The Jeweler of Place Vendôme: How Frédéric Boucheron Got His Start
Frédéric Boucheron always knew he wanted to be a jeweler. He was born in 1830 to a family of French clothiers, and at a young age he apprenticed himself under jeweler Jules Chaise. By the age of 14, he had completed his apprenticeship and began working for Tixier-Deschamps, a famous jeweler at Palais Royal. Although Deschamps discouraged Boucheron from becoming a trader, telling him he was “not cut out to be the proprietor of a business”, Boucheron opened his own jewelry house in 1858.
The First House of Boucheron Store
Located in Galerie de Valois, at Palais Royal, an exclusive quarter for jewelers, Boucheron’s store became extremely successful. In 1867 he submitted pieces at the Paris International Exposition and won the Gold Medal. Nearly ten years later, in 1876, the French government presented Boucheron with a Legion of Honor award in acknowledgment of his unique and exquisite designs. Boucheron would continue winning awards over the course of the following fifty years.
Creating a Bigger, Brighter Business
in 1893, Boucheron expanded his business. He began by moving his store to Place Vendôme. He was the first jeweler to move to this area and chose the sunniest corner. The story goes that he chose this spot because he believed the diamonds would sparkle most beautifully in a sunny window. Whether or not this was the actual reason, the store was very popular and the area soon filled with other jewelers. The original Boucheron store still holds its place today in the Place Vendôme. In 1893, he also opened a store in Moscow. As his business grew so did his clientele, including some prestigious clients such as the Comtesse de Castiglione and Emperor Napoleon III.
The success of Boucheron is attributed to his unique style. He created very ornate pieces using an unusual combination of materials and intricate patterned metalwork, as well as engraved diamonds, which was a very uncommon design style at the time. Boucheron also used nature to inspire his art, creating butterflies, dragonflies, leaves, and animals out of precious gemstones, the finest metals, and enamel. One of his pieces used a 152-carat sapphire. The stone made history as one of the biggest and clearest sapphires ever discovered.
The Legacy Goes On
Frédéric Boucheron passed away in 1902 leaving the House of Boucheron in the very capable hands of his son, Louis Boucheron. Louis continued his father’s legacy combining rare stones, such as lapis-lazuli, turquoise, amber, and jade, in his pieces. The House of Boucheron’s popularity continued to grow and in 1930 the business was able to expand into the Middle East and South America. Although Louis Boucheron passed away in 1959, the name of Boucheron continued to grow as his sons, and Frédéric’s grandsons expanded the business.
Both Frédéric and Louis created pieces for some very prestigious clients, including the Russian Prince Felix Youssoupoff who bought, in 1878, a corsage with six detachable diamond bows. In 1921 Louis Boucheron was commissioned by Lady Greville to create a tiara. This tiara was later given to Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles would eventually pass this tiara on to his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The legacy of Boucheron is like no other. As Henri Vever a jeweler and peer of Boucheron said, Frédéric Boucheron was making pieces that “very few of his colleagues would have dared to make at the time”. This creativity and daring took a family name and made it into a jewelry empire.