Hubert Burda Media

Indian Voyage

Boucheron’s Bleu de Jodhpur collection blends the magic and romance of Jodhpur with the savoir faire of Place Vendôme’s first jeweller.

When Indian royalty crosses paths with one of the great Place Vendôme jewellers, the result is unlike any other. Take, for instance, the Bleu de Jodhpur high jewellery collection launched by Boucheron in July. Its pieces incorporate daring and unusual materials never before used in high jewellery, such as sand and marble (yes, the very same soft, milky-white Makrana marble extracted from the quarries in Jodhpur, which was used for the construction of the Taj Mahal in Agra back in 1631). Evoking the majesty of Jodhpur’s traditional palaces, the appeal of its small blue-and-white houses, the orange tones of the Thar Desert and the modernity of its renowned art deco architecture, Boucheron’s new haute joaillerie collection is a blend of ancestral traditions and contemporary design — an ode to the India of today.
Concentrating especially on Marwar in the state of Rajasthan, Bleu de Jodhpur is divided into four chapters: Jodhpur, Indian Palace, Garden & Cosmos and Maharani. As a whole, the collection comprises over 105 designs, of which 60 pieces were manufactured and presented at the July launch in Paris. The rest were presented as drawings and will only go into production once an order is received. The pieces can also be further customised with the choice of stones and materials of the client’s preference.
The collection features three unique creations — the Jodhpur necklace, Plume de Paon secret watch and Maharani brooch — while the remainder are reproducible pieces to meet worldwide demand. A team of 14, including 11 craftsmen, were tasked with putting the collection together at the Boucheron workshop at 26 Place Vendôme since mid-2013.
Boucheron’s Creative Director Claire Choisne says: “The aim was to create an image of India far from all clichés and stereotypes, and with the innovation of using unused materials. The city of Jodhpur covered with the blue facades of its houses became a strong inspiration. Bold blue represents audacity because of the innovations behind the creations. The link between Jodhpur, the ‘Sun City’, and Boucheron, a jeweller in the ‘City of Light’, made the inspiration more obvious. India has always been an important concept in Boucheron’s creative history with its rich and vibrant heritage, the architecture of its palaces and the colours of its towns and cities.”
India has always occupied a special place in the Maison’s heart. After all, Louis Boucheron (son of founder Frédéric) made numerous trips to India to purchase stones and sell jewellery. His first visit was in 1909 when he discovered the cabochon sapphire that would become a signature of the house. Since then, the country and its rulers have had a profound influence on its high jewellery creations.
Maharajas, in particular, hold a special place at Boucheron: Frédéric Boucheron welcomed Jagatjit Singh Bahadur, maharaja of Kapurthala, who placed many orders. This was followed by numerous private commissions from flamboyant and endearing princes. But the Maison’s most legendary patron was perhaps Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, who arrived in 1928 with six suitcases full of precious stones, including 7,571 diamonds and 1,432 emeralds, totalling over 8,000ct. An admirer of Boucheron and its special link with India, he requested a magnificent set of jewellery composed of 149 pieces to be crafted using the thousands of diamonds, rubies and emeralds from his personal treasure trove, which remains to this day the most significant and remarkable special order Place Vendôme has ever seen. The largest necklace he commissioned comprised 85 emeralds weighing 1,117ct.
In a continuation of the links that have united the house and Indian dignitaries since the 19th century, Bleu de Jodhpur is placed under the patronage of His Highness Gaj Singh II, the current maharaja of Jodhpur and an avid patron of the arts and culture. Gaj Singh II played a vital role in its creation, for example, selecting the marble of the Jodhpur necklace. It was Franco-Indian ambassador of art and culture Nupur Tron, a close friend of the Jodhpur royal family, who brought Boucheron and the maharaja together for this project.
Choisne had to travel to Umaid Bhawan, the maharaja’s art deco palace in Jodhpur, to present her initial drawings. Although she was at first nervous of how he might react, the pair ended up having a very frank discussion about each of the pieces, turning the endeavour into a true collaboration. They also spoke about the maharaja’s vast art collection, his knowledge and experience in jewellery, and his thoughts on beauty and innovation. It was a meeting of two minds with a single vision of creating a contemporary image of Jodhpur and India.
The inquisitive and diligent maharaja helped give meaning to Choisne’s intuition, such as when he informed her that seven was a sacred number in India after she had suggested a seven-strand necklace. He also opened all the doors of the city for her so she could go everywhere, visit all the palaces and citadels, and view his art collection. He was committed to creating a high jewellery collection that was a true reflection of his city and his approval gives it credibility and authenticity.
