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The Parisian workshop of Henri Picq, a name that is no doubt unfamiliar to many, was none the less responsible for some of the most exceptional jewellery of the early 20th Century.
Picq founded his jewellery manufacturing workshop towards the end of the 19th Century in Paris. Archival information tells us that he registered his maker’s mark in 1888 and gave his address at that time as 25 rue des Lehises Saint-Mont. He became known for creating jewellery of the highest quality craftsmanship and as such came to the attention of Paris’s haute joailliers.
The most significant of these was Cartier with whom Picq began working in 1900. Over the coming years he worked almost exclusively for the firm creating some of their most beautiful, complex and celebrated jewels. Cartier was renowned for their platinum jewellery, both the beauty of the material and the skill and fineness with which they used it. As Nadelhoffer notes in his famous book on Cartier, the firm “was said to use the best platinum in Paris. It was renowned for its white, shimmering surface, an alloy of which the Picq workshop was especially proud.”
As well as precious metals they also experimented with other more unusual materials such as blackened steel which they used to great effect on a small collection of tiaras set with diamonds and rubies which they made for Cartier between 1912 and 1915. When Cartier briefly came into possession of Grand Duchess Vladimir’s exceptional pearl and diamond kokoshnik tiara, they used it as inspiration for three new tiaras of their own, the first of which was made by Picq in 1911. It was based upon the same design of interlinking circles each of which suspended a beautiful pendent gem, in this case a series of eleven graduated drop shaped diamonds.
Picq was also entrusted with important client bespoke commissions and was responsible for setting the four most important diamonds (weighing almost 70ct between them) belonging to diamond mine owner S.B. Joel into a stunning devant de corsage in 1912. A gift at the time for the woman Joel loved. Picq remained Cartier’s principle supplier of gem-set jewellery until around 1918 after which he continued to work with the firm but also branched out to work for others including Lacloche and Ostertag. During the 1920’s he made many of Cartier’s iconic ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewels as well as some of their superlative Art Deco pieces.
Some of the periods most important gemstones are known to have been made into jewels by the Picq workshop including a beautiful pink spinel from the famous Hope gemstone collection and the extraordinary 478.68ct sapphire bought by King Ferdinand of Romania for his consort Queen Marie. Picq also created pieces for sale under his own name, all made to the same exacting quality demanded by the French Maisons and recognisable by his distinctive mark. Whether signed by Cartier or not, a jewel made by the Picq workshop is guaranteed to be not only beautiful to look at but also beautifully made, a quality appreciated by all discerning jewellery collectors.