Chaumet, From Empress Joséphine to Beyoncé

The creations from the Chaumet jewelry house are neither trendy nor fashionable, but simply elegant. Founded in 1780, the brand renowned for its tiaras and diamond rings symbolizes luxury from the First French Empire, the sophistication of the Parisian salons, and this je ne sais quoi that makes France so enviable abroad.
“Ears of wheat bending in the wind diadem” in gold, silver, and diamonds made for Empress Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife, in 1811. © Collection Chaumet Paris

In a studio on the Place Vendôme in Paris, the Chaumet artisans produce ten tiaras every year. Most are tailormade, and the process can take between two and eighteen months. Inspired by laurels from Ancient Greece and Rome, this piece is now worn by queens, princesses, top models, and brides. Chinese actress and singer Angela Yeung, known by her stage name “Angelababy,” rented two Chaumet tiaras for her wedding, matched with a choker, a vintage brooch, and a ring inspired by Empress Joséphine’s collection, currently valued at 1.5 million dollars.

Two centuries after her death, Joséphine de Beauharnais remains an ambassador for Chaumet. For the 1804 coronation of her husband Napoléon Bonaparte, she wore a crown designed by Marie-Etienne Nitot, former jeweler to Queen Marie-Antoinette and founder of the Chaumet house. The Parisian artisan also created the jewelry for the ceremony – which can be seen in Jacques-Louis David’s painting at the Louvre – and became the Empress’s official jeweler.

The diadem of the 21st century according to Chaumet. This Vertiges model was designed by a British design student in 2017. © Collection Chaumet Paris

Chaumet made a wheat sheaf tiara in gold and silver for Marie-Louise of Austria in 1811, crafted floral motifs for Japanese marquess Maeda Kikuko in the 1920s, and took on Art Deco influences in 1930s Paris. Needless to say, the brand’s flagship pieces have stood the test of time through ingenious revisits. The Vertiges model is one example; created in 2017, the revamped piece bristles with white gold bars and is scattered with green tourmalines!

Edith Wharton and Beyoncé

Chaumet jewelry – whether tiaras, rings, necklaces, or watches – have successfully made the leap from past to present. The house’s clientele is proof enough, and has featured some of the most fashionable women of their time, such as American novelist Edith Wharton, art collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, top model Naomi Campbell, fashion designer Jeanne Damas, and singer Beyoncé, who mentions the brand on the Place Vendôme in her song “LOVEHAPPY.”

Chaumet’s creations are sold at the Maison Birks jewelers in Montreal, but the house does not yet have a store in the United States. American fans can opt for the brand’s remote sales service – which states it sends many products to the U.S. – and coffee-table books by Assouline. Every year for the holiday season, the New York publisher releases a set of three works, each focused on a theme about Chaumet, including the sketches that precede the design of each piece, the watches first launched in 1811, and the house’s royal crowns and ensembles. A collection aptly named “Mémoire.”

Chaumet: Les Ciels de Chaumet, Precious Time, The Art of the Line by Domizio Sassetelli, David Chokron, and Jérôme Neutres, Assouline, 2019.

Article published in the December 2019 issue of France-AmériqueSubscribe to the magazine.