Oscar Massin may well be the greatest jeweler you’ve never heard of. Born in Liège, Belgium in 1829, he was just 12 when he became a jewelry apprentice. At age 22, Massin moved to Paris and worked as a bench jeweler on the Place Vendôme, where he earned a reputation for excellence in both design and craftsmanship.
In 1867, Massin showed his work for the first time under his own name at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where he was awarded the gold medal. He established his eponymous atelier in 1863, and continued to hold his own among contemporaries Frédéric Boucheron and Louis-François Cartier.
But following his death in 1913, Massin’s name fell by the wayside—until now. Paris-based Luximpact, a company that revives historic French jewelry labels using a sustainable and progressive business model, is recasting Oscar Massin’s legacy for 21st century buyers with a new collection of elaborate jewels featuring climate-neutral, lab-grown Latitude Diamonds produced by WD Diamonds, based in the Washington, D.C. area.
“Oscar Massin was a diamond reformer,” partner and creative director Sandrine de Laage tells Robb Report. “We believe that if he were alive today, he’d do what we’re doing because his aim was to make the industry progress.”
De Laage is a partner at Luximpact along with Frédéric de Narp, a luxury veteran whose resume includes executive positions at Bally, Cartier and Harry Winston, and Coralie de Fontenay, a longtime luxury marketing and development director (she and de Narp are co-founders and co-CEOs).
“Two and a half years ago, I gathered with Sandrine and we decided it was the right moment to put our strength together,” says de Narp. “We met with our sales partner, Coralie—she had been CEO of Cartier in France and left three years ago—and the three of us saw how exciting it is to reinvent luxury codes through sustainability and responsibility. Then we had an amazing opportunity to acquire Oscar Massin.” He also told Robb Report that the revamped company counts Kate Hudson and celebrity stylist, Rachel Zoe, as investors, as well as a 24-year-old, who de Narp declines to name, who felt that the brand reminded her of the quality of her mother’s jewels but spoke more to her generation’s values.
The notion of Massin as a diamond pioneer isn’t just marketing hype. Best known for his filigree setting, Massin used diamonds set in gold to simulate the look of lace. “This very delicate, very feminine aspect of his work is the inspiration for our first collection,” says de Laage.
The collection, which currently ranges from $1,000 to $30,000 (with plans to create jewels that ultimately retail for as much as $700,000), has three pillars: Lace Flower relies on the use of negative space to create light, airy designs that evoke couture threads. The Beaded collection is marked by visible prongs that lend the pieces dimensionality and texture. And the Filigree line “gives the illusion that the prongs are piercing the diamond,” says de Laage, citing one of the collection’s most notable designs, a 2-carat emerald-cut ring.
“We are working on even bigger pieces,” she adds. “They are cooking right now.”
De Narp says Luximpact is committed to using lab-grown diamonds because of their traceability: “Optically, physically and chemically, they’re exactly the same as mined diamonds, except you know where they’re coming from.”
He speaks from experience. Luximpact recently took a minority stake in Vever, an Art Nouveau jewelry master, relaunching the heritage brand as a purpose-driven company with the help of the Vever family. Dedicated to the preservation of rare French artisanal crafts (such as pliqué à jour enamel), Vever is nevertheless committed to using innovative materials, including lab-grown diamonds.
“The good thing about lab-grown diamonds is they are pushing all brands to improve the value chain from extraction to the window,” de Narp says. “In the luxury industry we say only 25% of jewelry consumption is branded; the rest is unbranded. There is huge room for branded jewelry to grow, and therefore there is room for brands with lab-grown diamonds. It’s just a plus.”