Pierre Mauboussin, a man of many talents who applied his skills in markedly different fields, including aerodynamics. Known for designing automobile bodywork and building planes, he was the inventor of the Fouga Magister, the famous aeroplane used by the Patrouille de France.

Mauboussin maintained long-term relations with women through high-end magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and L’Officiel, which featured the pieces created by jewellers to accessorise Haute Couture designs. Lucien Lelong gowns and Mauboussin jewellery were often worn together, captured by famous and talented photographers such as Horst and George Hoyningen-Huene. As a result, Mauboussin pieces were seen around the world in a wide-ranging artistic climate.

1923 - 1930

Haute Couture is born, Paul Poiret has freed women from their corsets and Cartier has created the first wristwatches for women that embody a new concept of luxury, giving rise to a series of motifs that were then ‘on trend’ – travel, liners, sports, big hotels… At that time, Paris was attracting flocks of eccentrics who could have stepped straight out of some huge baroque fresco, with artists, Russian princes and opulent maharajahs rubbing shoulders with people from the world of fashion and avant-gardists in literature, painting and dance. The spirit of the Roaring Twenties in the period between the two wars was jubilant, cosmopolitan, with women going wild for the Ballets Russes and other tales from the Thousand and One Nights. The materials used by Mauboussin reflected this appetite for exoticism, from jade and shellac from the Far East to mother-of-pearl, pearls, coral and lapis lazuli from the Middle East and coloured stones carved in India.

The ebullience and enthusiasm inspired by these exotic finds spurred on the emergence of the quintessentially Parisian Art Deco style, which the Maison threw its weight behind, to great success. Mauboussin won a major prize at the French Exhibition in New York in 1924, followed by a gold medal at the Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris in 1925. Its unique creativity was also recognised at the Galliera Exhibition in Paris in 1929 and the Colonial Exhibition in 1931.

1930 - 1939

Under the influence of Cubism, Mauboussin inclined towards geometric shapes and the simplicity they afforded, following a strict order and production process, from Milanese bracelets to octagonal brooches. Contrasting effects were created using lines and combining round, square and baton-cut pavé diamonds. It was a world of elegance par excellence.

In 1933, Mauboussin’s international reputation was further boosted when it was made purveyor by appointment to Yashwant Rao Holkar, the Maharajah of Indore and a hugely knowledgeable connoisseur of Art Deco style. The Maison made the settings for important ceremonial attire using the most beautiful stones from the maharajah’s collection – the Indore Pears and Porter Rhodes, which rank among the world’s most beautiful diamonds.

From 1936 onwards, Mauboussin forged close commercial ties with the New York jeweller Trabert & Hoeffer, which, under the name Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin Inc., set up a flagship store at 407 Park Avenue and owned branches across the United States. Marlene Dietrich, Paulette Godard and Audrey Hepburn would all fall in love with the French jeweller’s creativity.

The 1939 World Fair in New York marked one of the high points of the century in the annals of high jewellery, where Mauboussin exhibited sparkling pieces dripping with diamonds that were both bold in their design and hung beautifully. Jewellery that could be worn in different ways was becoming increasingly popular, such as bracelets with detachable parts and brooches that could be worn as a pendant or separated into two.

In 1946, the Maison moved to 20 Place Vendôme, joining other major jewellers such as Boucheron, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels. In a key development, the windows that looked out onto the street were opened up. This ‘open door’ policy and new way of accessing the world of luxury goods was a sign of a democratisation that would have been unthinkable just ten years earlier. More and more women were buying jewellery for themselves. In 1955, a new ’boutique’ opened selling mass-produced pieces of jewellery aimed at a clientele who understood the value of heritage, while being highly choosy about brands and signatures and exacting when it came to quality and creativity.

High-end magazines such as Plaisir de France, L’Art et la Mode, L’Officiel and Vogue continued to play a key role in promoting Mauboussin’s image. These years were marked by the return of the notion of luxury, accompanied by a certain creative exuberance that emerged as a result of a rediscovered joie de vivre. They also saw a greater emphasis on elaborate decoration, thanks to the extensive use of diamonds and coloured precious stones.

1945 - 1960

In the years that followed the war, a wave of fantasy swept through the world of jewellery. Pieces became chunkier, with a proliferation of coils and scrolls. Different types of gold – yellow and rose – took over necklaces, brooches and rings, either burnished to create shining surfaces or chased, imitating the texture of fabric or worked into delicately jointed twisted threads or flat ribbons. Stylistically, the constraints of Art Deco style were abandoned in favour of a greater freedom that affected the shapes and designs of jewellery as much as the spirit in which it was worn. Although brooches remained dominant, rings saw a sharp rise in popularity, as did wristwatches decorated with designs from the world of jewellery.

