There is nothing in a woman’s wardrobe more expressive than her jewellery. In Paris, jewels have always carried their own subtle (or sometimes overt) codes: the infamous diamond necklace that sealed Marie Antoinette’s fate; Cartier’s caged bird brooch that got its spunky designer Jeanne Toussaint hauled off to Nazi headquarters. (After the war, Toussaint’s oiseau libéré brooch flew out of the store).
Expert in the art of self-expressive style, Parisian women know how to make the glint of gold and gemstones speak, and they seek out jewels that reflect their personality rather than the trend du jour. More than ever, Parisians are willing to spend a little more on finer jewellery in precious metals with genuine gemstones, and a slew of exceptional Paris-based designers and jewellery makers are making that amour fou all too easy.
Here’s our round-up of standout contemporary designers who are working in and around Paris offering jewellery that runs from delicate, understated pieces to be worn alone or in multiples to fabulous statement jewels featuring knockout gemstones set in high-carat gold or dripping from sculptural settings that transition easily from day to evening.
The crimson and blue boutique just off the Luxembourg Gardens opened in 2003, but de Taillac’s fame dates to her first collection in 1996. Her signature briolettes, a rainbow of faceted droplets cut from semi-precious stones that dangle from elegant necklaces, bracelets and earrings, have been much imitated but never surpassed.
Colour is the designer’s forté – that and her use of luscious 22-carat gold, warm and sinuous so that each piece feels softly sculpted for the neck, wrist or hand. The emotion most evoked by her jewellery (and there are many) is joy: a delight in colour, but also in movement and imagination – the hinged legs of a tortoise charm topped with a brilliant orange sapphire; a “swivel” ring whose stone can turn to be worn on either side; a cascade of briolettes shimmering from chandelier earrings…
The jewels are an investment, but De Taillac’s latest collection, a shower of tiny golden charms called Coup de Foudre, are so affordable you’ll want two or three.
8 rue de Tournon, 6th, Tel: +33 1 44 27 07 07.
Bidermann divides her time between Paris, New York and wherever else her far-flung travels take her. She finds inspiration in everyday objects saturated with memory and meaning, and the sunny colours and cheerful artworks of her boutique on the Rue des Saints-Pères echo the spirit of her whimsical jewellery.
Feathers, bugs, shells, ginkgo leaves, Navajo ornaments, a sprig of wheat, all recall Bidermann’s childhood, when she would comb the Paris antique markets with her parents and spend summers at their country home among Normandy’s golden wheat fields.
Her first collection of charms suspended on delicate threads was picked up by chic boutiques and sought by movie stars. Her work has deepened since then – she’s added a precious gem- and diamond-studded collection – but exuberance and fun are still very much her trademarks.
55 bis, rue des Saints-Pères, 6th. Tel: +33 1 45 48 43 14
Ladies, get out your black books and get thee to Paris over one of the two Saturdays a month when 5 Octobre opens its doors for a few precious hours between 2 and 7pm.
Though the 5 Octobre jewellery line appears in high-end shops around Paris (Merci, Bon Marché, French Trotters) and internationally, here you’ll find all of the seasonal collections displayed in a picturesque 19th-century atelier on historic Rue Beautreillis, a quiet street in a little-travelled corner of the Marais between the Rue de Rivoli and the Seine.
Passionate about jewellery all her life, Sophie Pfeffer finally left her day job as a lawyer to pursue her true métier, introducing her first talismanic pieces in 2005 to wide acclaim. Exquisitely delicate necklaces, rings, bracelets and pins, in 24-carat gold vermeil, lightly studded with tiny rose-cut diamonds, precious stones, pearls, or crystals are easy to love: a dainty four-leaf clover, a ruby-and-diamond eye, a feathery fern-frond ring, a tiny diamond-studded horseshoe.
Even the larger pieces – a long necklace of faceted obsidian beads or golden links studded with pearls – are so graceful and wearable you may never take them off. That may be why women can’t get enough of these pieces, perfect for wearing in multiples.
