The picturesque Château de Chenonceau in France sits along the shoreline of the River Cher, and its serene facade betrays a complex past.
The century-plus structure's turbulent history includes sedition, unpaid debts, and expulsion. France is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Laurent Rivaud.
Without question France has been a leader of innovative jewelry-making techniques, and timeless jewelry designs. There seems to be no dispute that France's indelible contribution to the jewelry industry is the unique items that late 19th century jewelers, like Lalique and Gautrait, created that helped to launch the Art Nouveau period.
Spectacular enamel accents like plique-a-jour and nature motifs were characteristic to the jewelry of the Art Nouveau period. The designs of many present-day French jewelers reflect, in varying degrees, this grand tradition.
Contrary to what I believed, the Art Nouveau era began in England with French designers firmly at the helm. In a similar vein, Rivaud's jewelry career began designing baubles for radical, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
Westwood is best known for introducing edgy, punk clothing to mainstream fashion, and that edge, though somewhat subtle, comes through in some of Rivaud's designs.
The Berçot Studio graduate also draws from influence gained from creating jewelry for fashion icons Chloé and Yves Saint-Laurent. By 2003, Rivaud decided to carve out his own niche in the world of jewelry by establishing his London-based company R Jewellery.
Many of his pieces are streamlined wherein he combines minimalist, gold and silver structures with intriguing accents of texture, or "spear" faceted gemstones (gemstones fashioned into slender, spear tips).
His lobster claw items, however, seem to be influenced by the opulent, nature-oriented pieces of the Art Nouveau era. One such item, a claw fashioned from gold vermeil, is partially covered by the sprawling tentacles of a diamond-drenched octopus.
Overall, Rivaud's creations reflect honor for longstanding French design aesthetics, and jewelry-making techniques, while also incorporating subtle, symbolic imagery and edgy accents.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Gold Vermeil Hypnotic Brooch with Pavé Diamonds
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Marcasite Centaur Pendant