PARIS — Picture this: It’s 1928 and Place Vendôme is awash with the rumor of a prince who arrived with 40 servants, booked 35 suites at the Ritz and possesses an appetite for jewels as large as his wealth.
Bhupindar Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, and his retinue of Sikh guards bearing six iron chests enter the Boucheron boutique – and its history. “His order is the stuff of legends. Imagine this colossus of a man pushing the door of the house,” said creative director Claire Choisne at a preview.
To make use of the thousands of gemstones and pearls that he inventoried, Louis Boucheron, son of founder Frédéric, drew 149 sketches, which are the basis for Choisne’s newest 14-piece high jewelry collection, titled “Histoire de Style, New Maharajahs.”
Seeking to reinterpret these designs for today, Choisne said she wanted to turn what she saw in the archives on their heads in terms of scale and colors, while focusing on the original shapes and ancestral Indian techniques, in particular carved glyptic gems.
“Starting from scratch is easy because everything is contemporary — ideas, techniques, everything. Starting from a century-old aesthetic and creating something of our time is where it gets complicated,” Choisne said.
Central to all these designs is the idea of multiple wear. For women as well as men, according to Choisne, who demonstrated how some motifs could be worn in place of a tie.
The New Maharajah platinum necklace is built around nine Colombian emeralds — totaling just shy of 40 carats — and its central motif can be worn as a brooch, turning it into a choker.
In contrast to its 20th-century predecessor, which featured green gems at its extremities, pavé diamond drops covered by a layer of rock crystal increasing their halo have been used here. Also in this set are earrings that reproduce the original sunburst design, including its 58 emerald drops, at a scale adapted to the size of an ear.
“The only colored set — to retell the story of the Maharaja of Patiala without the weight of history,” Choisne noted.
Three necklaces are the centerpieces of the New Maharani set, all exploring the lotus motif. The eponymous choker looks like a collar of diamond lace, with a cushion-cut central diamond of more than 4 carats; the “Crystal” variation plays on transparency with its three rows of diamonds; while the long “Nacre” necklace, which totals 5,178 pearls and melon-cut rock crystals, can be worn seven different ways.
Most surprising in the collection are the “New Churiyans” bracelets, a set of 10 bangles inspired by Indian brides as adornments imbued with protective symbolism. Choisne’s version in white gold with diamonds, mother of pearl and pearls can be assembled into a bobbin that nods to Boucheron’s art objects.