Bee My Love, the French jewellery house’s latest collection, continues a centuries-old tradition of crafting exquisite, Nature-inspired pieces for Europe’s great and good.
The past of esteemed French jewellery house Chaumet is steeped in European royalty, but we need only look through the history books of British aristocracy to find some of the brand’s most exquisite pieces gracing heads, necks and elegant limbs everywhere from the London social scene to the grand country seats of Great Britain.
For centuries, Paris was known as the epicentre of quality and creativity for high jewellery and, in 1770, Marie-Étienne Nitot cut his teeth under the watchful eye of Ange-Joseph Aubert — jeweller to Marie-Antoinette — before launching his own jewellery house, which later became Chaumet.
Napoleon had quite the eye for jewellery and his fascination with it went beyond mere aesthetics. His passion was largely driven by political motives. He envisioned France as the unrivalled hub of luxury and fashion, claiming its position at the forefront of design and opulence. Nitot, by then a master jeweller, played a pivotal role in fulfilling the Emperor’s grand vision. Not only did he create the magnificent coronation sword for Napoleon and the splendid papal tiara for Pope Pius VII, but he also gained the prestigious title of jeweller to the Imperial court. His status was set once he became the personal jeweller to Empress Joséphine herself — making him the most sought-after maker across Europe. His creations not only adorned the imperial couple, but also epitomised the magnificence and splendour of the French empire.
After Napoleon’s fall, the designs took on a more romantic aesthetic, with Nature at the heart of the pieces, often depicted in the most realistic form. From 1885, Joseph Chaumet took the steering wheel, building the jewellery house into what it is known for today, with a glorious passion for the Belle Époque. Through his visionary creativity, the company became the name of choice for European aristocracy, as Chaumet became a master in exquisite and creative tiaras, to be spotted only on the finest coiffures.
The house’s relationship with Britain’s elite began at least in the 1820s and reached a milestone in 1848, when the first boutique opened on New Burlington Street, W1. There were a few prominent French clients living in London, who had fled France after the Revolution of the same year. Chaumet was reassured that there was a hunger for French design among the British upper classes and the brand’s crowning glory came when Queen Victoria was captivated by the jeweller’s pieces, buying two bracelets on the spot and placing more orders. The monarch promised ‘to buy a lot from him for Christmas’ and even ordered a tie pin designed from her own sketch (which remains in the archives at 12, Place Vendôme in Paris). Prince Albert also became a regular client, fully earning the jeweller the Royal seal of approval.
In 1902, when a second branch opened in London on New Bond Street, an illustrious clientele converged on it, including Edward VII, other prominent members of the aristocracy and notable financiers, as well as an array of other public figures, including artists, dandies, athletes, and suffragettes. The stamp of honour came in the form of a Royal Warrant granted by Edward VII to Chaumet in 1908. Among the other many distinguished visitors were Clementine Churchill, the wife of the Prime Minister; Lady Howard de Walden, who commissioned tiaras adorned with reed and star motifs; and the Duchess of Portland, wife of the 6th Duke, a passionate advocate for humanitarian and animal-right causes. Notable literary figures such as Edith Wharton and Lady Juliet Townsend also graced the premises, as did the 2nd Duke of Westminster, whose acquisition of several tiaras and a shell pendant embellished with an extraordinary aquamarine was widely admired.
Later, the Duke of Windsor and his wife, Wallis Simpson, made a visit, choosing a breathtaking lipstick tube-watch as a testament to their discerning taste. Chaumet’s clientele also counted author Vita Sackville-West and Gertrude, Lady Cory, an accomplished pianist and embroiderer, who generously bequeathed an extensive collection of jewellery to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1951.
Fast forward to today and the New Bond Street boutique still cherishes its extraordinary connection with British society. After months of painstaking renovation, it triumphantly reopened its doors in 2021, revealing a delightful space that seamlessly blends Victorian charm with the timeless chic of Paris. The boutique holds a treasure trove of delights, including the enchanting Joséphine collection, the sophisticated Liens series and the whimsical Bee My Love collection. The latter, a new range, provides endless possibilities for styling, whether worn alone or stacked, with the exquisite designs encouraging mixing and matching.
Find out more at the Chaumet store at 174, New Bond Street. London W1S 4RG or at chaumet.com