In 2004, when then-president Jacques Chirac of France presented the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (“Best Craftsman of France”) award to jeweler Nicolas Tourrel— whose flexible hand fan composed of white gold, platinum and bronze earned the jury’s vote as best entry—it was clear that things were going to change for the artist.
Given out only once every four years, the honor is the jewelry equivalent of a restaurant receiving three Michelin stars. It allowed Tourrel, who hails from the southern town of Albi, the birthplace of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, to publicly display the emblem at his boutique. Not surprisingly, it also brought him heaps of attention.
Now, after having opened an additional workshop in Lyon to accommodate the surge in demand for his signed pieces, Tourrel talks to us about his experimental design process, his love of rubies and a rather intimate customer request.
|18-carat gold ring & Eventail 18-carat gold ring|
The first piece of jewelry I ever made was: A cluster ring in 18-karat gold and diamonds. The kind of customer request I’ll never tire of hearing: Putting a new twist to calibrated colored stone rings. Design cliché I love: The concept of using modular design to create flexibility and flow. My favorite gemstone: Ruby. My favorite design era: Art Deco. My favorite living designer: Lorenz Bäumer, Place Vendôme, Paris. One unusual detail about my design process: I call it “evolutionary modulation,” or the use of experimental design revolving around movement. Between one pigeon blood Burmese ruby or a half dozen D flawless diamonds, I would rather have: The ruby. The craziest thing I have ever done for a client: I made an 18-karat gold bra. The cups were set with diamonds and the nipples were 1-carat diamonds each; the straps and the fastener were made of 18-karat gold chain. It was made to measure. When I create a new collection: I wonder if my creation will give pleasure to the woman wearing it. If I were a city, I would be: Barcelona. The jewelryrelated job I would least like to have: To create a concept on a computer. While designing, my mind usually wanders to: Butterflies and other creatures that fly carefree through the air.