After Beijing in 2017 and Tokyo in 2018, Chaumet charts a course for the most legendary of principalities to unveil rare pieces, some of which are being seen publicly for the first time: historical gems or spectacular jewels loaned by museums, grand families or royalty. Under the patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, Chaumet in Majesty. Jewels of Sovereigns since 1780 is orchestrated by two curators with renowned expertise of royal courts: Stéphane Bern, a media and cultural figure, and Christophe Vachaudez, a historian specialising in jewellery.
A signifier of sovereignty since ancient times, the tiara was the emblem of power chosen by Napoléon I to express the grandeur and magnificence of his reign. The exhibition begins with this historic act, further magnified by the Empress Joséphine, the first great client in Chaumet history, who brought a new definition to imperial in the creations of Marie-Étienne Nitot, founder of the Maison. A master of the art of jewellery, Chaumet became the jeweller to many European courts, and also a purveyor to both grand aristocratic families and the bourgeoisie, as the tiara became an attribute of success and wealth.
Portrait of Joséphine de Beauharnais
© RMN-Grand Palais ( Musée des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau) / Franck Raux
Set of micromosaic jewellery, 1811. © The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Malachite cameo parure once belonging to Empress Joséphine, circa 1810.
Replica of the ruby and diamond parure belonging to Empress Marie-Louise, 1811.
A tiara is a sign of social distinction and power, imposing itself as an expression of success and a reflection of how important the person wearing it is during the most popular society events. The one that belonged to Countess Edwina Mountbatten, the last Vicereine of India, is one of the most remarkable.
Lady Edwina and Louis Mountbatten at the coronation of King Georges VI in 1937.
© Madame Yevonde/Mary Evans Picture Library
Since 1780, Chaumet plays a central role in the display of the deep and sincere feeling that is the love two people have for each other.
Portrait of Napoléon I by Jacques-Louis David.
© RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux
Rings belonging to Joséphine with the initials JNB.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau) / Franck Raux
Portrait of Empress Joséphine by Antoine-Jean Gros.
© Musée Masséna, Nice
As the centrepiece of the wedding basket that traditionally contained the precious gifts given to a young bride, the tiara acquired an important status during the 19th and 20th centuries as the tangible sign of the union of two families and two people, the effective crowning of a love story. This tradition is intimately connected to that of sentimental jewellery, created by Chaumet since the start to celebrate the bonds of the heart.
The marriage of Napoléon I and Archduchess Marie-Louise, by Georges Rouget, 1810.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot
Pinks tiara ordered by Mrs Henri de Wendel, 1905.
Princess Henckel Von Donnersmarck’s tiara, circa 1900.
Tiara and necklace from the Dukes of Montellano wedding basket.
A repository of history and memory, a tiara conveys the identity of grand families. Passed down from generation to generation, it was sometimes given a contemporary reimagining, reworked according to the fashions and styles of the time, or even broken apart to be shared out. This exceptional gem was also often designed to be adapted into multiple forms for various occasions, capable of becoming a necklace, bracelet or several brooches, a transformative art in which Chaumet’s virtuosity truly shine.
Leuchtenberg tiara that can be transformed into a brooch and hair ornaments.
Navettes tiara, transformable into a necklace, 1935.
Designed to take the shape of a choker or a longer necklace hung with one or more medallions, this marquise-motif tiara tells a story specific to transformable jewellery. As family members pass and memories fade, the secrets of a jewel can be lost from one generation to the next. Such was the case for this tiara, dated to 1935 and recently found by Chaumet. A creation whose different modes of transformation and wearing had been forgotten, and the beauty of which has been revealed once more in this exhibition.
Bows and links evoking loving attachment, revisited classical architecture, poetic flora or majestic stars… In an unceasing dialogue with the arts of its era, head jewellery combines themes, forms and motifs, drawing on Chaumet’s favoured sources of inspiration to compose a creative and singular repertoire.
Radiant Sun aigrette, 1916.
Vertiges tiara, 2017
Pansy flower tiara, circa 1850.
An apogee of femininity, the tiara is a fashion accessory as much as an object of power and influence. Wearing one requires a special level of preparation, a carefully considered hairstyle and a certain ability to present oneself. Going hand in hand with the evolution of the female silhouette over time it is a statement of style and an expression of art de vivre, balanced between convention and transgression.
From the imperial ceremonies of yesteryear through Belle Époque receptions, café society parties, gala soirées, opera openings and contemporary occasions, tiaras and head jewellery have consistently illuminated festive evenings. Chaumet perpetuates this same art de vivre today, from High Jewellery collections to special orders, to transform the presence of women.
Kathleen and Rosemary Kennedy with Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald when leaving the Buckingham Palace in 1937.
© Hulton Archive / Imagno / Getty Images
For the occasion of the exhibition’s inauguration evening at the Monte-Carlo Casino in Monaco, the Maison invited John Nollet to apply his touch to the hairstyles of the dancers who were to wear a tiara during their performance. This traditional and modern initiative connects the Chaumet of today to the Chaumet of yesterday to endorse women in their influence in society.
Mary Stuart aigrette, circa 1910.
Meshwork aigrette, transformable into a brooch, circa 1910.
Brooch of grapes brooch transformable into an aigrette, circa 1925.