What Makes Jewelry Valuable? The Gold or the Artistry?

Sarah Royce-Greensill, The New York Times, December 5, 2022

As creative director of the Parisian jewelry house Boucheron, Claire Choisne has been on a quest to elevate mundane materials like pebbles and petals, a far cry from the diamonds and emeralds traditionally seen in Place Vendôme’s vitrines.


The latest substance to emerge from her innovation department was Cofalit: an industrial byproduct from asbestos waste, rendered inert through vitrification, the transformation of a substance into a glass. Commonly used for highway embankments, it has appeared, faceted and polished like glossy obsidian, in three new Jack de Boucheron Ultime designs, another entry in Ms. Choisne’s efforts to, as she has said, “redefine what is precious.”


Boucheron is not alone. The German house Hemmerle is renowned for combining rare gemstones with humble materials such as iron, shells and wood — echoing the earliest forms of bodily adornments, albeit with five- or six-figure price tags. The Brazilian jeweler Silvia Furmanovich has championed Indigenous crafts by juxtaposing gold and gems with miniature carpets made by artisans in Uzbekistan, woven bamboo and wood marquetry by Amazon craftspeople. And Francesca Villa, who is based in Valenza, Italy, adds flair to little objects that she buys at flea markets and online marketplaces.


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