Pfeffer goes for a certain “high-low” quality in her work, not too sleek (or expensive, for that matter: prices start at around €60 to the low four figures for a knockout necklace) and with the tiny imperfections that render the pieces eloquent and personal.
3 rue Beautreillis, 4th. (no phone)
Bold, beautiful and irresistible, it’s no wonder Yves Gratas’s unfussy jewellery has a cult following in Paris. Set among the chic, somewhat scruffy cafés and bars of the hip Rue Oberkampf, Gratas’s elegant boutique seems totally out of time. The same could be said for the jewels. Inspired by the antique baubles of the Mediterranean basin, the pure, clean lines of the designer’s rings, bracelets and necklaces defy the ebbs and flows of fashion.
These are jewels to be worn everyday with jeans or as standalone pieces for a big night out. Rings might sport a single gorgeously coloured cabochon surrounded by Gratas’s warm matte gold or a dozen rough-cut grey diamonds winding around a band. In contrast, his dainty etched-gold rings beg to be stacked, as do a scintillating range of multi-cord bracelets sporting a single cabochon, a giant Tahitian pearl, or Gratas’s signature golden orb, found in small versions on rings and bracelets, or a larger model suspended from a long cord necklace or dangling from a pair of earrings.
Though prices are on the hefty side, think of it as an investment for pieces that will never ever go out of style.
9 rue Oberkamph, 11th. Tel: +33 1 49 29 00 53
If you are not going to have the time to embark on a full-scale jewellery hunt, or you simply want to make a quick survey of the top jewellery designers working in France and abroad, the multi-brand boutiques White Bird and Hod have you covered. There’s some overlap between the two, but this is a good thing, since the boutiques carry different pieces, some of which are exclusive to each shop.
White Bird’s flagship is set in the heart of Paris on the quietly chic Rue du Mont Thabor, just off the Rue Saint-Honoré shopping mecca, and not so far from the Place Vendôme, Paris’s jewellery central. Founder Stéphanie Roger assembles a curated selection of jewelry hand-picked for how they make her feel.
Originality and style are all well and good, but Roger picks jewellery with poetry and soul. It doesn’t matter if the designer is established or up-and-coming, Roger knows what works for her – and what works for her seems to work very well for chic, jewellery-loving Parisians. Here, stars like Cathy Waterman and Brooke Gregson rub elbows with lesser-known talent.
Standouts to look for: Naohiko Noguchi’s graceful diamond pieces in rough-honed white gold; Ileana Makri’s delicately bejewelled charms and cord bracelets with diamond accents; anything by Anaconda; the exquisite Milan-based label, whose Paris boutique closed a few years ago and is now carried exclusively in Paris by White Bird. The boutique also introduces a new designer each month and its meet-the-artist openings are a great introduction to the shop.
White Bird’s beautiful new Marais boutique fits right in with the neighbourhood’s artsy vibe and makes a nice complement to Hod, a few minutes’ walk away on the Rue Vieille du Temple. Opened three years ago, Hod quickly became catnip for Paris fashion editors, who ransack the boutique for up-and-coming and established talent. The rage for delicate styles that can be mixed and matched is well represented here – Honorine Jewels’ scarab rings in lustrous green enamel, or Jacquie Aiche’s gold-mounted geode rings, earrings and necklaces with a polished stone or shell, alone or silhouetted by tiny white diamonds.
There are also some superb one-of-a-kind accessories: hand-dyed silk and linen scarves, one-off bags in exotic skins like python or galuchat, and colourful butterfly belts.
White Bird, 38 rue du Mont Thabor, 1st. Tel: +33 1 58 62 25 86
White Bird Marais, 7 blvd des Filles du Calvaire, 3rd, Tel: +33 1 40 24 27 17
Hod, 104 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd. Tel: +33 9 53 15 83 34