PARIS — Last year, organizers sounded hopeful that the Place Vendôme jewelers would return to La Biennale Paris; this year, the tone was more one of resignation.
“I am very attached to high jewelry and discussions continue, you just have to imagine that these large groups — these are large groups, not individual houses — as you know, today, they have a different strategy,” said Mathias Ary Jan, the president of France’s Syndicat National des Antiquaires, organizer of the event, which takes place under the soaring glass and steel dome of the Grand Palais.
La Biennale Paris opened its door to the press Thursday, holding its annual kickoff in a Ruinart-sponsored stand, where most guests had their stemmed glasses filled with water, rather than Champagne.
Ary Jan said a decade ago, the Biennale had served as a venue for high jewelers to promote their collections in September, which they would then sell in October and November.
“Today their creations, collections, are shown in the months of April, May and June for selling in the summer, in places like China and Japan — across the world,” he added.
“So the Biennale today is perhaps less pertinent than it was for them a few years ago,” he continued, noting that large groups like Richemont might prefer to focus on events for each brand, like Cartier’s venture to in the Forbidden City in China this summer.
“Of course, I would like to have them return, or at least some of them — we have an excellent relationship; we’ll see how things go in the future,” he said.
Ary Jan expressed interest in bringing together various institutions, including auction house Drouot, Place Vendôme jewelers and galleries to promote French lifestyle through the Biennale.
“Things come together little by little. Today we have good momentum and we’ll see what the future holds,” he concluded, before quickly adding that he was “absolutely not opposed” to the return of the large jewelry houses.
Show organizers said when the Grand Palais is closed for refurbishment, scheduled to start at the end of 2020, the Biennale, along with other large events, will be moved to a temporary setup on the Champs de Mars, the stretch grass leading up to the Eiffel Tower. Grand Palais officials, who are still firming up plans with architects, will make details public in October.
Last year, Lorenz Bäumer was the only jewelry house presenting at the fair. This year, there was Swiss jeweler Domeisen, Paris-based Maison Auclert, and the Henn Family, hailing from Idar-Oberstein, Germany and London, where it makes made-to-measure jewelry.
Marc Auclert, who brought necklaces, rings and earrings made from antique objects with modern settings, including a Third Century Roman cameo mounted on a sapphire-encrusted ring, said he expected the fair to be a good place to make his house known to a broader and more international audience.
The Bahrain Pavilion, set up by Kaneka Subberwal, sat in the center of the exhibition hall, showing craftsmanship, artwork and pearls from the country, including the peacock necklace made of seven strands of pearls from the Persian Gulf in various colors, from the Mattar jewelry house in Bahrain.