When a group of Brazilian miners recently unveiled a collection of large Paraíba tourmalines of exceptional quality for Caroline Scheufele, owner and copresident of Chopard, she did not hesitate: She made an on-the-spot offer to buy the rare gems. “These were the nicest stones I had seen in years,” she says.
Recognizing the appeal that these newly acquired treasures would have for a serious and well-informed collector, the ever-astute Scheufele had them shipped directly from their site of origin to her company’s workshops in Geneva, Switzerland. Her only dilemma during the entire transaction was deciding which of her valued clients would receive right of first refusal on this singular find. “Sometimes,” she admits, “it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time”—but in this case, she had in mind a U.S. couple with a shared passion for unusual stones that fall outside the ambit of more typical collections.
As always, Scheufele’s instincts were sound. The clients bought the set of six Paraíba tourmalines and collaborated with Chopard’s design team to create a custom parure that embodies the wife’s understated style. Three of the stones adorn a pair of earrings and a ring, while the remaining oval-shaped electric-blue gems, together weighing more than 40 carats, enhance a simple strand of pearls.
Given Chopard’s high-profile presence on red carpets—where celebrities attending such media-saturated events as the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival are often draped in the company’s creations—some may be surprised to learn that the house quietly serves a cadre of serious collectors who buy stones privately and commission bespoke pieces that never see the inside of a retail store; instead, these unsung masterpieces are sketched during individual consultations and executed behind the closed doors of the high-jewelry ateliers in Geneva. These special projects, which frequently incorporate important stones, often depart from the house’s usual design canon. “Being family owned, we can be a little adventurous and risky,” says Scheufele, who, as head of the high-jewelry division, meets directly with many clients seeking commissions.
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Scheufele and the rest of the Chopard team have collaborated closely with the buyers of the Paraíba tourmalines in building their substantial jewelry and gemstone collection, which includes diamonds of every color; a range of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires; and an exceptional three-strand necklace featuring nearly 300 carats of conch pearls. Indeed, the jeweler recently presented the couple with another unique opportunity to add to their portfolio when a 70-carat orange melo pearl with a fiery flame pattern on its surface became available. The clients performed their own due diligence on this stone, which carried a six-figure price tag, before making the purchase. This time, however, the husband took the lead in designing a necklace of rich brown diamonds that highlights the beauty of the museum-quality pearl.
Although serious stones form the core of the couple’s collection, many of their commissions exude a whimsical flair, expressing facets of their personalities. Their love of enchanting creatures, for instance, is expressed in such ornate animal designs as a diamond-encrusted owl. “My wife collects owls,” says the husband, “and I wanted to create an owl that was soft and cute, rather than a scary owl.” Other examples include a diamond-and gemstone-covered donkey and lion, while one of the most extravagant pieces is a finely detailed lamb pendant necklace made with 1,303 white diamonds and 130 pink diamonds.
“This couple has a unique taste level and sense of adventure, and they push our design team even further and get everyone in the workshop excited about trying new things,” says Scheufele, who notes that more and more collectors are seeking to personalize their collections. “Most clients have the basics of a jewelry wardrobe, and now they want to have fun and create pieces that speak to them as individuals—and as couples.”
The husband, for his part, agrees. “I want to give my wife unique things,” he says, “something that no other kid on the street will have.”
Chopard, 800.246.7273, www.chopard.com