“Boucheron is unique as it truly values its heritage and tradition through its rich archives. Furthermore, the Maison’s link with India makes it even more personal and special to me, as it means that it views it as a land of inspiration and fascination…Boucheron’s main motifs take Indian heritage, maintain the tradition and create a modern twist. The collection is an accurate representation with many affinities,” the maharaja tells us in an exclusive interview.
Without doubt, the one-of-a-kind perfectly symmetrical Jodhpur necklace is the heart and soul of the collection. A romantic interpretation of the Blue City, it is Boucheron’s very first reversible high jewellery necklace, in tribute to the traditional jewellery of the moguls, where the back is as precious as the front. Both sides show off the same technical virtuosity yet still manages to be flexible and light. In white gold, one side of the necklace features a 6.01-ct kite-shaped diamond set in the middle of the central similarly shaped motif made of marble, a precious material long associated with art and not with jewellery. The shape is then repeated around the necklace’s perimeter. Diamonds and sapphires adorn the other side, reminiscent of Jodhpur’s small blue-and-white houses, along with a 3-ct cushion diamond, marble and rock crystal.
Although the necklace weighs close to 500g, its weight is well-distributed and it sits comfortably on the neck. The idea of reversibility came to Choisne after studying books on ancient Indian jewellery with muted stones such as diamonds and pearls on top, and fancy-coloured enamel on the underside, as if a secret for the wearer alone. Choisne took the concept a step further by designing both surfaces with its own unique “spirit”, so the necklace may be worn two ways, ensuring the craftsmanship is completely visible to all. She discloses: “I love the work of our artisans too much to keep it hidden. So there’s one white side that’s really pure and modern with the shapes and facets on the marble, and another side that’s more feminine, round, using rock crystal and the idea of blue for the city of Jodhpur.”
The all-white diamond-set Plume de Paon necklace in white gold evokes lightness despite the use of marble, which has been carved into impossibly thin pieces. “Paon” being the French word for “peacock”, it was, in fact, the peacock feather that inspired Frédéric Boucheron and his workshop director to invent the first “question mark” necklace without a clasp in 1889, which has since become a trademark of the house. “This piece is one of my favourites,” Choisne notes. She also shares that it was one of the most difficult to create. “I asked the craftsmen to make the feather really thin, like a real feather, but in marble. They started cutting and it was a nightmare as they had never worked with marble before. They broke a lot before succeeding because it was so thin, especially at the corners. I thought marble would be like onyx or lapis lazuli, but it’s not at all like that,” she says.
Inspired by one of the maharaja of Jodhpur’s palaces in Nagaur, a fortified town that’s like an oasis in the middle of the Thar Desert, the Nagaur talisman necklace in white gold with a pear-shaped pendant proved to be another challenge for Boucheron’s craftsmen. Although experienced in cutting rock crystal (an expertise of the house since Choisne’s arrival), they were not used to cutting the hollowed and faceted designs she required for this piece. The central motif of the necklace is composed of two rock crystal halves that are joined together by metal with one hole (where the central diamond sits) for sand from the Thar Desert to be poured in. Celebrating the state regalia worn by the great moguls, Boucheron used traditional materials of gold, diamonds and pearls, but added its own touch of modernity through a rock crystal heart in a shape echoing the contours of the citadel of Ahhichatragarh when seen from the sky. Nagaur can be worn in three different configurations including with or without the tassels and central motif.
Coloured stones make a strong appearance throughout the collection. The Bindi white gold ring is set with a majestic 4.36-ct Burmese pigeon’s blood ruby, an 11.06-ct onyx and kite-shaped, marquise and round diamonds. It is among the most expensive pieces valued at over €1 million. The Maharani white gold brooch features an ancient 19.87-ct Colombian round cabochon emerald (that once adorned the traditional wear of a maharaja) set on a diamond-paved foil straddled by two diamond-encrusted rock crystal rounds. The parrot motif Perroquet bracelet in white gold is embellished with agate, sapphires and diamond pavé. The iconic Joy ring in white gold and paved with diamonds features in each of the four chapters, with sizeable stones of varied hues: A tanzanite in Jodhpur, a rubellite and mandarin garnet in Indian Palace, a peridot in Garden & Cosmos, and an amethyst and morganite in Maharani.
“Jewellery has always been an important part of dressing up. Be it rulers or queens, jewellery adds more charm and royalty was defined by the amount of jewellery worn. If you look at old pictures from the archives, you will see that men also carried heavy jewellery. In the past, they wore it daily, but these days, jewellery is worn by men only occasionally,” says the maharaja. Sporting jewellery himself for special occasions, he favours wearing the sarpech turban ornament and even recalls an unforgettable memory attached to it: “The sarpech of my grandfather, Maharaja Umaid Singh Ji, is inspired by an aircraft’s wings, as he was a passionate aviator. The emotional connection is something that has always fascinated me.”
Boucheron’s clients will now have the chance to create some special moments themselves through the Bleu de Jodhpur collection.