Monday, April 22, 2013

Sparkle, Sparkle: The Allure of Rare Jewels

The brilliant Paris-based jewelry designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac sets up a chic new salon on New York’s Upper East Side—and introduces new jewelry designs made in Jaipur, India. This is her third salon—the others are in Paris and Tokyo. 

The New York salon, the décor:

Inspired by Marie-Antoinette’s small theater in Versailles and designed by Marie-Hélène de Taillac, the Manhattan salon is a paragon of French refinement and wit.

Fabric-covered walls in signature Marie-Hélène de Taillac powder blue set a calm tone. Walls are ornamented with exquisite Baguès-style wall lamps ornamented with rock crystal parrots. 

The champagne hand-knotted wool carpet was created by Madeline Weinrib, a longtime friend of Marie-Hélène, and a friend of mine. I’ve written about Madeline on THE STYLE SALONISTE. Find her in the archive.

Marie-Hélène also created a jewelbox atmosphere using a juxtaposition of mirrors, not forgetting those of the Jansen table, and the silver-coated ceiling. It’s a lavish but intimate showcase.

The private consultation salon: One floor above the salon, Marie-Hélène has a hushed, private salon, also in powder blue, where she meets clients to discuss custom designs and special orders—a wedding ring, perhaps. 

Marie-Hélène is a long-time friend of mine. She lives in Paris with her young son, Edmond, travels to India several times a year, and sells her jewels at Barney’s New York around the US. The Los Angeles Barney’s New York store always has a particularly glorious selection of her designs in its sunlit jewel salon. It’s my favorite display of her magical creations. 

I’ve known and admired Marie-Hélène de Taillac for ages—ever since I visited the great Munnu Kasliwal in his Gem Palace private studio years ago, and by chance and good fortune I encountered Marie- Hélène there seated at a work-table on the floor, sorting hundreds of sparkling cut gems.

She was a memorable sight—a dark-haired French beauty of great style wearing a white linen tunic, simple white pants, silver sandals, red toe nails, and a striking hand-made 22k gold bracelet of her own design, very simple.

On the table in front of her was arrayed a Maharajah’s treasure of precious spinels, iolite stones, rubellites, amethysts, glimmering moonstones, tourmalines (pink and green), peridots, rubies, garnets, morganites, pink crystals, cloudy aquamarines, citrines, diamonds, chalcedony, fire opals, and onyx, all of them ready to be made into her exclusive colorful swivel rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, pretty flower rings, rainbow necklaces, and an array of brooches and belts.

The dazzle and vivid colors of scattered rings lit by the afternoon sun spilling through an adjacent window, instantly created a kind of over-stimulation of beauty and an instant desire to wear them all, to adorn the body with them. Beauty is my eternal search. 

I’ve written about Marie-Hélène on THE STYLE SALONISTE before, with great pleasure.

A couple of summers ago, she had a fabulous exhibition at Le Bon Marché in Paris, and I wrote about that.

Her handcrafted gold and precious-stone jewels are simple and modern and ultra-feminine. At the same time the fine traditional craftsmanship gives them a timeless air, a feeling that they could have been made for a grand Medici prince or a Renaissance princess of France, for a chic contemporary artist, or a pretty mother with a young baby. Her designs have universal appeal. 

I wish Marie-Hélène continued joy and good fortune in the New York aerie—and can’t wait to see her in India soon, at her Gem Palace headquarters.

It’s there in that private and creative place that she offers me delicious cold fresh lime drinks made by her cook, and lunches of healthy salads and dhal and vegetarian delights from her home kitchen.

And it is in Jaipur, an eons-old center of gem-cutting and generations of fine crafting that her jewelry is made by specialized craftsmen using traditional tools, centuries-old methods. Each piece is individually crafted, so that the hand of the jeweler is evident. Each is exquisite. 

All About Marie-Hélène de Taillac:

When Marie-Hélène de Taillac launched her first collection of delicate, colorful jewels in 1996, she sparked a revolution in the classic world of high-end jewelry. Her creations—made in India in 22k gold and often with a satin/matt finish—used vibrant faceted stones to ravishing effect. Not for her fussy designs or bling-bling gold or over-the-top diamonds. Instead, the concept is very feminine, very pretty, very seductive.

