Since its very beginning, Boucheron has carved out a place for itself among the great names as a reference of French luxury in the very exclusive world of designer jewelry. Boucheron’s work spanned multiple design eras, notably Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Second Empire styles. Though he started with little capital and a small stock of jewelry, Boucheron quickly attracted Parisian trendsetters’ attention. This is greatly due to Boucheron’s innovative style and the excellence of his designs, the quality of which has always been lauded by experts throughout the eras. Boucheron’s love of India and Asia and his home of France inspired him to create many one of a kind pieces and collections dedicated to cultures around the world. Among his specialties were lacy gold metalwork embellished with diamonds, engraved diamonds (uncommon still today) and delicate plique-à-jour enameling. The gemstones he used were carefully selected for color and quality. Even Boucheron’smost accomplished competitors, like André Massin, praised the firm's pieces for their “faultless craftsmanship.”
The Parisian house, Boucheron, was begun as a small shop in 1858 by Frédéric Boucheron. Only 9 years after opening his first boutique, Boucheron won his first Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, followed by a Grand Prize at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878 for a foliage necklace of sapphires and diamonds set with a central sapphire of 159 carats, created for Mrs. H. Mackay.
In 1893 Boucheron moved to the mansion previously owned by the Contesse de Castiglione, at 26 Place Vendôme, the first jeweler to do so, sparking the rise of the Place Vendôme as the epicenter of Parisian luxury. Legend has it that he chose the sunniest corner of the squarebecause he believed that the diamonds in the windows would sparkle all the more brilliantly. While the Parisian branch of Boucheron remains at the same location today, four generations of the Boucheron family have helped the brand become a worldwide leader in the High Jewelry market expanding to the four corners of the globe with 34 boutiques.
Boucheron’s early career was begun during the era of Napoleon and was greatly influenced, as were all artisans and the public in general, by the treasures Napoleon brought back from his campaigns. Etruscan, Greek, and Roman sculpture and artifacts along with articles from Pompeii and Cuvac, and the influence of Egyptian culture through the creation of the Suez Canal visually inspired Boucheron. High society wanted jewels that replicated and played off of the artifacts and Boucheron was happy to oblige with his own interpretations. This replication was referred to as the Revivalist Style and Boucheron became a master of it. By 1875 Boucheron had become synonymous with luxury and taste, and was one of a few firms chosen in that year to represent the French Luxury Trades in the World Exhibition in Philadelphia.
Much of the firm’s early reputation can be attributed to the many lavish and important weddings whose brides, grooms, and attendants were decked with jewels specially created by Boucheron. One of these much-publicized events was the 1893 marriage of King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria to Princess Marie-Louise of Bourbon-Parma: this was also an early indication of the royal patronage the firm was to enjoy, from the Reza Shah Pahlavi to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.
The Art Nouveau style which replaced the Revivalist took its inspiration from the poetry of nature and referenced past models. Necklaces and tiaras created in the Boucheron workshops featured cut out leaves set with diamonds, sinuous lines of branches in gold and the shimmer of precious stones. Boucheron explored plique-à-jour enamel thirty years before it became a staple technique of Art Nouveau, and ingeniously combined gold with steel – a technique used by armories – to create original pieces of jewelry. The Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 marked the peak of the Art Nouveau movement and Boucheron was its master, receiving both the Grand Prix and Gold Medal for his designs.
Frédéric Boucheron’s son, Louis, assumed control of the business after his father’s death in 1902, and branches were opened in New York and London. Under Louis, Boucheron continued to produce exquisite Art Nouveau, Edwardian, and Art Deco pieces. During the 1930’s and 40’s, Boucheron popularized detachable dress clips, i.e., clips that could be worn separately or combined into a single piece, depending on one’s outfit or mood. Like others during the Retro period, its designers made ample use of three-dimensional motifs, flexible chains, and tassels.
Actors, royalty and artists have always been fans of Boucheron since it opened its doors 150 years ago. Caroline Otero, the cabaret dancer cum temptress known as La Belle Otero was a Boucheron enthusiast as was the famed theater actress Sarah Bernhardt and the writers Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust. Film stars including Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich also bejeweled themselves with Boucheron. More recently celebrities like Eva Longoria, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachel Weisz and Diane Kruger have all come under the Boucheron spell of spectacular creations. Royal patrons of the company have included Maharajah Sir Bhupindar Singh of Patiala, Riza Shah Pahlavi, Czar Alexander III, Queen Farida of Egypt, Queen Rania of Jordan, and Queen Elizabeth the II as well as affluent American families including the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers and the Kennedy’s.