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Learn more about French jewelry

En savoir plus sur la joaillerie française

What is jewelry? This is the art of making decorative objects that will be enhanced by stones, pearls or minerals. This art serves aesthetics but also politics or religion through what it can embody. Would you like to learn more about the birth of this know-how, the prestige of French jewelry or the problems this industry faces today? You are in the right place !

Jewelry, ancestral know-how

Jewelry is a very ancient art. The first ornaments known and identified as such date back to around 1,500 centuries BCE. This makes it the first form of art, well before painting, and testifies to the intimate relationship that man has developed with jewelry since the dawn of time.

The oldest objects of adornment discovered in Africa as well as in Spain were small shells, pearls and beans that were polished, pierced and dyed. The number of these ornaments in the same geographical area suggests that the civilizations of this era used jewelry as a social factor, a proof of their identity and their culture. Later, jewelry took on a more religious symbolism, as during predynastic Egypt where it was thought that they facilitated the passage from life to death, or in medieval Europe where they were used to testify to the faith of its bearer. It was during the Renaissance when jewelry know-how began to spread throughout the world, thanks to the numerous exchanges of gold and precious stones from the colonial empires.

History of French jewelry

French jewelry really began in the 17th century with the rise of the marketing of gems. As the number of techniques multiplied, France stood out for its superior quality and charm, so much so that the Court offered places within it to many artisan jewelers and many monarchs took orders. French jewelry was then a muse, an object of desire and even an essential for high societies around the world.

The greatest French jewelry houses which knew how to maintain this ancestral know-how while adapting to fashions emerged during the 19th century. They always contribute to the influence of France thanks to legendary places like rue de la Paix and Place Vendôme , making our country an unmissable destination for all enthusiasts. Today, French jewelry still largely dominates this global industry because it is synonymous with prestige, good taste and reliable know-how that manages to reinvent itself.

French jewelry has known many essential figures over the ages: Jean Vendome , René Lalique and his contribution to the Art Nouveau movement or even very famous French jewelry houses who inaugurated Place Vendôme.

However, this know-how is experiencing a crisis! Indeed, the jewelry profession is gradually falling into oblivion, making it difficult to pass on this heritage. Certain professions have almost disappeared, such as the profession of chain maker, who manufactures chains using different techniques (manually or by mechanical processes). Other positions are highly sought after, such as the profession of polisher or setter. In addition, globalization and the increase in demand have led certain brands to relocate this control to countries such as China, Spain and Portugal where labor is cheaper and there are fewer regulations. Are we witnessing an exodus of know-how? Maybe even when he disappears?

At the start of the ODACE adventure, we ourselves were confronted with the exodus of French jewelry know-how! We discovered that there are only a very limited number of jewelry workshops in France. The majority of them are already overloaded and do not agree to work with new jewelry houses. For us, it was unthinkable to make our jewelry without using French craftsmanship! Promoting French heritage, combining innovation, ethics and environmental sustainability, this is our mission through ODACE jewelry. Despite the difficulties, we are proud today to make all our jewelry by hand in our French workshops . We hope that the jewelry profession will benefit from a renewed interest among the new generation , allowing the sustainability of this living heritage.  

The evolution of French jewelry, its materials and practices

Jewelry requires extremely careful work and great patience. There are specific steps to follow in a defined order. You can find the entire process of making a piece of jewelry on our dedicated page – jewelry design . Surprisingly, the art of jewelry has remained very traditional and has not changed greatly in its practices! There has obviously been a move to mechanization and the improvement of certain tools but, overall, few changes have occurred. A key innovation that can be mentioned is 3D modeling which, thanks to software, allows the jewel to be seen in more detail and from all angles even before the prototyping stage.

But the major change comes with 3D printing of wax! One of the crucial stages in the manufacture of a piece of jewelry is the creation of a wax model. The latter will make it possible to create a mold into which the metal will be poured ( lost wax casting technique). Previously, the jeweler had to sculpt this wax by hand to obtain a model of the jewel and this required extreme attention to detail and a lot of time. Wax being a very easily breakable material, you had to take your time and be very delicate, at the risk of having to start your model again. The arrival of 3D printing has therefore enabled significant time savings and also the development of jewelry with a technicality that is almost impossible to reproduce by hand. 

A revival in the world of jewelry?

The jewelry industry faces many challenges. A scarcity of precious stones occurs. Images of gold and diamond mining that once captivated are now shocking. The light on blood diamonds causes fear. Faced with a generation that demands more transparency on the origin of stones, on the extraction conditions and on the ecological impact, jewelry houses must adapt.

You may have noticed that several brands now use recycled gold, second-hand diamonds, and labeled materials guaranteeing compliance with ethical, ecological and social standards. But the greatest innovation was the laboratory-created diamond ! This innovation ensures complete traceability and a much lower environmental impact. No doubt, we know which laboratory the diamonds come from, and under what conditions they were created. This is what ODACE has chosen for its jewelry : to perpetuate traditional French jewelry by combining new technologies that make it possible to create ethical, innovative jewelry with minimal impact on the planet!