They are jewels for personal pleasure more than gems-to-impress. Certainly they are also flat-out sexy—but not with a va-va-voom flash. I love them. They are a secret pleasure.

In Paris, I often stay at a friend’s apartment on rue de Tournon that’s just a few steps from Marie-Hélene’s boutique at 8, rue de Tournon. Imagine, every day, there is the anticipation of walking part her vitrines as I head off on a Left Bank rendezvous. In her window: moonstone rings, perhaps, or delicate little elephant-shaped pendants, or a rainbow briolette necklace of colored stones. It’s a thrilling way to start the morning. 

Her lifelong love of vivid color, her enduring fascination with fashion and travel, led de Taillac (pronounced ‘de-tai-ac') to produce a collection that brought real, precious jewelry into the everyday lives of modern women.

Her first collections of ‘cabochon’ rings, and swivel rings were an instant hit, and sold immediately to high-end stores worldwide: Barneys New York, Browns in London, and Colette in Paris.

When she first started using vibrant stones, colored stones were hardly in fashion. They were still called ‘semi-precious’ which is now a rather dated description.

I once met Hans Stern, the founder of venerable H. Stern, in Rio and he said to me, “I dismiss this expression ‘semi-precious’. For me, there are only precious stones. Turquoise stones are precious. Spinels are precious. Topazes are precious. Tourmalines are beautiful and they are precious. They are all precious.” 

Marie-Hélène follows the same utmost belief in the beauty, power and precious attributes of all of her handpicked stones. At the start, she initiated using the briolette cut, a stone-cutting technique traditionally reserved for diamonds, for unexpected gems such as multi-colored tourmalines or bright orange fire opals.

She experimented with unusual combinations of gemstones—black onyx inset with blue sapphire, for example. Her signature is vibrant color. She is passionate about it, and via color has managed to banish the precious/semi-precious edicts that used to exist concerning fine jewelry. 

Three seasons of jewels as seen by Marie-Hélène de Taillac

Snow falls over Paris...

In memory of a private visit to Marie-Antoinette’s winter garden at Versailles, Marie-Hélène dreamed up snow flowers. They are iced daisies in rock crystal and frosty pink and blue sapphires, to be worn as a necklace, earrings or rings. A soothing combination. 

Spring is a time of enchantment at the Queen’s Hamlet: Marie-Hélène’s delicate "Clochettes de Muguet" – gold and iridescent moonstone earrings inspired by lily-of-the-valley – chime brightly. 

The Venus grotto at the Linderhof Palace, that otherworldly refuge favored by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, finds its echo in Marie-Hélène’s ‘Baroque minimalist’ shell earrings.

Summer is clad in pastel and sorbet colors: sapphire "Mosaïque of Gems" earrings vacillate between light blue and mauve. 

Sumptuously colored gemstones, set invisibly in earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings. All MHT jewelry is handmade in gold and precious stones.

Earrings from $550 – $25,000
Rings from $1,200 – $100,000
Pendants from $70 – $4,000
Necklaces from $3,500 – $200,000
Prices may vary

Where to find: 

20 East 69th Street
New York, NY 10021
Tel.  212 249 0371

8, rue de Tournon, 
75006 Paris
Tel. +33 (0)1 44 27 07 07 / 08

3-7-9 Kita-Aoyama,
Minato-Ku Tokyo, 107-0061

Tel. +81 (0)3 5468 2703


Portrait by Paolo Roversi, used with express permission. 

Illustrations by Jean-Philippe Delhomme 

Jewelry images courtesy of Marie-Hélène de Taillac, used with kind and express permission. 

Images of the New York salon by Jeremy Liebman, used with express permission of Marie-Hélène de Taillac. 


  1. Yes exquisite, Dianne! Thrilled to have MHT in the UES of New York, though it could be dangerous... Thank you thank you for another dose of beauty and delight.

  2. Dear Friends--

    Hello, Frances and Hello Contessa-

    Thank you for your kind comments.
    Yes...MHT is now in New York...perhaps for stopping in at her salon before lunch and after lunch...or before dinner...or a special occasion.
    very best, DIANE

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