When Claire Choisne says she’ll give you a piece of the sky, feel free to take her quite literally. In Boucheron’s 2020 Contemplation high jewellery collection, the creative director presented a necklace called Goutte de Ciel, meaning skydrop in English. This magnificent creation features a massive rock crystal centre stone acting as a vessel that contains pure aerogel. Exhibiting a unique evanescent effect this ultralight material perfectly captures Choisne’s vision of a skydrop necklace.
She could have gone with something straightforward like a huge light blue aquamarine, for instance, and called it a day. But it just wouldn’t be right. “For me, that’s not the beauty of the sky. Yes, it is blue, but when you look at the sky, you see the colours are always changing, there is depth and a feeling of lightness. So we had to look for a material that allows us to express this idea.”
Using futuristic materials such as aerogel in a high jewellery piece is practically unheard of in this industry, which focuses predominantly on gemstones, tradition, and the age-old crafts. But Boucheron is a creative maison. It is one of the oldest jewellery maisons today, but it has always pursued ingenuity and originality in jewellery design since the days of Frédéric Boucheron. The founder was the first to combine diamonds with rock crystal—a style that’s now a Boucheron signature, but nonetheless very audacious during the 19th century.
Empowered by Frédéric Boucheron’s innovative spirit, Choisne habitually veers off the beaten path in her creative direction, although this by no means suggests she’s relinquished the traditional techniques. A qualified jeweller, Choisne was trained in the traditional techniques, having gone to jewellery school and been in the industry her entire career. The difference, however, is that she sees traditional techniques as tools with which to design jewellery, rather than rules by which to follow in designing jewellery.
“You can have old tools and they’re great, but it’s also possible to add new tools, thanks to innovation and technology,” she enthuses. “With all these tools comes a greater possibility to achieve things. So it’s not innovation for the sake of innovation, or technology for the sake of technology. The idea is to start with a dream, being free to dream, and find a way to realise this dream.”
For 2021, Boucheron’s Carte Blanche collection is named Holographique. The concept behind Holographique is to capture the beauty of the ephemeral, transcribing its fleeting emotion without words. It sounds completely abstract and radical at the same time. More than just capturing the evanescence of the sky or the voluminous lightness of clouds, Choisne delves into the theme of light and its power to change our surrounding, its ability to project all the colours of the rainbow to evoke a sweet euphoria teeming with emotions, hence Holographique.
“For a long time, I wanted to create a collection on the theme of colour, but I also wanted to find a new approach,” states Choisne. “That’s why I chose to work on the holographic theme—it’s really the link between light and colour.”
Projecting light and colour through different gemstones, facets, treatments, and materials, the nine jewellery suites within the collection marry tradition with technology, breaking new ground even for a maison as progressive as Boucheron. It’s signature piece is the Holographique set featuring ultrathin blades of rock crystal outlined with fine pavé diamonds, radiating from a 20.21-carat central yellow Ceylon sapphire (for the necklace).
No more than 2mm thin, these rock crystal blades have been coated with a holographic deposit, which is a mixture of micro-particles of molten titanium and silver oxide developed by Saint-Gobain, a French manufacturer of high-performance glass and thin film coatings. As a result, they shimmer in dazzling hues across all colours of the rainbow.
Other sets that play with light using holographic rock crystal include Prisme, Faisceaux, and Halo, while Laser and Chromatique feature holographic ceramic instead. But in every jewellery piece within the entire collection, you’ll find a balance of past, present, and future. Traditional gem-setting expertise and top notch gemstones commingle with state-of-the-art treatments and modern materials. Everything comes together at Boucheron, through the hands of skilled artisans, designers, and engineers.
Says Choisne, “We worked with a lot of different people for this collection, and used a lot of different techniques new and old. For example the leaf in the Chromatique brooch is made in green titanium. So there’s a specific expertise for that. The white ceramic was also sculpted by a specialist of this craft. Then there’s Saint-Gobain for the holographic effect. And of course our own atelier worked on all the traditional jewellery crafts. So the entire collection needed a lot of people, and a lot of know-how, to be realised.”
Despite working with such a massive and diverse team involved in this relatively modest collection of 25 jewellery pieces, Choisne kept her creative vision razor-sharp, leaving no detail spared. The Chromatique brooch, for instance, looks almost lifelike, being sculpted by hand, with its leaf paved with diamonds in varying sizes.
She goes on, “We call it serti neige, or snow set, with diamonds of different sizes. It is quite difficult to achieve on titanium. But at the end, you feel this organic effect even though it’s a little bit futuristic or dreamy in nature.”
Holographique tested Choisne in ways she never saw coming. Several key pieces in the collection, particularly those with the holographic deposit could not be prototyped before production, which needed Choisne to relinquish control of the process and literally hope for the best—something she’s never done before. “I need to have a clear vision of what can be the result, and it was just not possible with this collection. Letting go is definitely not my big strength, and yes I’m a bit of a control freak,” she laughs.
Will this influence her decision to continue harnessing the technology in her future designs? Choisne doesn’t say. After all, technology is merely a tool to help her realise the designs of her dreams, and not a requisite in her creative process. Especially with Boucheron Carte Blanche, she never wants to be repetitive.
“It’s not a competition to be doing and doing something over and over,” she says. “Maybe one day we will have something less technology-focused. I don’t know. For me it’s about the emotion, giving emotion to the piece, and giving emotion to people who will buy the pieces. Sometimes I use technology, sometimes I don’t. I don’t want to be obliged to do it just because people expect me to do it.”