Jewellery & watches


Jewellery: the fantastical world of Maison Belmont

Français
March 2023


Jewellery: the fantastical world of Maison Belmont

Sarah Mugnier, whose Maison Belmont label launched in December 2022, creates fantastical jewellery which she presents to clients in her equally creative and colourful townhouse in Geneva.

M

eeting Sarah Mugnier, and seeing her fanciful jewellery, brings to mind a line from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story A Select Party, in which a “man of fancy” invites distinguished personages to his castle in the air, lit by meteors covered with a globe of evening mist: “People should think of these matters before they trust themselves on a pleasure-party into the realm of Nowhere.”

She is the kind of whimsical character the American writer could have imagined, transported into the twenty-first century to bring a welcome touch of irreality to an epoch that is singularly lacking in cheer. This young 41-year-old is wilfully extravagant down to the feathery cuffs of her suit, which shares the same emerald green as her favourite precious stone.

A magpie interior

Maison Belmont, the brand she created a year and a half ago, and launched in December 2022, could be nothing more than wishful thinking, except its founder has the good grace to ground her quirkiness in practical common sense. Her jewellery resides not on Geneva’s Rue du Rhône or any of the adjacent streets, but in a townhouse in the city’s Eaux-Vives district, at n° 5 Clos-Belmont, hence the Maison Belmont name.

DANDY by Chaumet
©Daniela & Tonatiuh

Built by Edmond Fatio in the Heimatstil style, it has been sympathetically renovated. For the interior, Sarah Mugnier called on the Parisian designer Vincent Darré. Vibrant shades of emerald, turquoise, red and violet, gold and leopard print vividly recall Madeleine Castaing‘s interiors. Its colours are those of Sarah’s beloved gemstones: “Coloured sapphires, because where there is colour, there is life. Spinel, too, because it has a brilliance and an intensity that I adore. And I always go weak at the knees when I see a beautiful emerald.”

Sarah Mugnier
Sarah Mugnier
©Daniela & Tonatiuh

Part cabinet of wonders, part waking dream, this fantastical setting is Sarah Mugnier’s home and also where she welcomes clients, to show them jewellery which has nothing to envy its exuberant surroundings. But first a few words on the founder of a brand which, contrary to appearances, wasn’t plucked from thin air but took root in Sarah Mugnier’s childhood.

Memento Mori, Maison Belmont X Wings of Wisdom rings
Memento Mori, Maison Belmont X Wings of Wisdom rings
©Stefan Vos

First lessons at an auction house

“My passion for jewellery began when I was a little girl. My mother would open the drawer of her dressing table and take out her jewellery. I still remember the sound of her rings knocking together. It was like a dream. Jewellery should always be magical. I was twelve when my father gave me my first piece of antique jewellery. It was an owl-shaped ring which he’d bought at a flea market. At that moment, I realised an object could connect us to a person or an event, or to ourself.”

Le Grand Bal
Le Grand Bal
©Daniela & Tonatiuh

After studying communication, Sarah Mugnier was lucky enough to spend six months working as a cataloguer for Christie’s. “Every photograph of the lots passed through my hands. For someone who loves jewellery, there is no better place to work than an auction house. It’s the only place you approach the subject from every angle, from art history to precious stones and design.”

Le Petit Salon
Le Petit Salon
©Daniela & Tonatiuh

Sarah Mugnier spent the fifteen years following her time at Christie’s surrounded by watches, first at Breguet then Léon Hatot, then five years with Bovet before deciding that her true passion in life was jewellery. She upped sticks and moved to New York, returning to Geneva six months later with a diploma in gemmology from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). “I spent the next five years dealing in precious stones and antique jewellery. I learned to appraise jewellery and developed an eye for gemstones.” She started sketching her own jewellery collection a year and a half ago, not bothering to research the market prior to launching her brand. Maison Belmont existed, and that was that.

DANDY by Chaumet
©LuccasDeCapr

Kinetic jewels

Sarah Mugnier finds inspiration in anything and everything, be it a painting, the curve of a staircase or the names of colours. She understands almost all there is to know about jewellery, from stones to the design process to antique and vintage pieces, but prefers to leave the actual making to the three specialist workshops in Geneva she collaborates with.

She sets them impossible tasks, although “impossible” is not a word in her book. Her Le Grand Banquet ring is an excellent example. It riffs on the Endiablés series of crystal glasses by Saint-Louis, which can be turned one way or the other to suit the mood. “There’s a ball bearing inside so the ring actually twists on itself. I worked with a supplier in Germany. It was the first time they’d been asked to put a ball bearing in jewellery. The hollow forms are in coloured titanium and I added tiny diamonds around the edge, like sugar on the rim of a cocktail glass.”

Le Grand Banquet ring
Le Grand Banquet ring
©Stefan Vos

Several of her pieces look to details from interior design. The Le Grand Bal bracelet, for example, reprises the octagonal motif of her townhouse’s coffered ceilings. “My idea was to combine interior design with jewellery. I wanted the inlays, which can be customised, to be in fabric. I talked the concept through with my jeweller and my upholsterer, discussing how they could work together to get the result I wanted. The satin is glued to a silver plaque then covered with watertight sapphire crystals that protect against water splashes, although it shouldn’t be worn for swimming. As for the clasp, I wanted it to make a reassuring ‘click’ when fastened, like the door of a classic car being shut.”

Thought-provoking

Her jewellery seems to span eras and worlds. The Le Petit Salon ring is crafted from six individual bands, each carrying a letter, that form a word such as Amour (love) or Amitié (friendship). The Memento Mori ring is inspired by a ring from 1631 and comprises two hinged elements that can be separated. “I had it made by an artisan in Istanbul. I lived there for three years, so I know the workshops. It’s a collaboration with my sister who lives in London, where she has her own fashion brand, Wings of Wisdom.”

Le Petit Salon – Amour ring
Le Petit Salon – Amour ring
©Stefan Vos

What does a piece of jewellery represent in her eyes? “It’s a connection to the self, an emotion, that changes from day to day. Some mornings you get up and want to wear red jewellery or green jewellery. It’s the most intimate object there is, alongside the clothes we wear. It completes an outfit, defines a state of mind. Personally, I can’t go out without jewellery. I feel naked. Wearing jewellery is like wrapping myself in a big winter coat. I find it comforting.”

DANDY by Chaumet
©LuccasDeCapr

How would she describe Maison Belmont? “Like going on a walk and having no idea what to expect. My jewellery is a reflection of what life should be, looking afresh and accepting to see things differently, to appreciate other aesthetics. You like my creative universe or you don’t, that’s not the point. When someone looks at what I do, I want it to set them thinking, or at least inspire some kind of response, a feeling. I wanted this collection to explore new paths, bring something fresh, even if I’m not the only one doing this. Today’s young designers have no limits, no marketing director, no creative studio making demands. We’re completely free.”

DANDY by Chaumet
©LuccasDeCapr

The Europa Star Newsletter