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Legacy

Juxtaposition

Raymond Templier was one of a handful of pioneering jeweler artists who created dramatically avant-garde jewelry that still resonates today.

By Phyllis Schiller

Diamond, moonstone and 18-karat white gold brooch by Raymond Templier, circa 1930s.
Photo courtesy Primavera Gallery.
Like many of the powerhouse designers of French jewelry, Raymond Templier (1891-1968) was born into the business. His grandfather, Charles Templier, founded the Maison Templier in Paris in 1849. His father, Paul Templier, took his turn at the helm of the family firm in 1885. Raymond Templier followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the House of Templier in 1919, after completing his education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. In 1935, he took charge of the firm until he retired in 1965.

Time of Change
   Coming of artistic age during the dawning of the contemporary art movement in Paris, it didn’t take long for Templier to stretch his creative vision beyond the traditional jewelry the family firm was successfully producing. By 1911, he was exhibiting his evolving designs at several important shows and his work attracted critical attention at the 1925 and 1937 Paris Exhibitions.
   Embracing the Art Deco movement, in 1929 Templier was one of the founding members of the UAM, Union des Artistes Modernes, joining architects and other like-minded jewelry designers, including Jean Després, Jean Fouquet and Gérard Sandoz. Templier found inspiration in the geometric purism of the Cubist art movement and the sculptural qualities of the wheels, cogs and gears of emerging technology. He developed “a new jewelry vocabulary,” says Audrey Friedman, co-owner, with husband Haim Manishevitz, of Primavera Gallery, New York City. What was interesting about someone like Raymond Templier and Jean Després and these other jewelry designers of the movement, she says, is that they weren’t content to simply continue the popular designs. They were striving to create something different. “The huge influence on their work was Cubism and then a little bit after that, the imagery of the machine age, the white metal surfaces, the polished curves. And this was very new and very different from what Art Nouveau jewelry looked like. This was basically very, very revolutionary.”

A New Point of View
   The flip side to the romanticized designs of the day by established Parisian jewelry houses like Cartier and Van Cleef, who took their inspiration from images from the East, the work of Templier, says Friedman, and his fellow bijoutier artistes or jeweler artists, was powerful in its purity of line and pared-down elegance.
   Templier’s designs derived drama from the contrast of matte and shiny surfaces. The interplay of light and volume created eye-catching and sophisticated jewelry. Gemstones and metals were chosen to complement and complete the design imagery. Diamonds were used to add light and sparkle and another texture to the piece, in the way architects use glass windows in the façade of a building. “It was a way of adding light without adding color. Templier did some jewelry that is all in diamonds,” Friedman points out, “but his really great work used the precious stones more for accent.”
   For the most part, Templier and a number of other jewelers of that period kept to a very simple palette — white gold or platinum and black. Color was used sparingly, and then usually a deep green or perhaps some jade or coral, or red-colored enamel. Frosted rock crystal was also an important element in the jewelry. What was important was the structure. “Templier used silver and white gold interchangeably, with lacquer or enamel, usually black but sometimes green,” says Friedman. His best pieces, showcasing the combination of white gold, diamonds and black lacquer, were “stunning in their simplicity,” she adds.

Modern Appeal
   These avant-garde designs were not, says Friedman, for the average woman. “They weren’t particularly feminine. They drew their power from the perfect juxtaposition of geometric forms, opposing arcs and semicircles and inverted triangles.” One of Templier’s favorite motifs, she points out, was of two opposing circular elements connected by an angled straight element. “The juxtaposition of two elements that seem to be moving in opposite directions gives his jewelry a great dynamic.” Ultimately, the strength and elegance of Templier’s designs were found in their structure. The simple palette and stripped-down shapes kept attention focused on the piece as a whole. It also, says Friedman, made it very wearable jewelry, perhaps more so than the more elaborate and bejeweled jewelry of the day. “Worn on a black dress, you almost don’t need other adornment,” she says, “because the jewelry is so visually arresting.”
   Although highly prized, there is not a lot of Templier jewelry around, says Friedman. “I don’t think it was done in huge quantity. Every piece of Templier jewelry I’ve had or come across has been signed. Usually, when a piece of Templier comes up for sale, it will bring great prices. For us, it’s always a great treat when we come across a piece that we haven’t seen before. I’ve been collecting Templier for well over 30 years. In fact, the first good piece of real jewelry that I ever bought was a ring by Raymond Templier.”
   Perhaps the greatest compliment to the designs of Templier is that his jewelry’s appeal has stood the test of time. There are collectors who prize his work, says Friedman, a select group who understand and appreciate his design vision. “It is still avant-garde,” sums up Friedman. “It’s still very modern.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2014. To subscribe click here.

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