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Frederic Boucheron

Frederic Boucheron was born in Paris in 1830 into a draper’s family and broke from family tradition to follow his passion for precious stones and fine jewellery, gold, and silver. He started off his business in 1858 with 100,000 francs using his savings of 5,000 francs - £13,500 in today’s value, and loans from family members. In just eight years by 1866 he had not only paid back his creditors but had amassed 365,000 francs in profit. His business started off at the Galerie de Valois boutique in Paris. He brought the fluidity and suppleness of fabrics into his gold work, which in turn garnered flocks of people into his Palais Royal boutique. Frédéric’s innovative spirit won him a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867 and 11 years after, he won the first prize (Grand Prix) at the same exhibition for creations that included a 159-carat sapphire necklace made for a wealthy customer named Marie Louise Mackay. At the time in 1861, the Louvre had acquired the collection of Marquis Campana Etruscan, Greek and Roman jewellery. This style of jewellery appealed to the more modern fashionista and femme fatale of the time and his female clients were seen as ladies who wanted to be seen, stand out and envied by other women, compared to his contemporaries who were often suppliers to society ladies of more refined, traditional tastes. He loved to create beautiful jewellery to adorn women who could be admired for their fine jewels. These women were the women of the ‘demi-monde’ who stood out from the crowd and were beautiful, lighthearted and daring. Boucheron had a lasting legacy. His jewellery is highly desirable and worn in aristocratic circles, by royalty, and high society. Notable commissions included: The Russian Prince Felix Youssoupoff in 1878, who purchased a corsage decorated with 6 detachable diamond bows. A tiara in 1921 for Lady Greville which was later given to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her grandson Prince Charles passed the tiara on to his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Queen Elizabeth II also has a collection of Boucheron jewels. In 1918 The Duke of Windsor by chance met Freda Dudley Ward when she sought shelter from an air raid attack in London and took refuge in the closest house which happened to be hosting a party whose guest of honour was none other than The Duke of Windsor. She introduced him to the world of Boucheron and he would go on to purchase many exclusive items – he is said to have had a love of sapphires. Over the course of 17 years their relationship moved from an intimate to a more sentimental one with her taking the role of confidante and adviser. Between 1918 and 1935 The Duke of Windsor made 75 orders from Boucheron, all mainly women’s jewellery. From 1927 onwards the pace of his purchases slowed. The Prince of Wales last purchase from Boucheron was in 1935 and was a ruby and diamond clip for Wallis Simpson. Wallis put a stop to any further contact with Freda Dudley Ward. Other owners of his precious jewellery include The Astor family, The Vanderbilt’s Duchess of Marlborough. Boucheron is desirable luxury jewellery brand with 34 boutiques around the world. The achievements were indeed a foretelling of all the heights Frédéric’s work would touch for in the following years, he received more Grand Prix wins and another gold medal. In his days, Frédéric was known not just for his work but the love he had for his wife, Gabrielle. The latter was proved when he acquired 31 diamonds at the auction of the French Crown Jewels, held in 1887, and gifted one of the most beautiful jewels of Empress Eugénie’s to his wife, in a manner to pledge his eternal affection. Within the 19th century, the most significant landmark since its birth, was when Boucheron became the first jeweller to open a boutique in the famous Place Vendôme, a square in Paris which is credited of showcasing French elegance at its best. Word is that he chose the mansion house at number 26 so that the sunlight would reflect well against the gemstones inside the store. Upon Frédéric’s demise in 1902, the future of the house passed down to his children. In particular, Louis Boucheron, who oversaw the name’s expansion overseas. Ownership remained within the family, up until 1994.