René-Jules Lalique, an artist of genius

The name Lalique evokes the brilliance of jewelry, the wonder of transparency, and the brilliance of crystal. Before it became a brand name, it was the name of a man, an artist of genius, René-Jules Lalique.”

René Lalique was born in Aÿ-en-Champagne in the Marne region of Franceon April 6, 1860. Some years later, the Lalique family moved to Paris but continued to spend holidays in Aÿ. René Lalique remained deeply attached to his birthplace throughout his life.

After the death of his father, René Lalique became an apprentice to craftsman and jeweler Louis Aucoc. It was during this time that he learned jewelry-making techniques and attended classes at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Next, he moved to England where he continued his studies for two more years. After gaining recognition as an independent designer for some of the great jewelery Houses such as Jacta, Cartier and Boucheron, René Lalique took over the workshop of jeweler Jules Destape in Paris.

As early as 1888 he designed his first parures in finely-wrought gold inspired by Antiquity and Japonism, and broke with jewellery-making tradition by including innovative materials in his pieces. At the time, originality and creativity had been abandoned in favour of ornate and lavish styles with an abundance of precious stones. Lalique made the materials he used central to his designs. He chose them for their power, light and colour, whether they were precious or not. He combined gold and gemstones with semi-precious stones, mother-of-pearl, ivory and horn, in addition to enamel and glass.In 1888, René Lalique registered his “RL” stamp and engraved the unique pieces created in his workshop with these letters.

In 1890, he experimented and designed by using glass.  His first experiments and designs using glass date from this era. Lalique already used enamel and glass, side-by-side with gold, opals, diamonds, pearls or amethysts, to embellish his jewellery.

Over the next decade, René Lalique forged his reputation. He won competitions, exhibited his work and created jewellery for well-known entertainers such as actress Sarah Bernhardt. His desire to “create something that had never been seen before” earned him the accolade of “inventor of modern jewellery”. He revolutionised jewellery styles of the period, becoming a favourite with leading socialites, and was admired by the most distinguished of his fellow-jewellers. His work was commissioned by the great courts and collected by the world’s wealthy.

In the 1900 Great Exhibition in Paris, it was the crowning moment of René Lalique's career as a jeweler. It was that same year he was also named Officer of the French Legion d'Honneur. Lalique worked increasingly on designs for the perfume sector, finally devoting himself entirely to more industrial techniques of glass production. René Lalique, Art Nouveau master jeweller, was to become an Art Deco master glassmaker.

He died on May 1st, 1945 in Paris leaving an artistic heritage and a name that have lived on to this day.


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