The major creations of the imperial and royal courts, from the Consulate to the Second Empire, are presented, as are the illustrious figures who commissioned them: Napoleon I, who chose the founder of Chaumet, Marie-Etienne Nitot, to magnify his symbols of power; the Empress Josephine, whose immense taste for jewellery is reflected in the ceremonial parures adorned with pearls and diamonds often sourced from the Crown Diamonds; and the Empress Marie-Louise, the instigator of neo-classical jewellery’s golden age. The reign of Napoleon III and Eugenie is a moment of glory for the Maison at the Expositions Universelles where its creativity shines on an international stage and opens the way for expansion.
After the fall of the Empire in 1815, Nitot left the Maison to his workshop master, Jean-Baptiste Fossin, and his son Jules. Named jewellers to the Children of France under the reign of King Charles X, the Fossin family were the official purveyors to the French Court until the end of the monarchy in 1848. Inspired by the new Romantic movement where nature is a mirror that reflects human sentiment and emotion, their jewellery creations expressed a highly sensitive observation and interpretation of the beauty of flowers, fruit and foliage. This triumph of the natural world, confirmed by an infinite number of interpretations, endured throughout the Napoleon III era.
The expression of love has been a major source of inspiration for Chaumet creativity since its founding. From sentimental beginnings to marriage, jewels express commitment. Intimate, personal, they mark life's most important moments. Ever since the Empress Josephine ordered some bracelets that spelled a secret message with gemstones from Nitot, Chaumet has invented a world of symbols to convey attachment and affection, desire and passion. The ribbon is the first of these symbols; transforming from bowknot to tie, it is the perfect metaphor for a love story that unfurls with time and into the future.
Fascinated ever since its beginnings by the wonders of nature, Chaumet recreates its enchantment through jewellery. The attentive observation of flora and fauna, sometimes modest and always untamed, goes beyond the garden to explore fields and woodlands, and wander besides rivers and ponds. The Maison finds beauty even in weeds, transforming them into graceful plants where busy insects fly and gather nectar, in a world that is captivating, vibrant and ever-changing. Foliage and branches, budding or blossoming flowers, fruit that is green or ripe, mingle with butterflies, dragonflies, bees, reptiles and birds to compose a poetic repertoire that is both singular and vibrant.
With Chaumet, the art of head jewellery reaches its pinnacle. Inherited from Antiquity, the tiara is reinstated thanks to Empress Josephine during the Premier Empire era to express the grandeur of Napoleonic power. Since then, no other jeweller has created as many head jewels; 3500 tiaras, bandeaux and aigrettes. A must-have accessory in the world of high society, the tiara reveals the status of the wearer. The star item in the traditional wedding baskets of 19th century aristocratic families, the tiara evolves into the quintessential marker of success and fortune during the Belle Epoque. The women’s emancipation movement has changed its perception today, with women seeking out the incomparable radiance the jewel adds to their beauty and femininity.
The Expositions Universelles encouraged the taste for chinoiseries, the name given to western-made creations inspired by the Far-East. Chaumet reinterpreted oriental exoticism in its creations, silverware and later on Art Deco jewellery in the 1920s. An aesthetic exchange on the theme of the art of jewellery, this central section installs a dialogue between 22 jewels from the collections of the Palace Museum and 22 creations by Chaumet.