Business

21 September 2021

Vever: Putting the Nouveau back into Art Nouveau?

The public has long associated Art Nouveau with René Lalique, but in fact the movement had another key protagonist: Henri Vever. Following its demise in 1982, the company is now being revived by two of his descendants: Camille Vever and Damien Vever.

By Sandrine Merle.

 

 

Twins Camille and Damien Vever represent the 7th generation of the jewelry dynasty born in 1821. Obviously, they did not know Henri Vever (representative of the third generation, about whom I wrote a long article), who took the company to great success during the Art Nouveau period with his brother Paul, whose descendants they are. It was Paul’s grandson, Bernard – their grandfather (5th generation) – who shut down the company for good in 1982, at a time when the twins were only 3. “He and my father talked a great deal about Vever. My grandmother gave me a little barrette in a case for my 16th birthday”, says Camille. A few years later, following a career in finance, Camille finally decided to relaunch the company.

 

Henri Vever, the Art nouveau jeweler

 

The new Vever

To make a success of this comeback, the twins are following the time-honoured general rule: respect the DNA while modernizing the design. Artistic director Sandrine de Laage (formerly of Harry Winston) reprised the central theme that has won Vever so many awards: the woman blended with flora and fauna, complete with sinuous lines and majestic enamel. The masterpiece, l'”Empress”, is inspired by the sublime “Sylvia” pendant on display in the jewelry gallery of the Musée des Arts Déco (along with some sixty other pieces). But it is totally different, much simpler and looser, more ethereal. There are also utterly 21st-century pieces such as small undulating rings for collecting, or the bracelet whose gold wire unfolds and closes by winding around a diamond.

 

“A company with a mission”

The modernization of Vever’s Art Nouveau style is also reflected in the choice of materials. For the 2021 version, Camille Vever wanted only recycled gold, vegetable ivory and synthetic diamonds, the largest of which weighs 3 carats. Everything is made in France (except synthetic diamonds), like the translucent enamel by Sandrine Teissier, winner of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award, who runs a family workshop that has earned itself the French Living Heritage label. Meanwhile, production is made to order to avoid unnecessary stock. For Camille Vever, “these choices echo the audacity of the Art Nouveau movement” because Vever (but also Lalique and Lucien Gaillard) also used unusual materials at the time, including horn, opal and enamel, which were treated with contempt by jewelers.

 

Joint venture with Luximpact

The world of jewelry has seen few comebacks, unlike that of fashion (Christian Dior, Givenchy, Balmain, Carven, etc.) and successful attempts are rare. One example is that of Suzanne Belperron taken over by the Landrigan family or Lalique, now owned by Silvio Denz. The challenge is great, but Camille Vever has plenty of aces up her sleeve. She relies on various types of investors, from private individuals to a brand-new fund dedicated to companies with a mission, Luximpact. The latter is headed by jewelry professionals from Cartier and Harry Winston: Coralie de Fontenay, Frédéric de Narp and Sandrine de Laage. But her greatest asset is the integrity of her approach, given that she and her brother are part of the Vever  dynasty. The conditions seem to be in place for continued success.

 

Discover the company at Sotheby’s with an exhibition-sale from September 24 to 28 and a press conference on September 27, 2021.

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