French jewelry maison Chaumet brought its immersive exhibition of crowning glories from Paris to Shanghai for a month-long exhibition from September 17 to October 15 at the Hong Space Art Center of the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal. The showcase was the most successful exhibition of tiaras held in the Chinese market, as well as one of this year’s most prominent jewelry exhibitions in the country.
Revered as the “Tiara Master,” the world’s longest-running luxury jeweler has been a leader in the field of tiara creation for more than 240 years. Last seen in Beijing in 2021, the “Tiara Dream” exhibition was expanded for China’s most cosmopolitan city to reflect a fusion of traditional heritage and fashionable urban style, drawing parallels between Chaumet and Shanghai.
Not only was the showcase located in the North Bund, an upgraded setting compared to the one in Beijing, but Chaumet brought even more vintage creations for this exhibition, including the Pink Topaz Bowknot Tiara and the Radziwill Habsburg Tiara, two rare masterpieces unveiled to visitors in China for the first time.
The exhibition rooms were also visually upgraded for the occasion. The fascinating storytelling, conveyed via lighting and video, along with an audio description by Chaumet ambassador actress Gao Yuanyuan, presented an immersive experience for visitors.
The event came as the uber-luxe jewelry market outperforms other luxury categories, including leather goods, clothing, and shoes, according to Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Market Study — Spring 2023, with customers looking for “less but better” purchases.
“China is a key market for Chaumet in multiple aspects, including the fact that it’s a market where there is a strong appetite for understanding. People love to wear jewels, but they also love to appreciate the meaning behind them,” said Chaumet CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt.
Speaking with Jing Daily during the Shanghai event, Mansvelt divulged how the jewelry brand is connecting with new customers through high-quality jewelry art exhibitions around the world and how authenticity and longevity are more important than ever to young luxury consumers today.
The tiara: ‘Tiara Master’ Chaumet has held up the tiara as an emblem for centuries
The concept of “revive, pioneer, and lead” defines why Chaumet is the tiara master. The maison’s reputation as Tiara Master stretches back to 1802, when founder Marie-Etienne Nitot was appointed court jeweler to Emperor Napoleon I and his wife Joséphine. Nitot created Napoleon’s coronation sword and the papal tiara for Pope Pius VII and soon became the go-to jeweler for Europe’s elite during an era when tiaras were popularized as social symbols and fashion accessories.
From these historical roots, Chaumet is reviving the trend of classic and luxurious tiaras.
“The tiara is a symbol of power and prestige, also linked to eternity and love,” explains Mansvelt. This arresting duality was the lens for a multi-faceted exploration of Chaumet’s heritage and brand spirit in “Tiara Dream.”
As an upgrade of Chaumet’s Beijing exhibition, the “Tiara Dream” Shanghai exhibition gained more attention and visitors. Visitors were taken through a sensory and emotive experience divided into six chapters distilling different facets of Chaumet’s tiaras, namely “Power,” “Fashion,” “Eternity,” “Love,” “Transmission,” and “Creation.”
Historical and contemporary Chaumet pieces were interwoven in immersive installations and playful digital surprises. For example, visitors could snap photos of themselves wearing a Chaumet tiara through AR technology. Visitors were still queuing in long lines the day before the exhibition closed, unwilling to miss this year’s must-see exhibition.
The “Tiara Dream” Shanghai exhibition attracted more visitors than the exhibition in Beijing. (Swipe left) Visitors queuing in long lines the day before the exhibition closed. Photo: Chaumet
Chaumet’s core: Constant transmission and creation
Utilizing new technologies and immersive experiences to bring antique tiaras to the Chinese public, the “Tiara Dream” exhibition was a powerful testament to the heritage and innovation that have always defined Chaumet.
Alongside the immersive exhibit, an opening day symposium saw an expert panel from Chaumet, Christie’s, and the media discuss the topic, “The collectible value and contemporary significance of Chaumet’s tiara collection.”
