DIAMONDS ARE ETERNAL AND GOLD CAN BE RECYCLED ENDLESSLY.
IN JEWELLERY, NOTHING IS LOST, EVERYTHING IS PASSED ON.
This is Héloïse Schapiro's vision, founder of Héloïse & Abélard, an ethical jewellery House based on the upcycling of diamonds and recycled 18-carat gold. Read her interview and discover Héloïse's background and inspirations for the Héloïse & Abélard creations, to be found exclusively in our Marais shop and on our e-shop.
1. What is your earliest memory of jewellery?
My first memories of jewellery are associated with my mother and grandmother, so my Parisian ethical jewellery house Héloïse & Abélard is intimately linked to my childhood memories. I remember my grandmother very well and her bony, jewelled hands that she would sometimes slap my hand with when I did something silly... her jewellery would jangle, I loved the sound of them and I remember the fear that they would get in the way and be painful! I also have vivid memories of my mother's fancy rings and sets, their huge volumes and shimmering colours. I remember fiddling with them when she wore them, loving it when they made a noise. I remember being fascinated by the way she so naturally assumed them. My mother was always finding extremely original jewellery, ‘beautiful pieces’. She thought like a ‘collector’ and considered her jewellery as works of art. The jewellery that surrounded me as a child always aroused curiosity, it was atypical. Their selection was always sharp, extremely far from classic jewellery and recognisable branded pieces.
2. What was the first piece you designed?
I accompanied my grandmother and my mother for the creation of a completely crazy piece of jewellery at a Parisian jeweller's. They had collected some very beautiful diamonds, which were then used to make the jewellery. They put together some beautiful family diamonds and a huge pearl. We all participated in the creation of this messy piece, with its generous volume and obvious asymmetry. I own this piece of jewellery with great pride today, I don't wear it much because it is closer to a piece of high jewellery than to a piece of jewellery that is easy to wear on a daily basis.
I then created my first piece on my own in 2014, for my engagement. It is a bouquet-style diamond ring made of diamonds that belonged to my mother, and old cut diamonds recycled from old jewellery bought during an auction. This ring is rich, its construction is asymmetrical, its diamonds are all different sizes, the whole is disorganised but with an apparent simplicity. Without knowing it, I was gradually giving birth to the H&A style.
3. Can you tell us the story behind the name Héloïse & Abélard?
The name is a tribute to a legendary couple from the Middle Ages, Héloîse and Abélard. Héloïse and Abélard were two lovers who transgressed the established order of the 12th century to fulfil their desire. Pierre Abélard, a brilliant 39-year-old intellectual, taught philosophy at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. He was entrusted with the education of 18-year-old Heloise of Argenteuil. Héloïse and Abélard were to experience a carnal passion in the shelter of a private mansion on the Île de la Cité. Discovered by Héloïse's uncle, their punishment would be terrible: separated for life, Abelard was emasculated and Heloise sent to a convent in Champagne. When Abelard died, Heloise demanded that her lover be buried with her in her convent. Twenty-two years later, she was buried beside him. Legend has it that Abelard stretched out his arms to receive her, thus holding her in his arms forever. In 1817, at the request of the City of Paris, the rebellious couple from the Middle Ages were transferred to Père Lachaise cemetery, thus becoming the oldest lovers in this mythical place.
The story of this couple is intimately linked to the history of Paris, their epistolary relationship is a monument of French literature. A medieval intellectual, a western woman of letters and the first writer to define the specificity of female desire, Heloise became a mythical figure of passionate love. My mother, from whom I inherited my passion for jewellery, named me Héloïse in reference to this passion for love and to the personality of Héloïse d'Argenteuil. I thought it would be interesting to link our recycled jewellery to this timeless romantic story, in order to tell it and make it known. Created in 2019, our house infuses its jewellery with the ideal of freedom of this legendary couple.
4. Héloïse & Abélard offers ethical and feminine jewellery. Can you tell us more about the creation of your brand and the values you defend?
Héloïse & Abélard is the first Parisian house of recycled jewellery. I created Héloïse & Abélard in 2019, after 10 years of experience with the great jewellery houses of Place Vendôme, with the aim of restoring the eternal character of gold and diamonds, and proposing a desirable and responsible circular jewellery. More transparent jewellery, which says what it does and does what it says, and which puts the notion of transmission, not accumulation, back at the centre.
