The history of Boucheron’s most recent high jewellery collection goes back to the year 1928. Boucheron had received a commission for the largest special order in the history of Place Vendôme by none other than the Maharajah of Patiala that year. Almost 100 years later, in 2022, Creative Director Claire Choisne pays homage to these designs by their “New Maharajahs” collection.
On August 2, 1928, Bhupindar Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala went to Paris with a forty-people entourage and booked 35 suites at the Ritz for his stay. Historian Vincent Meylan recounts the scene that would have passed, as the Maharajah, of 6-foot, 7-inch regal stature, surrounded by warriors, who carried iron chests, entered the doors of Boucheron. Louis Boucheron, son of Frédéric Boucheron, the founder of the company, welcomed them at 26 Place Vendôme. In those safes, Boucheron discovered treasure beyond belief. 7,500 diamonds, 1,500 emeralds, and an endless cache of rubies and pearls tumbled out. For these gems, Boucheron imagined a total of 149 designs, including dazzling emerald and diamond collars, flamboyant multiple-strand pearl necklaces, and belts covered in precious stones. The three biggest pieces Boucheron created weighed almost 150 carats all together. The Maharajah himself was known for his extravagant taste, having been the owner of the world-famous Patiala Necklace, created by Cartier in the same year, 1928. That necklace had a 234.69-carat De Beers Diamond in its centre, which was at the time the seventh-largest polished diamond in the world, in addition to 2,390 other diamonds, and two Burmese rubies. The Maharajah was no stranger to elaborate pieces made by master jewellers, and Boucheron created over a hundred fabulous pieces from his jewel collection.
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When sifting through the archives, Choisne discovered the 149 original designs, which she kept as inspiration for the collection. “This commission by the Maharajah of Patiala seemed like a fairy tale, it was the stuff of dreams,” she says. The new high jewellery edit reimagines these fantastical creations for the 21st century Maharanis and Maharajahs, who want to celebrate their individuality and style. The Kering-owned jewellery brand has highlighted elements which symbolise India, such as the lotus flower, turban ornaments, chudiyan or wedding bracelets. Traditional techniques such as glyptics, which is the art of engraving stones have also been incorporated. Choisne has also deliberately chosen a colour palette of white and transparent stones, to express purity and reflect her contemporary vision.
New Maharajah Necklace
“This is the only colourful parure (set of jewels) of the collection,” explains Claire Choisne of the Colombian emerald embedded necklace. Nine Colombian emeralds, totalling 40 carats form the central motif, which can also be worn as a brooch. The necklace can also become a collar, and is lined with baguette-cut emeralds, which move with every step of the wearer. Boucheron has deviated from the original design of green gems at the ends of necklace and replaced them with bright diamonds covered by rock crystal. The New Maharajah Earrings are inspired by another necklace from the 1928 commission. Their shape is identical to that of the Maharajah’s necklace, set with diamonds and ending with 58 drops of hypnotic emeralds.
New Maharani Necklace
Designed to embody the form of a majestic lotus, this necklace plays with white gold, diamonds and rock crystal to draw a diamond lace on the skin. A 4.08 carat cushion diamond shines at its centre.
New Maharani Crystal Necklace
This Boucheron necklace resembles a cord of rope, but one that’s paved with diamonds. The multi-stands necklace can be transformed into a choker with tassels or a short necklace. A traditional technique known as glyptics is applied to rock crystal, wherein a design is carved onto the stone adding to its brilliant facets.
New Maharani Mother-of-Pearl Necklace
Weaved with pearls, white gold, diamonds, rock crystal and mother-of-pearl, this majestic piece can be worn seven different ways. Two pearl bracelets can be detached, it can be worn as a choker or a brooch or even in a shorter form. A lotus, chiselled in mother of pearl, is the central motif of this piece. According to Choisne, “These three necklaces have been designed to be worn together. This monochrome piece in rock crystal, diamonds and mother-of-pearl translates opulence into transparency and delicacy.”
Another lotus-inspired design makes it way to the collection. Padma, which translates to lotus in Hindi, is considered a symbol of purity in India, and Boucheron gives this flower a contemporary look. Made with white gold, diamonds, rock crystal, mother of pearl, pearls, cacholong (opal), it is to be laid on the ear as a statement piece.
New Padma Rings
The first ring is set with a rock crystal dome, that shows a lotus flower resting inside, using the glyptics technique. This dome is mounted on a cacholong, aka, opal ring, and references Boucheron’s iconic Parfum ring. The second ring of the collection is pear shaped, sculpted in rock crystal as well, and is paved with round and baguette diamonds.
For those planning a big fat Indian wedding, these high jewellery chudis by Boucheron can serve as inspiration. Forged in white gold, the bangles are inlaid with diamonds, mother of pearl, pearls and each set is designed with different textures and shades of white in mind. Creative Director Claire Choisne has even artfully designed a mother of pearl bobbin to store these ten chudis when not in use.
A turban ornament, or Sarpech, is an important jewel tradition amongst Sikhs. The maharajah being a part of the community had commissioned many intricate aigrettes for his turban, including some design by Cartier. This sarpech , imagined by Choisne can also be worn a hair jewel or a brooch, and is set with rose-cut diamonds.
The whereabouts of the original set of jewels that Boucheron designed however, remain a mystery. None other than one necklace, which was seen on a painting of the Maharajah’s son, were ever seen again. Historian Vincent Meylan speculates that maybe the jewels were split between the wives and children after Bhupinder Singh’s death in 1938. There is also a possibility that the collection is still stored somewhere in its entirety. Only time will tell, and till then Boucheron offers a modernised version of those very designs.