MARIE-CÉCILE CISAMOLO TALKS ABOUT JEANNE BOIVIN AND THE
WOMEN THAT TOOK THE EPONYMOUS MAISON TO THE NEXT LEVEL
I was so honoured when I was asked to write a little something for The Glitterati community!I am passionate about the history of jewellery, just as much as I am about the role of women in the jewellery world. Within half a second, I knew what I wanted to share with the GlitteratiGirls: my passion for Boivin!
I started learning about gems and jewellery quite late in life, I really got interested in it about 8 years ago. After falling in love with the anecdotes and stories of Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and the likes, I started noticing more quaint jewellers, those who speak more to the connoisseurs. And that’s when I found out about Boivin.
First, I fell in love with the jewels. They appeared to me as crazy one of a kind pieces, always so avant-garde! Who was the designer of this beautiful wood and gold bangle I wondered, must be modern… Nope, Boivin, 1960s. Interesting… Oh wow, who created this amazing articulated lion brooch? It is so intricate… Boivin, 1930s. Ha… What about this ring entirely carved out of smokey quartz… Boivin again! I realised I needed to learn more; this creator was truly extraordinary!
Vanessa Cron, a jewellery historian and dear friend, gave me the only existing monograph on Boivin written by Francoise Cailles in the 1980s. I read it cover to cover. And I realised; Boivin was all about women - even though, in a slightly infuriating turn of history, it still retains the name of its male creator René Boivin.
Shown above, the Boivin pieces that inspired Marie-Cécile: 1. A gold & ebony bangle, 1960's 2. A coloured diamond, diamond & emerald Lion shoulder brooch 3. A tourmaline & smokey quartz ring, 1930's 4. A gold & sapphire Sea Lion brooch. All items René Boivin, images courtesy Christies.
Let me tell you a little bit about the women behind the most creative brand of the 20th century…
René Boivin was the creator of the eponymous house. He was born in 1864 and started his jewellery career alongside his brother in Paris. Between 1890-1893 he bought several workshops; Maison Grifeuille, Martial Bernard, and Maret, registered his makers mark and set up shop Rue Anastase in the Marais area of Paris. During the same successful year, René married Jeanne Poiret, sister to the famous couturier Paul Poiret. They worked together, hand in hand, creating the spirit of the Maison with audacious and sophisticated jewels; attracting a loyal clientele along the years.
Alas René died prematurely in 1917. This is when - from a female perspective - things became really interesting. Despite it being a time when women hardly set foot inside a jeweller’s workshop not to mention that giving orders to the male employees was unthinkable, Jeanne courageously decided to take over the Atelier. Some think the jewellery world is misogynistic now, imagine in 1917!
After a few difficult sparring sessions with long-established employees - who ultimately preferred to leave when Jeanne took over – Madame Boivin was recognised as the Head of the Maison. She continued to develop the beautiful style they had created with René, along with one of their daughters Germaine.
Germaine was a talented model maker and designer with refined taste. She began her career designing clothing like her uncle Paul Poiret, later creating accessories; shoes, gloves hats and also perfume bottles and vases. She later worked creating costumes for theatre and shortly thereafter alongside her mother at Boivin where her model-making talents and eye for detail were a huge contribution.
On top of her creative direction of Boivin, Jeanne also had an eye for talent. And so, it began… In 1919 Jeanne Boivin met the young and talented Suzanne Vuillerme (later married and called Belperron) and recognising her creative genius, she hired her immediately. Suzanne only stayed with Boivin for 10 years, but her time there produced memorable jewels. In fact, the style of Boivin clearly strongly influenced Belperron, the similarities with her first pieces between 1932-1935 are unmistakeable.
Belperron’s naturalistic inspiration majorly differed from the typical Art Deco style, her signature volumes and volutes were all over the Maison’s jewels which attracted the Paris social scene of intellectuals and aristocrats alike. Amongst her many fans were Wallis Simpson the Duchess of Windsor, Elsa Schiaparelli and Diana Vreeland.
After Suzanne’s Belperron’s departure in 1931, it was Juliette Moutard’s time to shine. Quite shy but incredibly talented, Juliette worked hand in hand with Germaine and Jeanne until her retirement in 1954. Together they formed the longer lasting and most creative trio of the Maison Boivin. Despite being responsible for creating some of Boivin’s most iconic designs, Moutard is still quite unknown as a designer.
Madame Boivin died in 1959 and the Maison carried on run by Germaine until 1976 who decided to sell as there was no familial successor. The natural choice was Jacques Bernard who had been working alongside Germaine for several years. Bernard had been the best jeweller of his class and later trained at Cartier. He had the know how to carry on the Boivin tradition.
So… While Boivin was originally the creation of a man, Boivin unquestionably became a woman’s Maison: not only did Jeanne, Germaine, Suzanne and Juliette give us the most beautiful and extraordinary jewels, they also paved the way for the avant-garde female jewellers of today!
Marie-Cécile Cisamolo joined Christie’s jewellery department in 2011 as a cataloguer and is now a junior specialist responsible for enhancing all aspects of jewellery auctions in Geneva, including business development and appraisals. With over 8 years of experience in the auction and fine art business, Marie-Cécile plays a key role in obtaining client consignments and regularly gives lectures on jewellery history, design and market. She graduated with a BA in Art History from La Sorbonne, then a MA specializing in Contemporary Art and Family Law and earned her gemmology diploma (F.G.A.) from the Gemmology Association of Britain.