1960 - 1975

From the early forties, the trading hubs moved from London and Paris to New York. All eyes looked across the Atlantic during the ‘Kennedy years’. The attraction and fascination between Paris and New York was mutual, with the two cities sharing the same creative euphoria. From America came a penchant for dynamic shapes, in great lyrical flights. The repertoire of designs became highly figurative, with jewellery taken over by birds and flowers with sinuous outlines and vivid colours. René Lacaze, one of the most creative designers of the era, excelled in these colourful evocations. He did a lot of work with Mauboussin and often set the trend. Multicoloured arrangements of coloured precious stones – cut, carved or cabochons – became characteristic of an expressive style. Colour palettes were enriched with the introduction of turquoise and coral. It was a way of expressing a somewhat frivolous gaiety and of allowing nature to speak with a certain generosity. Enamel became fashionable once more following a long period of being out of favour.

With its range of different shades, it was used to depict the diamond pattern on Harlequin’s clothes, who would become the Maison’s ‘mascot’, both symbolically and figuratively. He embodied the night, celebration, laughter, music, carefreeness, friendship and love; in short, he symbolised a spirit of gaiety and pleasure.

From 1968, the emphasis was on preserving a newly won freedom, giving free rein to emotion and the quest for happiness and harmonious tonalities. A certain – moderate (it was still the world of high jewellery, after all!) – questioning of forms emerged, with the provocative side revealed in fragmented designs and dissymmetry. With the emergence of new ideas, such as the famous ‘return to the land’, came unexpected materials from Africa, such as wood, malachite and ivory.

In the 1990s, Maison Mauboussin took an unusual path that began when the entourage of the Sultan of Brunei fell for the quality and creativity of Patrick Mauboussin’s jewellery. Several additional designers were taken on, bringing the number working in the studio to six. New workshops were opened, followed by new boutiques in Taipei, Seoul and Avenue Montaigne. Going against the affected minimalism that characterised the period, the Maison’s designers created sinuous shapes and subversive colour combinations.

In 1994, Mauboussin entered the world of watchmaking. The venture was led by a team of passionate men, chaired by Alain Mauboussin and managed by Richard Mille, under the slogan ‘combining Swiss technical expertise with French creativity’. Aesthetically, a new collection of watches was born – a wide, recognisable range for men and women, with vibrant sports models, automatic chronometers, scientific chronographs and elegant, ultra-slim models for evening wear. The Maison sought an overarching visual unity that could be seen in the outline and curve of the simple yet elegant bezel. This first collection later gave rise to further developments, including the Lady M watch and, in 1999, the more masculine Fouga watch, with its built-up shapes and notched gadroons.

1980 - 2000

Jean Goulet-Mauboussin successively appointed his two sons, Alain and Patrick, to the management team of the family business. The two brothers’ passion and youth injected new energy into the Maison. They knew how to incorporate the essential into a piece of jewellery using a simplified language that could be grasped immediately, emphasising tactile qualities, curves and real-life experience over superfluous decoration to respond to new emotions. With this change of generation came a new star – the Nadia ring, whose name comes from the first two syllables of its component materials, mother-of-pearl (‘nacre’ in French) and diamond (‘diamant’).

2000 - 2019

Maison Mauboussin remains independent to this day, something that is quite remarkable in the world of French jewellery at a time when almost all family-owned jewellers have been taken over by big financial groups.

It wants to open up the world of jewellery to this clientele and give them access to a cultural heritage that is shared worldwide and within which it sits – Place Vendôme, the Champs Elysées, the Saint Germain district. But how can we refresh the image of this Maison that is nearly two hundred years old? This delicate task has been entrusted to Alain Némarq, a man from the world of fashion who understands that women expect what they wear to match their lifestyle. Although they want their jewellery to become a symbol of their integration into today’s world, they above all understand that a jeweller accompanies them on a sociological journey that is fast and ever-changing, from one decade to the next.

Creativity risked being stifled as a result of an approach that was too pompous, too embedded in an elitist image. A new, closer kind of creativity was needed, where the emotional capacity of the designer had to be relative to how they perceive the spirit of the present day, which is multifaceted, ever-changing and universal. In a word, jewellery had to reflect diversity for all people. The four-pointed star featured on the Maison’s rings, pendants and stud earrings is just such an example of a universally understood design. The clover-shaped rings in the Chance of Love collection or the triangular Peace Colour ring, decorated with coloured semiprecious stones, all reflect universal emotions. Their symbolic shapes are immediately comprehensible.