By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
French jewellers’ exceptional designs and unparalleled craftsmanship further cement France’s reputation as a centre of glamour and the creative arts.
Backed by decades of expertise in jewellery manufacturing, French jewellery houses have a proven track record in the global fine jewellery industry, constantly making waves in the gold, diamond, coloured gemstone and pearl jewellery sectors.
JNA sat down with renowned maisons Arthus-Bertrand, Commelin, Group Schmitgall, Loris Paris and Joïa to talk about their core products, business strategies and France’s illustrious role in the fine jewellery world.
Arthus-Bertrand and Commelin
Established in 1803, Arthus-Bertrand specialises in the manufacture of various products including medals and insignias. The company eventually transitioned to production of gold, silver and gem-set jewellery although medals and decorations remain a vital part of its business.
Its design philosophy is mainly anchored upon a fusion of modernity and timelessness, injecting every Arthus-Bertrand piece with a one-of-a-kind character and charisma.
At the beginning of 2017, the company merged with Commelin, one of the oldest French manufacturers of charms and a specialist in translucent enamel, according to Isabelle Latour of Arthus-Bertrand and Commelin.
Since 1880, Commelin has made a name for itself in enamelling 18-karat gold medals and fine jewellery. The jeweller manufactures nearly 2,000 different types of charms. Commelin’s creations stand out because the enamel changes its colour depending on the intensity of light, added Latour.
“These two companies are now at the forefront of fine jewellery-making in France, with emphasis on enamel jewellery in 18-karat gold. Each piece is handmade with enamel and truly outstanding,” noted Latour. “After the companies merged, we now have a unified design philosophy, which is the use of enamel in classic designs with a contemporary twist. This is what the companies represent.”
Among the latest fine jewellery lines launched by Commelin for Arthus-Bertrand is the Commelin Collection, which includes pieces resembling a stained glass window, and the Wheel of Time Collection, which centres on multi-dimensional enamel jewellery that takes inspiration from night and day.
According to Latour, Arthus-Bertrand is aiming to capture the Asian market with its latest collections.
“Commelin used to sell in Japan while Arthus-Bertrand has a strong customer base in Europe and France,” the company official said. “Asia has a huge potential for us because Asian buyers love enamel. So far, we’ve seen quite an interest in our designs, with prospective clients telling us they were very impressed with the technique.”
Arthus-Bertrand and Commelin are setting their sights on Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and mainland China.
The company executive described French-made jewellery as “artistic and charming,” and is able to capture sophistication without being ostentatious. “We go for subtlety, uniqueness and elegance in our designs.”
Latour also expressed optimism about growth prospects in the jewellery industry after a challenging 2016. “The storm has passed and we’re seeing signs of gradual recovery in the market,” she continued.
Gaëtan Pinot, owner of Groupe Schmittgall, has a mission: To immortalise Paris’ opulence and flair through fine jewellery.
The company, founded in 1926, is behind the Pacoma Paris brand, which was launched in 2006. According to Pinot, Pacoma Paris perfectly embodies Parisian elegance in its predominantly pearl and diamond jewellery collections.
“We were initially focused on the pearl business since the company’s establishment but we have since expanded into gem-set jewellery after I bought a company that specialises in diamonds and coloured gemstones. We have since been exporting to Asia,” revealed Pinot.
The company has a store in Tokyo, Japan, and a distributor for China, which runs 700 shops, he added. “We exhibit in Tokyo and Hong Kong in March and September. We also participate in BaselWorld, which is the most important show for us,” continued the company official.
The jeweller’s major markets are Europe; Asia, with a strong focus on China and Japan; and the Middle East.
“We want to focus on our core markets at the moment but we would like to further strengthen our presence in the US in the future. Since we exhibit in Basel, we’ve had some customers from the US, Canada and South America,” stated Pinot.
Groupe Schmittgall’s main products, under the Pacoma Paris brand, are pearl and diamond jewellery. Most recently, the company has broadened its portfolio to include a new collection of purely diamond and coloured gemstone pieces, also under the Pacoma Paris brand.
“We always come out with new collections to keep our inventory fresh and interesting. There’s one collection that pays homage to Paris as an artistic hub. The collection celebrates theatre and the arts,” noted Pinot.
The company uses South Sea, Tahitian and Japanese Akoya pearls, G-colour diamonds of VS clarity grade, as well as blue and fancy sapphires such as pink and yellow.
“We have a solid reputation in the pearl business since we have been in the industry for many decades. At the same time, our diamond and coloured gemstone business is likewise gaining ground in the industry,” he remarked. “My competitive advantage lies in my expertise; this is my edge.”
Pinot also maintained an upbeat outlook for 2017, citing expansion initiatives that the company is undertaking.
“I definitely see an improvement from last year. We already opened new shops in Paris. We are planning to open a boutique in Hong Kong and another one in Tokyo within the next two years,” he disclosed.
Loris Paris is a family-owned enterprise that focuses on fine diamond jewellery. At the helm of the business is third-generation family member Loris Khorchidian, who describes himself as a “hands-on” jeweller. The company was established in 1949.
“My grandfather built this company, which I’m now heading. I make sure that I have an active involvement in the overall process, from design to production,” commented Khorchidian. “Our company’s competitive advantage is that all our products are 100 percent made in Paris, from conceptualisation to manufacturing.”
Loris Paris specialises in creating and producing top-quality jewellery pieces. Over the years, it has gained fame for its design and manufacturing expertise, and is highly recognised in the field of fine arts and jewellery design.
It uses top-quality diamonds of D to F colours and VVS1 clarity grade. Its pieces are also adorned with blue, pink and yellow sapphires, as well as rubies, Tahitian pearls and some South Sea pearls.
The French jeweller’s main markets are France and Japan but it is building its business in Hong Kong and China, according to Khorchidian.
“We consider distinctive designs as our competitive advantage. We launch new collections from time to time, especially for international trade shows because that’s the best time to showcase our expertise to our existing markets as well as potential clients,” remarked the company executive.
Loris Paris’ latest collection features jewellery pieces with a small heart motif that is almost hidden to the naked eye.
“If you pay attention to the details, you will see the heart. It connotes secret love that’s why it is hidden. We place great importance on details when designing our products because that’s what keeps us ahead of the competition,” continued Khorchidian.
Founded in 1998 by Jean-Pierre Moreira, Joïa produces fine jewellery pieces that complement the women of today. The pieces are created with daring lines and elegant curves that celebrate femininity. Marina Aparicio of Joïa said every Joïa piece is hand-made in France.
“We make sure that our designs are highly exceptional and the way to do this is to seek uniquely beautiful stones,” stated Aparicio. “For instance, every coloured gemstone is different so we always try to find inspiration from the stone, and then work our way to designing a piece of jewellery.”
The company, which is based in Lyon, has 52 employees in its manufacturing facility, added the company executive.
All the pieces are in 18-karat gold adorned with diamonds and unheated sapphires and rubies, as well as no-oil emeralds. Some of the gemstones have gemmological certificates.
Joïa’s main market is France.