Talking about the collectibility of antique tiaras during the symposium, Mia Zhang, Vice President and Senior Collections Advisor at Christie’s, said: “Over the past 50 years, Christie’s has auctioned only five Chaumet tiaras, as most antique tiaras are either collected by major museums or are in the hands of private collectors. Very few tiaras are genuinely available in the market, making them extremely rare.”
Even if rare, Chaumet believes that the tiara, as a vehicle of beauty, is still worthy of being appreciated, felt, and explored. “The tiara is far from being Chaumet’s only jewelry category, but it is ideally suited to be the starting point for the viewer to understand the essence of Chaumet’s unique aesthetic,” says Xin Weng, Artistic Advisor at Q&A platform Zhihu.
The maison’s pioneering spirit brings the tiara into modern-day relevance through its exhibitions and creations like the tiara ring, which offers today’s luxury consumers an intimate and approachable way of wearing a piece of Chaumet craftsmanship. Currently, there are more than 120 unique finger tiara designs, complementing more than 3,500 tiara designs created by Chaumet over the course of nearly two-and-a-half centuries.
After more than 240 years of creating through five major artistic and literary trends, Chaumet has maintained a leading role in crowning the world’s most powerful people.
Nowadays, as “aristocratic” titles fade from public use, Chaumet is once again leading the way and defining the tiara for the “aristocrat of the spirit,” enabling the “owner of the true self” to be crowned.
Chaumet in China
Chaumet hosted an exhibition in 2017 at Beijing’s Palace Museum. “Imperial Splendors: The Art of Jewelry since the 18th Century” explored the exchange of culture and aesthetics between China and France through history and art.
Shanghai and Beijing join Paris, Tokyo, and Monaco as locations where Chaumet has held high-profile exhibitions to communicate its brand equity to a wider audience.
Chaumet’s latest exhibition in Shanghai showcased the maison’s ambitions in the China market and increased the “Tiara Master’s” brand recognition with Chinese consumers.
“Customers come to Chaumet for something that is beautiful, but also for something that has a meaning and depth behind the beauty. Our history and eternity have strong value. We also need to be acceptable, joyful, and meaningful for the way people live and consume information today. So that’s why we mix more traditional aspects with digital, immersive experiences,” says Mansvelt.
The CEO says that 80 percent to 90 percent of first-time customers in Chaumet stores in China have already researched the brand and its products. Ensuring that Chaumet reaches digitally-savvy young Chinese consumers, the brand maintains an active presence across Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), WeChat, and Weibo.
Fans can tour the “Tiara Dream” exhibition via WeChat and learn about the craftsmanship of each ring and the symbolism behind it through these social media platforms. But ultimately, Mansvelt is “absolutely convinced that jewelry is something that you want to touch and look at physically with your own eyes.”
“Jewelry is a growing market with huge potential. Particularly following the pandemic, jewelry offers a strong sentimental symbol. Through this perspective, the timeless authenticity of Chaumet is particularly valuable,” Mansvelt adds.
A comment by media panelist Zhang Ting during the symposium provided further insight on how Gen Z’s attitude bodes well for the “Tiara Master” in China.
“Today’s young women have a higher sense of entitlement. Wearing a tiara is not limited to your status; it’s about how you perceive yourself. We can treat ourselves like queens,” said Zhang. From tiaras to tiara rings, Chaumet has consistently been favored by young Chinese consumers and has become more widely known.
“Wearing a tiara is not limited to your status; it’s about how you perceive yourself. We can treat ourselves like queens.”
In addition, the “Tiara Dream” exhibition’s theme is not only worthy of in-depth dissection but has been widely acclaimed and has garnered significant and high-quality UGC content on various social media platforms.
Under the #TiaraMaster hashtag on Little Red Book, the Shanghai exhibition has more than 7 million views, which is about four times the 1.8 million views of the same hashtag for the 2021 Beijing exhibition.
It is also evident that the storied jewelry maison has strong brand appeal on the social platform, which focuses on lifestyles and sharing information on products.