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The House of Chaumet jewelry has been a part of French history since it was official jeweler to Marie-Antoinette. Its creations remain rooted in the sophisticated designs and exceptional craftsmanship of the Paris tradition.
Brief History of Chaumet Jewelry
Chaumet has a fascinating history, one that began 100 years before Joseph Chaumet entered the scene.
Marie-Étienne Nitot, an apprentice to the jeweler of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette, started his own business, the Nitot Jewelry House, that was a favorite of French aristocrats, including Josephine before (and after) her marriage to Napoleon. Marie-Etienne created Josephine’s jewelry for her marriage and made Napoleon’s crown for his coronation, becoming the most sought-after jeweler among European aristocracy.
Marie-Etienne’s son, François Regnault, succeeded him and remained with the business until the fall of Napoleon in 1815. He then sold the business to his employee, the master jeweler, Jean Baptiste Fossin. Jean and his son Jules gained an esteemed reputation with noble clientele for their romantic jewelry inspired by Italian Renaissance and nature motifs.
When Jean died, Jules became partners with Jean-Valentin Morel, giving Jean-Valentin charge of the London boutique. Jean-Valentin and his son, Prosper, attracted a prestigious clientele which included Queen Victoria. They triumphed at the London World's Fair of 1851 with their enamels that revived the techniques from the 16th and 17th centuries.
In 1885 Joseph Chaumet married Marie, the daughter of Prosper, and was put in charge of the company. His exceptional creativity made Joseph the undisputed master jeweler of the Belle Epoque, and the business became the House of Chaumet. Joseph created jewelry for every court in Europe, Russia, India and the Near East.
Joseph’s son, Marcel, succeeded his father in 1928 at the height of the Art Deco period. He was the leader in Art Deco-style jewelry. His pieces were in demand with filmmakers and movie stars. The company closed from the mid-1930s to after World War II. When they reopened, the tradition of fashion-forward design continued as had their mission of creating personalized pieces for their clients.
In 1958, the sons of Marcel, Jacques and Pierre, became executive directors of the firm. Even though the business soared in the 1970s with the unconventional designs and innovative treatment of disparate stones, the company went bankrupt in 1987. The two brothers were convicted of bankruptcy fraud, breach of trust and illegal exercise of the banking profession. It took ten years for Chaumet to recover, and it was bought by LVMH (Louis Vuitton) in 1999.
Vintage Chaumet Jewelry Designers
- Marie-Étienne Nitot was the founding designer.
- François Regnault Nitot, Marie-Etienne’s son, followed in his father’s footsteps.
- Jean Baptiste Fossin, long-time master designer, purchased the business from Francois Regnault.
- Jules Fossin, Jean Baptiste’s son, designed elegant and romantic jewelry influenced by the French 18th century.
- Jean Valentin Morel became a partner of Jules and became jeweler to Queen Victoria and revived the enameling traditions of the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Prosper Morel worked with his father, Jean Valentin,
- Joseph Chaumet married Marie, the daughter of Prosper Morel. He specialized in tiaras and was influenced by the Renaissance style and Japanese art.
- Marcel Chaumet succeeded his father Joseph in 1928 and created jewelry with the brilliant colors, materials and gems of the Art Deco period.
- Pierre Sterle was a renowned designer in his own right but had little business ability. Despite his many coveted creations, he sold his shop to Chaumet in 1976 and stayed on as “artistic advisor.” Thereafter, his pieces were signed “Chaumet,” but the designs were undeniably Pierre’s.
- René Morin, artistic director during the 1980s, created the Lien ring and most famously the bull's head from a block of lapis lazuli.
Materials Used in Chaumet Jewelry
- 18 karat gold (enameled, inlaid, engraved and embossed) including
- the most beautiful color yellow gold composed of 75% gold, 12.5% silver and 12.5% copper
- the most beautiful color rose gold composed of 75% gold, 6% silver and 19% copper
- white gold composed of 75% gold, 13% palladium, 12% silver and a thin layer of rhodium
- 95% pure platinum
- Diamonds in a wide range of shapes: round brilliant, princess, cushion, oval, emerald and the Chaumet signature cut, the pear
- Sapphires in blue, pink, yellow, orange and purple, as well as purple-pink or orange-pink, the rarest colors
- Spinel, the “red diamond,” rare, in beautiful pastel shades of pink, purple, orange, blue, plus every combination in between
- Tourmaline, “mixed colored stones” in colors ranging from black to bluish-black to brown to yellow, blue, green, red, and pink
- Imperial Topaz, the most precious natural topaz with the colors of the setting sun
- Mandarin Garnet, most sought-after garnet, a deep, intense red
- Hallmark example: Chaumet Paris 750 965090 53
- The signature, where crafted, metal, serial number
- The hallmark for gold is an eagle’s head, for platinum a dog’s head
Most Collectible Vintage Chaumet Jewelry
Ruby and Diamond 18K Gold Stacking Ring - Three round brilliant-cut diamonds and two square-cut rubies bezel set on a ban
Turquoise, Garnet, and Pink Sapphire Brooch - Made in the 1950s
Diamond 18K Yellow Gold Necklace with Interchangeable Rope - Extremely rare piece with hand-hammered high polish gold with platinum border and set with 59 round diamonds. Comes with two ropes, black and white.
Vintage Cocktail Ring - Designed by Pierre Sterle in 1973 with free-form gold and coral, diamonds and emeralds.
Multi-Gemstone Clip-On Earrings in 18K Yellow Gold - Made in the 1980s, the clip-on earrings are a colorful mix of sapphire, ruby and emerald cabochons dotting a quilted landscape.
How to Buy Vintage Chaumet Jewelry
- Buy from authorized and trusted retailers who have an inventory of Chaumet jewelry for sale.
- An authentic piece will be signed with an engraved Chaumet hallmark. If you are not 100% certain about the hallmarks, take a photo of the piece and submit it to a specialist for confirmation.
- Standard practice among reputable vendors is to allow at least 14 days for returns. This gives you the time to have it checked out by a third party.
- If you are buying to resell, buy wearable pieces. Earrings, rings and necklaces are easier to sell than, say, a headpin. Learn the market before going shopping.
- Look for Chaumet jewelry from the 1980s. There are important and highly creative pieces available for affordable prices.
Chaumet is one of the oldest brands of fine jewelry in the world, and its quality is beyond compare. When you buy Chaumet, you have a piece of the legacy of elegance developed over more than two centuries. Chaumet jewelry will increase in value every year, especially if you take care of the pieces. Please visit the Chaumet pages on Etsy to browse through a diverse selection of the treasures. You may be surprised to find many that are affordable.
Also, visit eBay and browse for vintage Chaumet jewelry.