Posts tagged Boucheron diamond necklace

Two-in-One: the flowerhead on Boucheron's Lys Radiant necklace is detachable and may be worn as a brooch.

The end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century saw some of the most inventive and technically accomplished jewellery ever seen in the history of the decorative arts.  It was a time in which the rich and well off wore jewellery all day, every day- sometimes more, sometimes less, but always something.  The many changes of wardrobe often required a change of jewellery- so designers were obliged to be creative in their designs and produced clever pieces which could be taken apart and reassembled as different jewels.  Not only did this have novelty value, it proved to be extremely useful for society hostesses.

It is very pleasing to see that jewellery houses are beginning to embrace the concept again with gusto- it has always surprised me that designers have not embraced transformable jewellery earlier, especially in today’s climate where the occasions to wear high jewellery are rare.  Transformable pieces have multiple appeal: bigger pieces can be made smaller and worn for less formal occasions; the client gets much more wear for the money they pay; when sold at auction, transformable pieces on average sell at a 20-30% premium, according to Christie’s.

Engineering perfection: Van Cleef and Arpels zip necklace in yellow gold, sapphires, diamonds and emeralds.  It can also be worn round the wrist as a bracelet.

An Edwardian Classic: Pendant/brooch on white gold, pearls and diamonds available to purchase at Bentley and Skinner.

Van Cleef and Arpels recently revisited an old classic with their zip necklace.  They have always been masters of jewellery engineering and this necklace is no different.  The concept was originally suggested by the Duchess of Windsor, but the first one was not produced until the 1950s.  The most recent incarnation is produced in white gold, diamonds and coloured sapphires- and can be refastened round the wrist as a bracelet.

Boucheron actually produced a transformable necklace back in 2002.  It featured in Beauté Dangereuse, Solange Azagury-Partridge’s debut collection for the brand as creative director.  The Madone necklace, as it was called, could be worn as a belt, or as a necklace and bracelet, the necklace being of adjustable lengths.  More recently, they produced and eye-watering necklace named Lys Radiant.  Executed in white gold, rock crystal, white and yellow diamonds, this fantastical lily flower can be worn as a necklace or detached and attached to the lapel as a brooch. 

Cartier were the undisputed kings of versatile, transformable jewels up until the 1940s.  They pioneered the famous Art Deco double clip brooches, which could be worn singly, as a pair or as one large piece clipped onto a frame.  They have recently gone back to their Belle Epoque roots with an original diamond hair ornament which can be transformed into a necklace or bracelet.

Speaking of hair ornaments, this was the metier of Chaumet.  They reminded us of this last year, when they launched the ‘Natures de Chaumet’ high jewellery collection.  The talking point was the ‘Firmament Apollinien’ tiara.  Executed as a wreath, reminiscent of the triumphal laurels of Classical times, it is executed in sapphires and diamonds, the leaves beautifully rendered.  This piece can be taken off its frame and worn as a necklace.

If you feel that high jewellery is too extravagant a look, or your budget doesn’t stretch to Chaumet and Cartier, most reputable antique jewellery dealers will have something in stock, whether an Art Deco clip or a pair of bracelets that transform into a necklace.  Transformable jewellery is particularly special- it requires that much more labour and love to create and represents the inventiveness and creativity of a designer. 

Belle Epoque Beauty: Cartier's new high jewellery hair ornament can also be worn as a necklace or bracelet.


The 1902 Rocaille Egg given to Varvara Kelch by her husband.

The dollar princesses who married into European nobility at the turn of the last century have been well documented; they have a Russian counterpart who spent so prodigiously and collected jewellery so assiduously that it is a marvel that her existence was not really noted until the 1970s.  Her name was Varvara Kelch.  Born Varvara Petrovna Bazanova, her exact date of birth is unknown, but she married in 1892 at the age of around 20, a minor nobleman called Nicholas Kelch.  She was the sole heiress of a vast fortune founded by her grandfather that included gold mines, railways and a maritime transport company.  Nicholas died two years after they were married and the Kelchs, eager to keep all that lovely money in the family, somehow managed to convince her to marry her brother in law, Alexander.  In a move that was astonishingly forward for the age, the marriage contract specified that Varvara not only keep ownership of her fortune, but also the management it.

The somewhat gloomy Neo Gothic mansion the Kelchs built themselves in St. Petersburg. 

The second marriage was not happy; for five years, the Kelchs lived in separate houses, she in Moscow he in St. Petersburg.  In the meantime they built a monolith of a neo-Gothic house in St. Petersburg, in which they finally lived together for 7 years.  The Kelchs have become famous because of the seven Faberge Easter Eggs Alexander commissioned for his wife during this time.  Epitomising the craft and design for which Faberge was famous, these eggs were catalogued as Imperial until the discovery of the Kelch name in the Faberge archives in 1970.  The couple more or less decided to call it quits in 1905, and Varvara moved to Paris, Faberge eggs and all.  The reason her compulsive spending is known of at all is because of the meticulously kept Boucheron archives.  It is recorded that between 1897 and 1924 she spent a staggering 7,169,000 francs at Boucheron, a sum that would even have made a Grand Duke blush.  Varvara spent only on precious stones, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls; she bought, collected, re-set, re-designed, sold and acquired some more.  She celebrated the end of the First World War by buying an 8.3 carat ruby.  This spending pattern suggests that her patronage was probably not exclusive to Boucheron, so towards the end of her life her knowledge of jewellery must have reached professional standards.

Archive photograph of a diamond necklace Varvara Kelch bought from Boucheron at the turn of the 20th century.  After she died, her jewellery was never seen again.

Varvara sold her Faberge Eggs probably towards the end of the war; she had no financial worries, so we can only speculate that by then she found them old fashioned- with the arrival of monochrome and Art Deco, a view held by many people.  Let’s not forget that Consuelo Vanderbilt donated her Faberge Easter Egg to be raffled at (it must be said very exclusive) a charity bazaar.  Varvara Kelch peters out of sight in 1924, the date of her last recorded jewellery purchase.  It is not known when or where she died and her magnificent jewels were never seen again; we only catch a glimpse of her through jewellery ledgers.  Her ex-husband, Alexander, survived the Russian Revolution only to be swallowed up by the Gulag system in 1930.

The 12 Panel Egg of 1899, commissioned from Faberge by Alexander Kelch as a gift for his wife.  This piece is now housed in the Royal Collection.