The name Lalique has long been associated with the wonder of transparency and jewellery brilliance. The brand’s unique story begins 130 years ago with one man: René Lalique. First and foremost an Art Nouveau innovator, he is considered one of the most significant change agents of the late 19th/early 20th century, playing a significant role in redefining how fine jewellery is conceived and designed. This is the story of the man and the global brand he would go on to build.
The Inventor of Modern Jewellery
In 2017, a very important private collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewels was auctioned by Christie’s Geneva under the moniker ‘Beyond Boundaries’. Everyone thought the Art Deco pieces would be the draw. The modernist, geometric style has proved more popular than the woozy, sensuous, dreamlike aesthetic of its predecessor. However, as lot after lot was called, it was the decadent marvels from the imagination of René Lalique that proved to be the stars.
From brooches featuring two peacocks, beak to beak, their feathers dramatically recreated in gold, glass and diamonds to nebulous enamel-decorated forms from which women’s melancholy faces appear, these pieces demonstrate that Lalique is be more than deserving of his unofficial title as the “inventor of modern jewellery”.
This was not by chance, of course. Before glassware became his main business, the young Lalique was trained to be a master goldsmith and jeweller. Born in 1860 in Aÿ-en-Champagne in north-west France, though the family soon relocated to Paris, he was apprenticed to craftsman and jeweller Louis Aucoc – a leading name in the Art Nouveau scene – after his father died.
Through Aucoc, and his courses at the École des Arts Décoratifs, Lalique learnt jewellery-making techniques. In 1885, after working independently for the likes of Boucheron and Cartier as a designer, the 25-year old took over the workshop of another Parisian jeweller – Jules Destape, yet another Art Nouveau name.
By 1887, Lalique had set up his own workshop and was beginning to create the incredible jewellery that was to make his name. Inspired, as all Art Nouveau was, by Japonisme and the Belle Époque cult of femininity. It wasn’t his designs that were controversial, although they were beautiful, it was the materials he used. At the time, the trend was to use copious amounts of precious stones with little to no creativity. Lalique specifically chose his materials for their properties and appearance, mixing gold and gemstones with the likes of mother of pearl, ivory and horn, as well as enamel and glass.
View this Lalique Opalescent Crystal Heart Necklace here.
It cemented his reputation as a truly modern jeweller, one who was rewriting the rule book and changing people perceptions of what constituted precious jewellery. His experimentation paid off – actress Sarah Bernhardt became a loyal customer as did many of the Parisian social elite. So popular was he that by 1900, Lalique had been named Officer of the French Legion d’Honneur, the highest award for military and civil merits in the country.
Following the turn-of-the-century, Lalique decided to shift his focus, turning his attention to his ongoing experimentation with glass. In 1907, he was commissioned by François Coty to make his perfume bottles; a move that revolutionised the perfume industry because, for the first time, people could buy affordable fragrances in beautiful containers.
Lalique subsequently opened a glassworks – the Verrerie d’Alsace – in Wingen-sur-Moder in Alsace. It was here he was able to experiment with techniques, adding patinas, enamel and used stained glass to transform the pure glass.
View this Lalique 1927 Collection Double Wrap leather Bracelet here.
It wasn’t long before his designs were in high demand. During the 1920s and 1930s, Lalique was asked to decorate the Cote d’Azur Pullman Express, renowned fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet’s haute couture salons and the first-class dining room of the luxury liner Normandie, for which he created the lighting columns and chandeliers.
Throughout this time, the jewellery side of the brand was relatively dormant. That was until Lalique’s daughter Marie-Claude succeeded his son Marc in 1977 (Lalique’s himself died in 1945). Under her leadership the jewellery business was not only revived but thrived alongside the brand’s new fragrance arm.
Modern Day Lalique
In 2008, when Lalique was acquired by Swiss group Art + Fragrance, the jewellery once again returned to the heights it had occupied in the early 1900s. A magnificent collection called L’Odyssée du Feu Sacre made its debut in 2012, fusing glass and precious metals in ways that echoed René Lalique’s bravura technique.
To this day Lalique continues to resonate with many jewellery lovers around the world. Cherished for its versatile beauty and its simplicity, the brand’s creations combine a modern, clean and youthful look whilst having been manufactured from some of the company’s most time-honoured, traditional jewellery-making techniques. In every piece, you can still see the echoes of the hypnotic, symbolic style that made it one of the most revolutionary brands of the 20th century.
View these Lalique Arethuse Bleu Crystal Cufflinks here.
As an official stockist of Lalique jewellery for men and women, we are most proud of our collections, which feature designs using sterling silver, vermeil, black crystal and white crystal to mention just a few. Whether a lover of simplicity or an admirer of luxurious designs, these iconic pieces are sure to add something special to any established jewellery collection.
Lalique necklaces, Lalique rings and Lalique bracelets also make for wonderful Christmas gifts for that special lady in one’s life.