Mauboussin’s story begins in 1827 when a gentleman called Mr Rocher established a jewellery workshop in the Rue Greneta in central Paris.
Successful enough to survive for over forty years in a climate of political and social unease, the firm was taken over in 1869 by Rocher’s business partner Jean Baptiste Noury. Four years later the Maison Noury exhibited at the World Fair in Vienna but it wasn’t until the Paris ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1878 that they would win their first medal, a bronze.
In 1876 Noury’s nephew Georges Mauboussin joined the firm as a jeweller’s apprentice. He went on to study drawing and modelling and to complete an internship with the Maison Debacq before returning to the family business and taking over management of the workshop in 1883, at the tender age of 21. After fifteen years, during which he learnt much about running a business, Mauboussin bought the company in full in 1898. In a shrewd move he kept the name Noury above the door whilst simultaneously adding his own, ensuring a smooth transition without alienating any of the loyal clientele built up by the Maison Noury over the previous decades. The company continued to grow and by the early 1920’s needed to find new premises. Georges’ son Pierre joined his father in the business and the following year they decided it would be beneficial to be closer to the Opéra and Place Vendôme areas of the city. In 1923 they moved to an excellent new location on Rue de Choiseul which was light and spacious and allowed them to house their designers and craftsmen all together in studios above the showroom.
Paris in the 1920’s was a melting pot of cultural and creative influences which Mauboussin reflected in their jewellery both in terms of style and materials used. Their wonderful Art Deco pieces, including colourful Tutti Frutti brooches and geometric monochrome sautoirs, were among some of the best that Parisian haute joaillerie had to offer. They advertised widely in popular magazines and their jewellery was often used in fashion illustrations and photographs. Their expertise was acknowledged in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs where they were awarded a Gold Medal. Exhibitions such as this proved a very effective way to expand the business and Mauboussin would participate in eighteen such fairs in just seven years, showcasing their pieces from Milan to Buenos Aires.
In 1928 Mauboussin organised the first of three exhibitions held in their Paris showroom dedicated to the beauty of gemstones. Their aim was to draw attention to the range and quality of gems that the company was able to source for clients and that were used in their jewellery. The first one focused on emeralds with 280 pieces displayed, the centrepiece being a stunning 24ct emerald given by Napoleon to Josephine in 1800 and re-mounted for the occasion in a stunning oriental inspired design. Rubies and diamonds followed in 1930 and 31 respectively both of which were widely attended, attracting the attention of the Prince of Wales and the Maharajas of Kapurthala and Indore.
Away from Paris, Pierre was busy opening branches in New York, Buenos Aires and London whilst simultaneously pursuing his interest in engineering and in particular aerodynamics. The crash of 1929 forced the New York boutique to close, however this led directly to a very successful collaboration with the American firm Trabert & Hoeffer. Trading as Trabert & Hoeffer – Mauboussin the company was based on Park Avenue and between 1936 and 1953 would create some of the most striking and original jewels in American history including many pieces which were worn, both on and off screen, by some of the biggest Hollywood stars of the day.
In Paris, Marcel Goulet (another nephew of Jean Baptiste Noury) had joined the firm and would prove instrumental in stabilising the company through a difficult decade during which Mauboussin, like many other jewellers, would have to close many of its foreign branches. The Maison’s continuation throughout the 1930’s was in no small part due to the patronage of a handful of exceptionally wealthy clients including Queen Nazli of Egypt and the Maharaja of Indore. For Queen Nazli they created a series of remarkable jewels including a swirl necklace in diamonds and cabochon rubies with matching earrings. In 1931 the Maharaja of Indore commissioned Mauboussin to set his two exceptional diamonds, the Indore Pears, in a necklace and two years later made the firm his jewellers by appointment. Over the coming years they would gradually re-mount large quantities of the Maharaja’s collection of jewellery and gemstones.
Marcel was joined in the business by his son Jean Goulet who in 1942 took the reins after Pierre Mauboussin left to pursue his other interests. Around this time the talented jewellery designer René Sim Lacaze began working with the Maison creating striking, on trend pieces for a distinguished and varied clientele. In 1946 the Maison moved to the Place Vendôme and for the first time allowed the ground floor windows to open onto the street, showcasing changing displays of jewels to passers by. A separate boutique was opened in 1955 selling jewellery produced on a large scale at more affordable prices in an effort to democratize fine jewellery, a move taken very successfully the previous year by their neighbours Van Cleef & Arpels.
Pierre Mauboussin had no descendants but was very keen for the Maison to retain its name so in 1962 it was agreed with Jean Goulet that his family would add the Mauboussin name to their own, becoming Goulet-Mauboussin. Jean’s sons Alain and Patrick entered the company in 1972 and 1975 bringing with them fresh ideas and ambition. Between them they successfully managed the business for thirty years during which time they oversaw the opening of new branches both at home and abroad, created many new jewellery collections and developed a line of watches in collaboration with Richard Mille, under the slogan “combining Swiss technical expertise with French creativity”. The company remains independently owned having been bought in 2002 by Dominique Fremont and today has stores in Paris, Japan, Singapore and New York.