T he only independent jeweler of Place Vendôme, Lorenz Bäumer has been releasing designs in his own name for thirty years. His bold celebration of femininity challenges traditional jewelry codes, forever daring and innovating in an avant-garde style. Ahead of the Lorenz Bäumer Collectionneur! sale, he shares his insights on design, beauty and collecting himself.
How did you get started as a collector?
My parents were diplomats and we moved from one country to another every three years when my father’s assignment changed: a new country, a new language, new friends and especially a new culture. The United States, Jordan, Austria, Germany, Canada, Israel, France. That gave me a taste for discovery, curiosity and a desire to understand. That is how I started my first collection, of wine labels. I must have been seven years old, and that was the first of my collections.
One gets the impression that beauty is an important part of your life. Is that true?
Beauty is essential, since it puts me in the present moment. Nothing else matters in a moment of beauty: neither the past nor the future exist. I get into the flow, fulfilment, the instant...Beauty can only exist in the pursuit for excellence and authenticity: going as far as possible, being genuine, being oneself, and especially being one’s best. Beauty is present in each of us, and I like to create that connection through my jewelry. Beauty is a promise of happiness.
How does art inspire you?
Each work from my collection represents an encounter. Photos of tattoos and my collaborations with my friend Garth Knight gave me the idea for my tattooed diamonds, an iconic part of the Good Girl – Bad Girl collection. The faceting work on the furniture of Paul Evans inspired me to invent an asymmetrical gemstone cut that reflects the light in a dazzling way.
What work is most important to you?
The next one, of course!
How do you define your collection?
Eclectic. A testimonial to an extraordinary savoir-faire, emphasising discovery and the personalities of the designers with whom I identify through a continuous dialogue. Often with friends who have made it possible for me to choose their most beautiful works or to participate in their creative process: Fabien Mérelle, the Campana brothers, Johanna Grawunder, Thomas Dartigues, Mathieu Mercier, and so many others.
Where did you find these works?
Beauty knows no borders, and I have always given pride of place to gallery owners who have inspired me and revealed new arenas to me: Michel Périnet, Jean Claude Guerin, Jacques Lebrat, Lucas Ratton, Cyril Grizot. Auction houses and flea markets are also a marvellous playground where I have formed my taste and trained my eye. I'm always like a kid in a candy store. Fortunately, I don’t impulse buy; I always sleep on it before making a big purchase.
What type of object do you collect?
I’m an equal-opportunity collector. Eclecticism amuses and delights me. That might take the form of a 19th century drawing, a piece of Royère furniture or a bottle of Japanese whisky. Those are pieces that resonate with my work as a designer, and through which a creative dialogue might begin: a view of women, the effect of a drawing, the use of an unusual material, the significance of colours, and so on.
What is your latest discovery?
It was an extraordinary 17th century French crucifix in sculpted wood. The incredible emotion that I felt when I found it made me want to share the object by giving it to the woman I love, who inspires me and supports me on an everyday basis. There was also a magnificent rose-coloured diamond, the last one found at the Argyle mine in Australia before it closed. A rare natural masterpiece, it is a sculpture of light, an opulent gift from the earth. I designed a piece for it, and I can’t wait to see it come to life and adorn a woman’s neck. And there is also a spectacular photograph of the Vendôme Column by Jean-François Fortchantre, which I added to my collection of a hundred-and-fifty photos on the subject that is on display at the boutique.
What designers do you admire?
Jean Royère for the simplicity and fantasy of his shapes, Hubert Le Gall for his fun and humour, Hervé Van der Straeten for his discipline and savoir-faire, Jean Puiforcat for the divine mathematical perfection of his forms, Vik Muniz for his firework display of colours, Philippe Pasqua who has an incredible artistic talent, the Campana brothers for their inventiveness, and so many others...Every time it’s like falling in love again.
What moved you most recently?
The lyrics to the song “Toucher l’instant” by Grand Corps Malade. They express the magic instant of creation, the flow that we always try to get into when making something new, and that moment of fulfilment that makes us forget anything going on outside.
What are your passions?
Surfing, especially catching big waves for a powerful adrenaline rush. I collect surfboards made by great shapers who sculpt for rides on the foam. Gourmet food, which is the art of transforming what nature offers us to best savour it – just like jewelry! Road trips, too: setting out in my car without knowing where I’ll end up, what I’ll discover and who I’ll encounter. My last road trip took me to Orléans, Tours, Clermont Ferrand, Le Puy-en-Velay, Montpellier, Thiers, Carcassonne and Toulouse. I discovered the Musée Fabre; the Musée de la Coutellerie, which I enjoyed because I also collect knives; and the Michelin museum of tyres, which incidentally I do not collect yet!
How long have you been designing jewelry?
Next year I’ll be celebrating my thirtieth anniversary as a designer, a career that enabled me to start from nothing and led me to having my own jewelry house at 19, Place Vendôme. After training as an engineer at the École centrale de Paris, I chose to take the leap as a costume jewelry designer, fine jewelry designer, artist, and head of company. Throughout my career I was also the artistic director of Chanel jewelry for twenty years and artistic director of Louis Vuitton jewelry for eight years; I designed the case for Guerlain’s Rouge G lipstick, various perfume bottles, and so on.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on a collection of talismans shaped like buckles. It’s based on the idea of protecting ourselves in these uncertain times, bringing meaning to what we wear, and bolstering our courage and hope.
What piece are you most proud of having designed?
The tiara that I designed for the wedding of Their Serene Highnesses Prince and Princess Albert of Monaco. I was chosen through an anonymous contest, and Karl Lagerfeld immortalised the occasion. But the pieces that I am really most proud of are those that I designed for the Sumba Foundation, in Indonesia, where I go every summer to surf. Each piece of costume jewelry, sold for $100, enables five children to attend school for one year, and pays for their school supplies. More than 2,000 kids benefit from the programme each year. That is what I am really proudest of, since that jewelry changes the world for the better.
What colour would you be?
Violet, my absolute favourite.
My own, which I had the opportunity to create with Aurélien Guichard, whom I admire a great deal.
Faber est suae quisque fortunae (“Each person is the architect of their own fortune”).