Chaumet design competition celebrates its Imperial Splendours exhibition, Beijing

CELEBRATED French high jewellery company Chaumet has opened a unique exhibition, Imperial Splendours: The Art of Jewellery Since The 18th Century, in Beijing. And to celebrate the show, which opened this month, the brand has invited students at Central St Martins, University of the Arts, London, to enter their special competition to design a diadem – with the only constraint given to entrants being that this “traditional adornment be brought into the 21st century”. A diadem is a type of crown, or tiara, which Chaumet has been famous for creating since the time of the Empress Josephine in 18th century France.

This extraordinary show is structured around Chaumet’s exceptional archive and features a staggering 300 historic jewels, drawings, paintings and objets d’art, such as a memorial box for the Marquis de Lawoestine, which dates from 1789 and the time of Queen Marie-Antoinette, and – amazingly – the bejewelled sword Napoleon wore to his coronation on December 2, 1804, as well as a selection of the Maison’s exquisite diadems.

Story pic 6 Chaumet - Imperial Splendours - Central Saint Martins Collaboration The winning diadam by Scott Armstrong in the Chaumet – Imperial Splendours competition

The winning designer was 21-year-old, Chichester-born Scott Armstrong, a final year BA Jewellery student at CSM, who  was chosen from a shortlist of eight students, whittled down from 60 entrants, from a wide range of countries, such as China, Romania, Sweden, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. Armstrong’s winning design, entitled Vertiges, took him nearly a year to complete and combines geometric forms with an – apparently – free-flowing, invisibly set of tourmalines, garnets and diamonds – all embellishing the beautiful and delicate crown. Armstrong’s winning design was inspired by a book The French Formal Garden and the diadem is his interpretation of a contemporary French-style garden as interpreted via the prism of Chaumet’s distinctive design accents and elements.

Story pic Chaumet - Imperial Splendours - Central Saint Martins CollaborationThe winner of the Chaumet competition: Scott Armstrong – a final year student at CSM, UAL

“The imagery of the floor plans [from “The French Formal Garden”] on a macro scale, I found absolutely fascinating,” Armstrong says. “You have symmetry running through it, you have these lines that are predictable, then all of a sudden it throws you off and you get these little bits of detail. Your eye runs along then it gets taken off in a different direction. I think that’s absolutely beautiful.”

Story pic 2 Chaumet - Imperial Splendours - Central Saint Martins CollaborationThe book, French Formal Gardens, that inspired Armstrong’s winning design


Story pic 4 Chaumet - Imperial Splendours - Central Saint Martins CollaborationThe winning design in the Chaumet competition by Scott Armstrong

“The idea of designing a diadem was something I never imagined having the opportunity to do. It was very difficult, in the beginning, to decide how it would fit within 21st century culture. Historically diadems have represented nobility, power, beauty, so many things that are perhaps not relevant in the 21st century,” he adds. “I think a diadem for the 21st century should hold the same values as any diadem made throughout history. It is a very special adornment for a very special woman.”

Story pic 7 Chaumet - Imperial Splendours - Central Saint Martins CollaborationArmstrong’s design and moodboard

Armstrong’s design is included in the Imperial Splendours exhibition currently on show in the Palace Museum, Beijing.  The pieces have been accumulated in collaboration with the Palace Museum and the support of institutions and museums such as Musee de Louvre, the Chateau de Fontainebleau and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

by Caroline Simpson

Imperial Splendours is on display at the Palace Museum, Beijing until July 2, 2017.
For details of the opening times and tickets, please visit here

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