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Indian Splendor

Boucheron reworks its historical archives to create a new High Jewellery Collection inspired by the legendary gems of the Maharajah of Patiala

Text by

Adriano Davoli

Paris, August 2nd ,1928.

Sir Bhupinder Singh, the immensely wealthy, imposing and fascinating Maharajah of Patiala has booked for him and its retinue of forty guards and servants thirty-five suites at the Hotel Ritz, on the elegant Place Vendôme.

The Prince was famous as a keen polo and cricket player, with a penchant for a life of unparalleled luxury, based on several Rolls Royce, a private plane, a very unique boy toy at the time, and, above all, for another of his immoderate passions: the one for the endless collection of gems and ancestral Indian jewellery he owned, often worn on official occasions at court and, with immense panache and splendour, during the Dehli Durbar of 1911 in front of King George V and Queen Mary, proclaimed on the occasion as new Emperors of India.

A gemstone collection that Louis Boucheron, son of the Maison’s founder, Frédéric, has never seen before, both for quantity and quality: 7570 diamonds, 1430 emeralds, along with a large number of rubies and pearls. The flamboyant Maharajah decided to entrust six metal safety trunks full of the above gems to Boucheron, to set them on the more trendy, almost invisible and super light platinum, metal that became de riguer since its use, at the very end of the XIX century, by the most important Parisian jewellers.

At today, this is the biggest and most important private grand order ever received by the Maison from a single client: a total of 149 sets of jewels that took ten years to be completed, before Buphinder Singh passed away in 1938.

Very vivid remains in the annals of the Ritz the incredible scene observed by its employees of the time, astonished by the Maharajah’s servants crossing in line Place Vendôme, carrying his entire treasure in direction of the jewellery Maison’s headquarters, just opposite on the other corner of the square.

It is with this fabulous fairytale vision and anecdote in mind that Claire Choisne, Creative Director of Boucheron since 2012, has attentively examined with passion and undoubted amazement the

Maison’s secret archives, with thousands of preparatory sketches submitted to the Patiala prince in that fabulous 1928, to get now inspired for its most recent High Jewellery Collection.

Recently unveiled in Paris during the Haute Couture Week, “New Maharajahs - Histoire de Style” is the evocative name she has chosen to present her new creations, fourteen new pieces divided in five different sets. As the Patiala historic jewels were conceived for a man almost two meters tall, imposing and often overwhelmed with gems, she has decided to recreate the same sensational effect of those jewels, yet on a lower scale.

BOUCHERON High Jewellery "The Maharajah Necklace", set with emeralds, rock crystal and diamonds. All images courtesy of Boucheron.

She has also privileged a more monochromatic palette of precious stones: diamonds, touches of green thanks to a selection of superb Colombian emeralds, rock crystal to obtain luminous liquid-like effects, mother-of-pearls and, of course, pearls, to better adapt the Collection to a more contemporary context, colour scheme and mood. Both the transparent and frosted rock crystal, a material often favoured by Boucheron, has also been used following the glyptic ancient oriental technique of engraving gems, in association with diamonds or with the iridescent mother-of-pearl.

The large ceremonial collars of the Maharajah, originally conceived to adorn a so imposing man, has been now updated by Claire Choisne in more gentle and elegant sets, still maintaining their Indian flair, for both ladies or for very sophisticated men, dedicated to today’s new Maharanis and Maharajahs, hence the name chosen for the collection.

One of the most important pieces is the “Maharajah Necklace”, designed as a perfect circular line of modular elements all paved in diamonds, with a central section of baguette-cut emeralds that add movement to its sparkling circumference. All around it, instead of the emeralds originally present on the 1928 necklace, a sequence of diaphanous cabochon rock crystal drops are cleverly backed with micro pavé diamonds, conferring to the piece a very light and subdued scintillating allure. The centre of the necklace features an important motif en cascade mounted with octagonal step-cut Colombian emeralds of the best velvety green and with emerald boules of the same origin. The lower section of this dangling element, perfectly detachable to be worn as a superb clip, is also fringed by large transparent rock crystal drops decreasing in size, again backed with diamonds.

Perfectly wearable by contemporary men in accordance to their attitudes, strong personality and latest trends, the detachable motif suggests a cravate or a modern jabot, ultra chic and very glamorous.

We must in fact remember that in princely India, the most stunning

jewels were worn mainly by men more than by women, to outline

their royal status, immense power over their dominions and as

statement of their once immense wealth.

Another emeralds and diamonds ceremonial necklace originally worn

by Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, in the new creative process made by

Claire Choisne has been reduced in size and split in two, to create an impressive pair of half moon shaped créole earrings, with a diamonds lattice in its inner section and zig-zagging emerald drops in the outer one, with the green gems gently caressing the face. Very modern in scale, they are truly sensational.

“The Lotus Necklace”, all in diamonds and detailed with rock crystal drops, is shaped like a splendid lace characterized by this typical oriental flower motif: it can be worn as a very slender choker or as a wider collar, both ways are extremely elegant, so very perfect to enhance the neckline of the new princesses of today. A pair of pendant earrings complete this set. Once paired, they form a lotus

flower in full bloom, with important marquise-cut diamonds next to

the lobes, mimicking the pistils.

The Maison has also re-edited the superb sarpech, the typical Indian

jewel that decorate the frontal part of the turbans, as created in 1906 for Jaghatjit Singh, the statuesque and magnificent Maharajah of Kapurthala, another great client of Boucheron and good friend of Bhupinder Singh. The slender shape of the brooch is

completely paved with diamonds of various cuts and recalls the sinuous tail feathers of the lyre bird, as softly moved by a gentle wind.

The new contemporary version, if worn on the hair as a large comb

or on the peak lapels of a dressy men’s dinner jacket, expertly offers

a new way of sporting it.

A further selection of long sautoirs and swag necklaces, some with

the traditional Indian silk cord on the back, now rendered with a white gold rope, allows the piece to be better adjusted in length. Between-the finger rings, earrings and bangle bracelets in diamonds, pearls and rock crystal complete the Collection.

Certainly a very dreamy one that, thanks to the great creativity and

unique savoir-faire of Boucheron and its skilled workshops, help us to travel back to the most legendary periods of fairytale India, daydreaming of oriental princes and princesses, of mysterious hidden treasures of gems and jewels, now expertly redesigned in accordance with the Maison’s new mood and contemporary aesthetics.

They are all fantastic and very stylish, certainly superb.

Adriano Davoli

This article was originaly published in print and online on MoralmodaMagazine.

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