(1864 - 1917)
LITERATURE: RENÉ BOIVIN JOAILLIER, by Françoise Cailles
ART DECO JEWELRY, by Sylvie Raulet
DICTIONAIRE INTERNATIONAL DES BIJOUX, Editiond du Regard
René Boivin was the founder of the justly famed jewelry house of Boivin. He came from a family of silversmiths, and apprenticed with his father, eventually becoming a gifted chiseler.
Boivin was ambitious. In 1890, at the age of 26, he purchased several workshops on the rue St. Anastase in Paris, thus setting up his first establishment. In 1893, he moved to the rue de Turbigo. He also, in the same year, married Jeanne Poiret, elder sister Paul Poiret, who would become one of Paris's most renowned and influential couturiers. Jeanne was also the first important female jewelry designer of the 20th century.
René Boivin was thus introduced to the world of high fashion and all those associated with it, from the creators to the clients. His jewelry quickly reflected this influence, becoming rich, elegant and elaborate in the taste of the late 19th century. Rene and his very talented wife Jeanne began collaborating on the designs of the now established jewelry house, and their jewels were soon drawing attention for their daring and innovative designs, which explored ideas from the new abstract styles coming out of Cubism and the emerging Art Deco esthetic.
René Boivin died young, unfortunately, in 1917; and Jeanne assumed control of the firm, working with her daughter, Germaine Boivin, and the very gifted designer Juliette Moutard. They moved to the more prestigious avenue de l'Opera, where they worked together for forty years. Another immensely gifted designer, Suzanne Belperron, designed for Boivin from 1921 to 1932, when she left to form her own business.
The house of Boivin was among the most innovative in their designs, and their workmanship was impeccable. While their designs were strongly reflective of what was happening in fashion and the decorative arts, they were interpreters, and not imitators. Among their best-known designs were many first introduced by Suzanne Belperron, who favored the use of geometrically carved rock crystal, citrine, and colored agates. Their Art Deco designs were among the most innovative of the fine jewelry houses.
In the 1930's, Boivin's designs were increasingly inspired by Naturalism, and the House of Boivin attracted great attention with jewels based on sea creatures, animals, fruits and flowers. Among the most famous are the "Star fish", and the "Chamelion", which could be transformed by pressing a small lever to change its colors.
They also favored brooches designed as leaves - set with a brilliant array of colored stones, and flowers, such as a spray of Digitalis, with the flowers formed as faceted drops in graduating colors of amethyst and tourmaline, each flower attached so as to move. The idea of movement is found in many of their jewels. Some brooches were designed with the flowers set en tremblant, so that they moved with the wearer, making the diamonds shimmer. They designed rings with drops of colored stones set on tiny hinges around the central stone that opened and closed like a flower when worn.
Boivin also incorporated elements from ancient jewelry motifs for pieces that were at once sophisticated and slightly barbaric. In fact, the diversity of their designs was remarkable, and they were one of the most creative and innovative jewelry houses of the century. Their workshop was, for many years, under the very able direction of Mr. Bernard. Boivin did not usually sign their jewelry - it is usually marked with the poinçon of the workshop, but they would sign pieces brought to them that bore the correct work-shop marks.
When Jeanne Boivin died in 1959, the house was taken over by Louis Girard, who continued to produce many of the earlier designs, adapting them as necessary to changes in fashion. One of his novel ideas was a solid bangle bracelet with sliding enameled sections that could be pushed back to reveal a diamond panel for evening wear. In 1970, Baroness Caroline des Brosses began designing for Boivin. It was she who designed the famous Bague Quatre Corps, with four rows of overlapping stones.
In April of 1991, the house of Boivin was purchased by the Asprey Group. They continued to produce excellent jewelry, again going back to some of the earlier designs, and keeping the same workshop in Paris, able run by M. Bernard for many years.
After the take-over of the Asprey Group by Prince Jaffry, brother of the Sultan of Brunei, there were many changes, and they were not for the better. Soon after, the great house of Boivin was closed forever.