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By Philippe Broad

PARIS, 23 March 1998 - France's position as world leader in luxury goods is no recent phenomenon. From the latter half of the 18th century up till the 2nd World War, the artisans and craftsmen of Paris, renowned worldwide for their exquisite work and design, placed Paris in the forefront of industrial cities of the world. They produced all kinds of luxury goods, working from small ateliers throughout the city. But their collective generation of wealth was in fact greater than that of many new-born centres of the industrial revolution such as Birmingham or Manchester.

Ornements de coiffure en forme de feuilles

"Chaumet Paris, deux siècles de création", which opens on 25 March 1998 at the Musée Carnavalet (the Museum devoted to the history of the City of Paris), looks back on two centuries of creative design by the well-known jewellers and goldsmiths of the Place Vendôme, from its foundation by Marie-Etienne Nitot in 1780 to the present day. Nitot's appointment as official supplier to the Imperial court by Napoleon in 1802 brought him rapid fame and he was soon supplying the aristocracy of Europe with jewelry and tableware.

The exhibition is set in an historical context, provided by paintings - such as the portrait of the Grand Duchess of Baden (painted in 1806) wearing the emerald and diamond parure lent for the exhibition by the Victoria and Albert Museum - as well as photographs and documents evoking the atmosphere, great events and leading personalities of each successive period. The visitor will move progressively through the styles fashioned by designers Nitot, Fossin & fils, J.-V. and Prosper Morel, Joseph Chaumet and his descendants which encapsuled the mood of each period - First and Second Empires, Restauration and July Monarchy, Belle Epoque, the 20s and 30s, and post-War times to the present day.

Recurrent themes include jewels of sentiment, snuff boxes from the First Empire through to the vanity and cigarette cases so fashionable between the two World Wars, ceremonial swords and the tiara. Parures - matching suites of tiaras, necklaces, earings and bracelets - such as those ordered by Napoleon for the Empresses Joséphine and Marie-Louise became a Chaumet tradition, and some 300 nickel silver replicas of tiaras made in the twentieth century will also be displayed as an annex to the exhibition in a specially designed "salle des diadèmes".

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