My vision is simple:
DIAMONDS ARE ETERNAL AND GOLD IS INFINITELY RECYCLABLE.
IN JEWELLERY, NOTHING IS LOST, EVERYTHING IS PASSED ON.
Accompanied by a team of diamond dealers, I find excellent-quality diamonds to recycle in France, mounted on second-hand jewellery, or abandoned by private individuals or antique dealers. I design all our jewellery and we make it to order for our clients, in Paris, in a renowned jewellery workshop located in the Marais district. So we recycle, without compromising on quality, and without restocking. Héloïse & Abélard jewellery is ultra-feminine, airy and delicate. I imagine random compositions of diamonds of apparent simplicity. Little metal, asymmetry, original combinations of shapes, a floral and romantic dimension. I like the idea of creating order in disorder, of considering disorder as a positive notion, reflecting the image of the life of today’s women. H&A is for all women who are concerned about their looks, but conscious of their impact. Women who want to treat themselves to healthier, more human, more sustainable jewellery.
5. Why do you think it is important to work with recycled materials today?
Today, there are different ways to offer more responsible jewellery: synthetic diamonds, RJC-labelled suppliers, Kimberley-certified raw materials, etc. However, in my opinion, beyond questioning the conditions of extraction and supply, it seems much more efficient and reliable to stop extraction by reusing only the rare and eternal natural materials that have already been extracted and which are largely sufficient to manufacture all the jewellery in the world. Admittedly, this is a much more complex and time-consuming approach as it requires identifying, analysing, sorting and dismantling jewellery and therefore costs a lot more in manufacturing costs, but it seems to me to be the only real solution to offer more ethical jewellery. By reusing diamonds, H&A has not invented anything: we have only gone back to basics, the notion of transmission and transformation have always been at the heart of jewellery. The discovery of African mines in the 20th century flooded the diamond market, but in the past it was customary to pass on and transform one's jewellery, without constantly procuring 'new' jewellery, even within the great royal families.
6. In what context do you feel most comfortable creating?
I don't have an ideal context. I create when I feel like it, very regularly for our collections but also for all the reuse projects of our clients who bring us their stones. I also create a lot for custom projects, starting from a blank page. I am inspired by everything that comes my way and I always create from the stones we have and not the other way round!
7. Where do you collect your diamonds?
Accompanied by a team of diamond dealers, I select in France diamonds of excellent quality to be recycled, mounted on second-hand jewellery bought in auctions, or abandoned by private individuals or antique dealers. Our second-hand diamonds are of G/H colour and Vs/Si clarity: these are the criteria I have defined to offer jewellery of excellent quality, up to the quality standards of the great houses of Place Vendôme.
8. What do jewels say for you?
They tell us everything about the woman who wears them. Her love stories, her follies, all the important events in her life. They embody her personality, her lineage too. It's exciting to meet all the women who come into our showroom and to understand them in an instant through their jewellery.
9. Who are your favourite jewellery designers?
Suzanne Belperron, of course, Elsa Peretti, and Gabrielle Chanel as well, whose creations I know well, having worked for a long time in the jewellery department of the house.
10. What would you do if you were not a jeweller?
Architecture or interior design. I am passionate about design, proportions, colours and the beautiful pieces that should structure an interior.
11. Which books have marked you?
Simone Weil's Second Sex, Gravity and Grace. Alain's Propos sur le Bonheur. I also like thrillers and novels. I love all the books by Michel Houellebecq, and recently I really liked Histoires de la Nuit by Laurent Mauvignier.
12. Which trip do you dream of taking?
All of them! I'm a travel nut, not discovering any new countries because of the pandemic for over a year is very frustrating. Egypt and Argentina are at the top of my list, as well as all the most amazing deserts in the world. Of course, I also want to return to Senegal as soon as possible, a country I have been to almost every year since I was a child.
13. Chinese mini-portrait:
If you were: a jewel, a stone, a flower, a dish, a work of art, an author, a country, an animal, a sport?
Difficult! A vintage ring or tiara, an atypically shaped diamond, lavender or wheat that has dried but is still so soft and sunny, a messy composition by Sophie Taeuber Arp, impossible to try to give an author, Senegal and its warmth, a colourful butterfly, yoga of course.