Views from the Top: Jean-Marc Mansvelt, CEO of Chaumet

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Having spent 10 years at Louis Vuitton, Jean-Marc Mansvelt took the helm of French jeweler Chaumet in January aiming to awaken the Sleeping Beauty and position it at the apex of haute jouaillerie. As the jeweler was launching its new collection dedicated to the Empress Joséphine, I recently sat down with the new CEO to discuss his vision for the brand:

What is your main challenge right now, as a new CEO?

Bringing back the brand to the top and make it better known for its heritage. We have 235 years of history, but I don’t think this history is always very well known.

Why do you think that is the case?

First, after what happened to Chaumet at the end of the 1980s [the company went bankrupt in the early 80s before being bought back by LVMH in 1999], probably there was a reaction about this past and how 200 years of history was coming to conclusion. We have 55,000 drawings, half a million photographs of pieces that were created, over 100,000 invoices and letters. It can be a bit overwhelming to have such enormous patrimony and history. And there was also this idea that if you want to appear contemporary, you’ve got to appear young, and to appear young it’s important not to tell these heritage stories. Things have changed now.

So what are you going to do to change this perception?

We need to tell our story better. We have a plan. We’re going to start with the opening of a pop-up museum at Place Vendome in September that will present an exhibition on one of the main themes that the house has embraced over the years: naturalism. Longer term, we’re planning to present a larger exhibition of our patrimony, using our own collection and borrowing from collectors and museums, because we do have pieces in Le Louvre, at the Chateau de Fontainebleau, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. So far, we have not been very active on that front, but we do want to do more, starting with the curation of this exhibition.

Tell me more about this pop-up museum.

Currently we have a private museum of sorts, but it’s not open to the public, only an exceptional place for exceptional people and you have to make an appointment. The idea with this new museum is to lift the curtain a bit on our patrimony and our history. We see this pop-up museum as a beautiful window onto our story.

So what does Chaumet stand for today?

There was really a search at Chaumet over the years, to go beyond the demonstrative, the sumptuous, the visible, it was very much for people who didn’t have to prove their wealth. The Chaumet style has a real personality, an expression that is extremely modern and interesting. We’re distinctive and that’s one of the reasons why our clients will chose us. Our style is a lot about a sense of lightness and grace.

Chaumet Clip Fleur Corail 

Chaumet Clip Fleur Corail 

Are you closely following what’s happening with Chaumet jewelry at auction, and are you buying back any pieces?

The patrimony team is closely following the market and yes potentially we are buying back. For us, it’s really about extending our current collection. We already have a few heirloom pieces and now it’s about buying pieces that complement what we already have in order to explain all the facets of the brand over all the periods.

How extensive is Chaumet’s collection?

We have around 300‑400 pieces of really high standard. We buy from time to time. Last year, we bought back an exceptional piece that could be in le Louvre.

Do you see a lot of Chaumet pieces coming at auction?

There are many pieces, but not so many extraordinary pieces, because I think people who own those keep them. Over the last 6 months, of really exceptional pieces, in terms of value and quality, I’ve seen maybe one or two. Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago at Drouot there was a ruban with pearls, which was beautiful and carried an estimate of 20,000‑30,000 euros and sold for over 300,000 euros!

How do you feel about the recent announcement that the Biennale des Antiquaires is going to be an annual event?

Actually for us it’s good news, since we want to be more active in the high jewelry sphere and we want to have a true high jewelry collection every year anyway. At the same time, the biennale is a beautiful setting for us, exactly where we want to be.

As first published on BlouinArtinfo.com