Colors, flowers, historical fragments, well-studied yet easy-going elegance, balance: what sounds like a stroll through the Luxembourg Garden or a glimpse into the lobby of a palatial hotel is, this morning, an encounter with Isabelle Langlois in her shop on rue de la Paix, part of Paris’s runway for high jewelry. A turn into the courtyard at number 12 leads to the display windows of Isabelle Langlois, and then to Langlois herself, a gracious, accessible, forthcoming creator of fine jewelry and heir to generations of gemstone know-how.
“I’m just a result,” she says while outlining the family history in gemstones since the 17th century. The family long lived in the last valley of Jura before the Swiss border. Her grandfather left the valley for Paris, where in 1929 he created a workshop for cutting colored gemstones.
“As a little girl I was surrounded by things that glimmer,” she says.
She recalls the excitement in the family workshop and at home with the approach of the imperial coronation in 1967 of Shabanu (Empress) Farah Palavi, wife of the last Shah of Iran. Langlois was 12 at the time and some of the gemstones intended to decorate the empress during the ceremony came from their workshop.
Langlois has remained true to the family niche of colored gemstones and claims to work with the widest variety of stones on rue de la Paix. Rue de la Paix and Place Vendôme do indeed form a rather diamond- and crystal-studded runway. “What I know how to do best is work with an assortment of colors,” she says.
She has a particular affection for floral themes—flowers and bouquets that don’t fade—with a good deal of butterflies and angel also present in recent collections. She says that she especially enjoys working with sapphire, with the padparadscha, a rare orange-to-pink variety, being her “ultra.”
She purchases many of her stones from a brother who operates a gemstone cutting workshop in Thailand. Another brother operates a workshop n Paris.
After working as a jewelry designer for a variety of other houses she began selling her creations under her own name in 1998. Her collections are now available in 24 countries, including the US, Canada and the UK. Asia has become her largest market. Langlois’s ambition is global yet she thinks of her own creative spirit as remaining very French, and particularly Parisian in its search for balance and elegance. “We,” meaning Parisians, “have plenty of flaws,” she says, “but at least we have that,” meaning balance and eleganc.
Langlois’s haute-couture approach doesn’t launch prices into the stratosphere, particularly since she doesn’t focus on work with diamonds. Her windows in the courtyard off rue de la Paix show pieces mostly in the 500 to 5000€ range (about $700-7000), along with some high-priced creations. Or as she says, “I make jewelry at the price of a very nice dress.”
The small shop and showroom are open to the public during normal business hours. Because of the international scope of her business Langlois isn’t always present though, so to have the pleasure of meeting in person this amiable creator of fine jewelry it’s best to make an appointment.
Isabelle Langlois, 12 rue de la Paix, 2nd arrondissement. Metro Opéra. Tel. 01 42 46 75 00. For locations worldwide where Isabelle Langlois jewelry is available and to contact by e-mail see www.isabellelanglois.com.
© 2014, Gary Lee Kraut