Unpublished:Boivin

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Boivin Gold and Wood Acorn Brooch. Photo Courtesy of Christie's

French jewelry house most famous for its bold creations in the 1930’s and 40’s. While the firm is named for its founder, René Boivin, it was Boivin’s wife and her entourage of female designers who produced its most famous creations. The firm effectively began in 1890 when René Boivin, a goldsmith and expert engraver, bought his first jewelry workshop. In 1893, when he married Jeanne Poiret, he acquired several more. Jeanne was a savvy business partner and brought connections to Paris’s fashion elite with her. At the time, her brother Paul Poiret, was Paris’s most famous couturier. By 1905, the Boivins’ workshops no longer needed to produce work for other firms; they were busy enough creating jewels for a small, loyal clientele.

Boivin Yellow Diamond, Ruby, Demantiod Garnet Longhorn Brooch c.1940. Photo Courtesy of Christie's


The work produced at Boivin around the turn of the century was not particularly innovative, but it was expertly manufactured and designed. The firm was especially known for its floral-motif, gem-set pieces. René's more adventurous work included a “bestiary” of both realistic and mythological animal miniatures, including a series of cats. At the turn of the century, rejecting the soft, flowing lines of Art Nouveau, he also designed chunky pieces inspired by Egyptian, Syrian, and Persian designs.[1] Customers often referred to these pieces as "barbaric" and though such designs would come into fashion in the 1930’s and 40's, they were too bold for their time. Indeed, many of them never sold and were dismantled for parts. Boivin also redesigned men’s signet rings into styles that could be worn by women.[2]



When René Boivin died at the relatively young age of 53 in 1917, his wife Jeanne took over the business. This was unexpected, as women designers were not commonplace in the industry at the time. She hired Louis Girard to manage the store. Over the next two decades, Jeanne Boivin sought out a series of female designer including Suzanne Vuillerme, later Belperron, who worked at Boivin from 1921 until 1931, Juliette Moutard, who designed for the firm from 1931 until the mid-seventies and her daughter, Germaine, who began designing in 1938.


Boivin Pearl and Silver Bracelet. Photo Courtesy of Christie's

The house of Boivin is best known for the designs created by these women. Their pieces were bold and innovative. Though never signed, the jewelry was distinctive enough to be recognized by those in the know. Around 1930, the firm began to to create bold, large pieces with exotic themes and materials that diverged from the Art Deco style so popular at the time. Jeanne Boivin reintroduced the "barbaric" style bracelets, first designed by her husband decades earlier, with great success. Often these bracelets had chunky, mechanical motifs, other times they featured gentle Assyrians swirls. Yellow gold was used almost exclusively. Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds were eschewed in favor of Semi-Precious gemstones like citrines, aquamarine, and topaz. Onyx, rock crystal, and lapis were often incorporated into the pieces, as well as lesser used materials like ebony and sandalwood. Boivin’s team of designers also produced naturalistic, floral designs featuring orchids, foxgloves, and umbel clusters.


Boivin Starfish Brooch.jpeg

Animal and sea life were often depicted, as were mythical creatures like angels, mermaids, and unicorns. These creations with their sculptural qualities and attention to unique details were distinct and innovative. By the 1940’s and continuing into the 1950’s this style of jewelry would be immensely popular. The women at Boivin had produced it almost a decade before the styles came into vogue.


When Madame Boivin retired, her daughter Germaine took over. In 1976, Germaine and her sister Suzanne sold the business to Jacques Bernard, a Boivin designer who had started with the firm in 1964, and who continued to produce finely made jewelry with typical "Boivin" themes.
In 1991 the firm was sold to Asprey.

Notes

  1. Cailles, 30, 155.
  2. Ibid., 115.

Sources Consulted

  • Cailles, Francoise. Rene Boivin: Jeweller. London: Quartet, 1994. ISBN 0704370905
  • Raulet, Sylvie. Jewelry of the 1940's & 1950's. New York: Rizzoli, 1988. ISBN 0847809358

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