Not many men will admit that they are unfaithful when it comes to women. That is, unless you are jewellery designer Lorenz Bäumer.
“It’s not just about one woman or muse for me – she always changes,” says the designer, who is happily married. “But one characteristic they all share is the fact that they are modern. They live an incredible life with their businesses, social life and kids.”
While Bäumer’s approach to haute joaillerie may not be conventional, it has clearly worked in his favour. Since launching his own line in 1992, he has been lauded as one of this generation’s most innovative jewellers. His work has been immortalised in a book, and exhibited in museums, such as the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris and Forbes Magazine Gallery in New York.
His stunning creations have graced celebrities, socialites and royals including Charlene, the Princess of Monaco, for whom he designed a wedding tiara inspired by her love of swimming.
But the real crowning glory in his illustrious career came in 2009 when he was personally handpicked by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) honcho Bernard Arnault to become the first artistic director for Louis Vuitton Fine Jewellery.
“Of course, I knew the brand, who doesn’t? What was interesting for me, though, was the fact that it had extraordinary potential in terms of expressing what it has to say in jewellery. There was so much to be done but it was complicated because they come from a very different world. It was not the world of fashion, but the world of travel. For me it was a personal challenge – I love things that are difficult and challenging,” he says with a grin.
Bäumer has always been an ambitious man, which explains why he explored many other creative mediums before deciding to focus on jewellery. He had a diverse upbringing, living in cities such as Washington DC, Tel Aviv and Amman before settling in Paris where he studied engineering. Despite this, it was his fond memories of watching his mother dress up in her jewels that led him to return to his first passion and launch a small collection of costume jewellery, called Lorenz, in 1989.
“I’ve always loved jewellery design, even as a small kid. When I started I had no money, no clients, no experience,” he recalls. “Costume jewellery was something I could do, so I made everything myself, gluing the stones together and selling the pieces through Tupperware parties.”
It was only when one of his clients asked him to reset one of her diamonds in gold that he began to explore a different side of the jewellery world.
By the mid-1990s, he had moved his salon to the heart of Paris’ haute joaillerie district, Place Vendome, where he began working with the country’s finest craftsmen. His style also evolved as he started to push boundaries and experiment with different techniques within the fine jewellery oeuvre. “If I sketch something out and discover that it exists somewhere else, then I will immediately throw that sheet of paper away. As a designer it is very important to be able to create things that don’t exist already.”
This approach continued at Louis Vuitton, where he was charged with creating the brand’s first fine jewellery collection from scratch, much like Marc Jacobs did with the ready-to-wear in 1997. Inspired by his love of travel, his debut collection of 30 pieces, entitled L’Ame du Voyage, took customers on a journey while exploring cutting-edge techniques and new materials.
One necklace of diamonds, sapphires and spinels, for example, was inspired by the skirts of Flamenco dancers in Seville, and fans out across the décolleté.
Another referenced the stunning jewels worn by Maasai tribeswomen with its layered circles of laser cut gold lace set with colourful precious stones and brilliant diamonds. Also groundbreaking was the Louis Vuitton diamond, an exclusive yet complex cut inspired by the brand’s monogram flower shape.
“I don’t think there was really a mission – it was just about building a collection of fine jewellery, and giving the house a confidence and credibility. One thing we do share in common is a love for travel.
Vuitton is about going to places, and I have been going to places with my collections,” he says. “It’s about another kind of travel, which is travel through time.
There are many different ways of travelling and this hopefully will also enrich you.” Each year, Bäumer continued to add one-of-kind pieces or collections, while pushing the boundaries of jewellery making. Many of his creations border on art. The Escale à Paris collection features a yellow and white diamond bangle and ring that map out the streets of Paris. The Champs Elysees necklace is a technical feat and recreates the city’s most famous avenue, including the famous L’Arc de Triomphe. It’s embellished with red spinels and diamonds lined up in opposite directions representing car headlights and brakes.
“[The craftsmen and I] are ready to kill each other every day,” he laughs. “I make them do things they have never done before. So we fight but in the end they were proud because no jewellery house has something like that to offer. We try to bring in as many interesting and new things as possible.
“It usually starts with an inspiration. Then I also try to blend in elements that are recognisable from the house, like the monogram flowers,” he says.
“Vuitton is a very strong, masculine, graphic brand, but there is also a feminine side.”
This aesthetic is best exemplified in his latest collection, Voyage Dans le Temps, which features 27 new pieces. Inspired by past and present, Bäumer’s favourite is the Victorian-looking Dentelle de Monogram necklace, a luxe version of the fashionable Peter Pan collar. It’s made up of threads of diamond-studded monograms and flowers strung together.
More graphic is the Galaxie Monogram, a choker that features brilliant and marquise-cut diamonds interspersed with white gold coated in blue ceramic.
The Fleurs d’Eternite necklace looks like it came off the set of the Great Gatsby with its grey diamond and gold bead chains and green tourmaline centre stone.
“I’m always thinking about making women more beautiful,” he says. “One part of their beauty is being modern but also living in their own time. A lot of designs I do, especially in this collection, are a mixture of past and the future. It is important to keep our roots but also important to look towards the future, so there is this duality all the time.”
While aesthetic is integral to his creations, Bäumer also places equal emphasis on functionality and details. The Galaxie Monogram necklace can be disassembled and worn as two bracelets, while the Dentelle de Monogram necklace comes with a magnetic clasp at the front – the first for the maison.
It can also be worn as a brooch.
“Everything is done for a reason at Louis Vuitton.
When you look at a trunk, all the elements are functional, so for the jewellery I try to come up with new ways of closures and linking things together,” he says. “It’s not just about doing something new but also making life easier for women. I want to be known as a designer making the world easier to live in.”
Bäumer hopes to establish Louis Vuitton as one of the major players in the jewellery world. As for his own personal legacy he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, jeweller and crystal maker, René Lalique.
“He [Lalique] changed the way women look at themselves with jewellery,” Bäumer says. “He was very revolutionary, thanks to his incredible craftsmanship and business sense.
“Like him, I hope my creations will live on way beyond when I am not there any more.”
Born in Washington DC to a German father and French mother
Launches Lorenz Bäumer fine jewellery
Awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his achievements in the arts
Lorenz Bäumer, My Own Dictionary, a book celebrating his work, is released
Appointed as artistic director of Louis Vuitton Fine Jewellery
Launches Voyage Dans le Temps collection