The time of Mauboussin

It is human nature to strive for beauty.

Continent Alain Nemarq

 

It is human nature to strive for beauty. Perhaps that’s because in beauty is reconciliation with the imperfection of the surrounding world, or because it recalls the perfection of a higher design and provides the missing link. And thus there is logic in Oscar Wilde’s paradox that, «One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.» Maybe that’s why flowers and jewellery are one of the eternal symbols of beauty and love. The «jeweller of colour» — it was by this name which, in the 1930s, the masters of Mauboussin were known. Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo found inspiration in the refined and elegant pieces of these jewellery creators. Mauboussin’s president and designer, Alan Nemark, speaks to us of the eternal challenge of searching for beauty in the imperfection of daily life.

The House of Mauboussin has existed since 1827, and I’m incredibly proud to have been granted the honor of continuing the company’s long history, which is simply unrivalled in the jewelry business. Mauboussin has always been a unique establishment. Getting its start in the first half of Russia’s Golden age, the company began creating products in a style that was completely unthinkable for the time — if we look at history, we see that adornments were massive, heavy, and bulky, with large stones. It was quite difficult for women to wear these sorts of things. But then Mauboussin appeared with light, delicate, lacelike pieces, making the jewellery seem weightless. The company’s message to women was that the beauty of a piece lies in the combination of refinement, radiance, and levity.

The jewellery house has been working under my leadership for sixteen years now. Today, Mauboussin is also unique it that it still has not been bought by any large corporation, although jewellery houses nearly always are. Mauboussin is the only one of its kind to have preserved its integrity.

In the Art Deco era, our jewellery house was the first to use coloured stones. Amethysts and aquamarines brought the company great success. Continuing the Mauboussin family tradition, I produce pieces designed not just to stand out for their splendour and grace, but to merge with the mistress of jewellery, to become her second skin. I wanted to introduce a minimalist style, in which you’d not only feel light, graceful, and harmonious, but you’d also remain yourself. In addition to our classical collection, we also have a very refined line that includes expensive jewellery made of precious metals, with an abundance of diamonds and rare stones. Yet these products are still lightweight. It’s the «lace» technique, discovered by Mauboussin, which has allowed for the achievement of such a result and for the tradition of weightlessness to carry on into the 21st century. In truth, any jeweller can make a lightweight ring and demand a fabulous price for it, but our jewellery house works in the name of beauty, and isn’t exclusively focused on the upper class. The main goal is to let women know that these are things they can have, that they’re not something out of reach.

Illustration Alain Nemarq

I have been creating collections for sixteen years, and my job is not only in the management of the company: every time we’re preparing a new collection, I dive into the process of making jewellery, coming up with and drawing the store displays that appear in our windows. Like any creative person, I need a muse. An inexhaustible source of inspiration for me is that most beautiful of entities — women. And the path to those most dear to me leads far back into the past. My childhood was during France’s difficult post-war period, and I was raised by my mother and grandmother. I don’t know what would have become of me were it not for their love. For a very long time, my mother accompanied me to school; she wanted to be near me as much as possible. Now I can be with her always — she wears the jewellery I made for and about her. Many women have since been a close part of my life: among them muses, lovers, and simply friends.

But a source of inspiration can also just be a beautiful stranger, one of those chance encounters life gives you. One of my favorite places is Paris the Café de Fleur. Among the items in the restaurant’s interior, there is a fairly large mirror — you can’t miss it. One time, while I was there, an amazingly beautiful girl sat with her back to the mirror, and across from her was a young man, much less attractive, sitting between us and speaking with her. On my lap, I had a paper towel, the same sort that every guest gets. I was fascinated by her beauty, and was immediately struck with the desire to create something out of the inspiration I was absorbing. I pulled a pen out of my pocket and grabbed the paper towel: I had to give her a message, to tell her that she was a marvelous pearl, beautifully adorning everything around her. It was all so strange: she was sitting with her boyfriend, and here I am, intently looking at her and drawing. At some point it dawned on me that I couldn’t look her in the eyes, but the mirror did reflect her profile, and that which a jeweler can’t help but notice, her hands. Suddenly we locked eyes in the mirror. I couldn’t keep embarrassing this couple! They both radiated love, but when the girl and I locked eyes, perhaps another beautiful feeling was born. It was a spectacular May, the sort that can only happen in Paris. The trees were in bloom, like my stirring heart. Across from me, in the mirror, was reflected an enchanting stranger who could have been my fate. It wasn’t to be. But there remains a ring to remind me of that crossing of paths. It graces a new Mauboussin collection, and it pleases my heart.

Certain places in the world can inspire. Going for walks in St. Petersburg has given me terrific ideas that I now carry out in my art. Every piece I’ve created is distinct — in each of them, I tell a story, which sometimes even becomes something poetic. Creativity, it seems to me, is at once philosophy, poetry, and life itself, in all its contradictions and multifariousness. That which a person creates is his life, the main goal of which is always love. Love for his work, and for life. Without love, there is no creativity, and nor is there life. If love lives deep in a person’s heart, then he will push to express it, to communicate it, as best he can. Perhaps this will bring someone into the understanding of love, compel them to feel it. Then the person will see the reflection of those emotions in the eyes of another, and in this, the world is made better. We live in such a turbulent, constantly changing world, but the desire to see and create beauty remains unshakable — in this, we fear neither old age nor death, because in what we have created, we remain.