R enowned for her unparalled eye for discovering new design talent, Valerie Demure is more than just an experienced jewelry buyer. With her own e-commerce platform, The Valery Demure Shop, and an agency supporting new and established fine jewelry designers, she also advises, consults and curates for prestigious brands and lectures at Central St Martins. Born in France and now based in East London, Valery is at the heart of the evolving fine jewelry world.
Here, she talks through her new fine jewelry shopping concept, Objet d'Emotion and her lifelong passion for jewelry, as well as curating her favourite lots from Sotheby's upcoming Weekly Edits of Fine Jewels in Geneva, London and Paris.
Can you explain the origins of your concept, Objet d’Emotion, and how this came about?
"The concept of Objet d’Emotion stems from frustration – good frustration, not bitter frustration. I started my company Valery Demure Limited, 18 years ago and debuted with jewelry and accessories from wholesale to retailers. I had grown disillusioned with retail, the market has become hugely saturated. Jewelry has become so democratised and “mediocratised” and has almost lost its soul. There is so little risk taking in retail these days. The same brands, the same aesthetics… all in the name of TREND. Too much of it and too much mediocrity for the sake of newness to please fashion publications.
My passion has always been to discover new talent, to nurture these talents and to bring them to a discerning audience. I love the discovery part but also the curatorial one. When you support these artists, let’s not forget that you also support the small ateliers, the highly skilled goldsmith artisans, the enamellers, the stone setters…You help preserve skills that will otherwise disappear progressively. These skills are a very important part of our culture and identity, they must be preserved. Craft and High-End Craft are under threat.
I love objects (furniture, ceramics, glassware…) and I love wearable objects (jewelry). Creating Objet d’Emotion for me is offering a haven where clients who are also dissatisfied with mainstream retail can be part of a community, discover one-of-a-kind work that is artistic, commission bespoke pieces, attend talks and become more educated. Currently Objet d’Emotion only showcases fine jewelry, but we have just started to work on an objects curation that we hope to launch before the end of the year.
We are developing different products (a jewelry themed memory game, a beautiful candle with a scent artist in London, a jewelry box with artisans in Jaipur. We have collaborated with Scottish ceramic artist Frances Priest, we will be sourcing textiles and collaborating on glassware objects with a French jewelry artist, Agathe Saint-Giron, we have created furniture with RCA graduate Simone Brewster and a mirror with Scott Wilson (Royal College of Art ). We are discussing limited edition rugs, produced in Nepal and designed by Deirdre Dyson. Let’s see!"
What is the piece of jewelry that first ignited your passion?
"It was a ring called The finger between by jewelry artist Naomi Filmer. I was in my early thirties and I discovered this ring in a small gallery in East London. Later on, I met Naomi and she is now one of my closest friends and my daughter’s godmother. France is more conservative when it comes to jewelry and as a young French woman, I had never seen anything like this. The design was just unconventional and triggered my curiosity.
"Jewelry, like other forms of arts, is part of the fabric of our human society. It is part of our language, part of our identity. Jewelry, Fashion, Architecture, Photography, Music, Fine Arts…all influence each other and constitute the expression of our identity and history as a race."
You have talked in the past about contemporary jewelry being heavily influenced by fashion, art, architecture...and not so much by traditional jewelry, in fact. What happens at the intersection of all these practices?
"Contemporary jewelry is part of the evolution of jewelry design. It is definitely influenced by centuries of jewelry. Contemporary jewelry is also greatly influenced by ethnic jewelry. Contemporary jewelry to me is influenced by traditional jewelry, as it seeks to innovate from traditional jewelry, to push artistic boundaries. To me, jewelry is possibly not ART, for the exception of maybe Wallace Chan, but it is definitely an Applied Art. Jewelry, like other forms of arts, (music, literature, costume) is part of the fabric of our human society. It is part of our language, part of our identity. Jewelry, Fashion, Architecture, Photography, Music, Fine Arts…all influence each other and constitute the expression of our identity and history as a race. The human race."
What advice would you give to someone who was interested in beginning to invest in jewelry? Do you follow your heart and gut instinct, or do you make calculated choices based on the market?
"I think these are the two different considerations. To me: follow your heart, your gut instinct. Create a collection that conveys who you are and your collection will evolve with you. Fall in love, feel lovely emotions. During PAD I meet all sorts of clients and on one occasion, a male client told me that he only buys jewelry from established brands for his wife, as an investment. I asked him very politely whether he was buying the jewelry for himself or for his wife. I added that maybe he should just buy shares for his wife then. His wife was on our booth at PAD, and I could tell that she was very attracted to a one-of-a-kind ring from one of our designers, but her husband dismissed the jewel because it was not labelled Cartier or Bulgari. The ring in question was designed by an artist who actually designs and produces for a few big jewelry houses. I felt a little sad for her. But then I also met with more adventurous male clients, who were not just considering the investment route but wanted to surprise and please their other half."
Aside from jewelry, what else do you collect?
"I collect eyewear. I own over a hundred pairs of sunglasses: Cardin, Courrèges, YSL, Dior, Silhouette, Paulette Guinet… I collect shoes – I am a shoe addict. I have my everyday shoes and I have my statement shoes. The shelves in my offices are filled with books on jewelry, accessories, textiles, fashion, Art. I have a nice collection of vintage bags and hats too."
Which of the pieces in the sale could you see yourself wearing, and how would you style them?
"All the pieces I selected, I could see myself wearing, I love to wear a simple black dress like a blank canvas and accessorise. I love to create contrasts: a demure outfit with incredible pieces of jewelry. The way I style my jewelry is very linked to the mood I am in. To me, the jewelry is always the cherry on the cake."
Is there a figure from history — or the present day — that inspires you the most, and why?
"So many women inspire me, some unknown and some famous. Of course, I love Peggy Guggenheim – my daughter even calls me 'the Peggy Guggenheim of jewelry'! I admire female entrepreneurs, I admire female artists, actresses, writers, chefs, activists, political leaders… There is actually a lady who truly inspires me. She is 92 years old, a jewelry collector, she is a lot more than that actually….and I have been developing a project with her for the past two years. It is about to launch soon on Objet d’Emotion."
As a platform, Objet d’Emotion seems holistic in its approach to jewelry. The narrative is as important as the materials, and similarly the way the finished product is photographed and presented. Is that creative journey important to you?
"Yes, this creative journey is essential to me. It conveys my own creativity, my personal vision. Curators, patrons, mentors are as essential as the artists they support, nurture and/or showcase. They are super creative. With photography, jewelry paintings, texts, I translate my deep appreciation for the work of the artists I choose to represent at Objet d’Emotion. I aim to be very selective and sincere. Sincerity is very important to me. Curators and patrons are too often dismissed; all the attention is given to the artists. Many exhibitions would not happen without the talent, hard work and strong vision of certain curators."