September 2008

Some like it haute

Lorenz Bäumer, Parisian designer extraordinaire, fills in our blanks

If Hollywood were to make a movie about the life of Lorenz Bäumer, Ralph Fiennes would star and Anthony Minghella would direct. Bäumer, 42, a designer who makes exquisite jewels for private collectors from his Paris headquarters on Place Vendôme, lives an unbelievably dashing life. Born in Washington, D.C., to a French mother and a German diplomat father, he spends his summers surfing in Indonesia and his winters scouring flea markets in Paris and antiques galleries in Biarritz, in between traveling the world to source one-of-a-kind stones for his clients.

Bäumer is well-prepared for the role. After graduating from the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris in 1988 with a degree in engineering, he spent 10 years creating costume jewelry under the label Lorenz, a beginning that mirrored that of his jewelry idols, Jean Schlumberger, Fulco di Verdura and René Lalique. “Little by little, I pushed back the boundaries of my imagination,” he writes in The Egoistic Dictionary of Lorenz Bäumer (Abrams), a coffee-table book celebrating his craft. “I experimented with all kinds of techniques, which later I would transpose to fine jewelry.”

In 1992, Bäumer made the transition, the legacy of his costume days living on in the exuberant designs that characterize his oeuvre, from a vegetable-themed cuff bracelet complete with jade pea pods and ruby ladybugs to a candy cane brooch made of cocholong and pink opal. “I love to work with small objects where the details, which can be taken to perfection, become important and take on a significant meaning,” he says. “This meticulous work resonates throughout the entire being of an artist.”

Flora and fauna Lorenz Bäumer’s iconic Urchin ring with diamonds and pink sapphires, €52,450, or $82,784; Hen ring with sapphires, diamonds and Australian pearl, €7,780; and gem-encrusted vegetable bracelet, €69,250.

The first piece of jewelry I ever made: A swirl-shaped yellow gold ring coiled around a diamond, a piece engraved in my mind. The kind of customer request I’ll never tire of: The ones who want to design a piece of jewelry around their personality. Design cliché I love: Verner Panton chair. My favorite gemstone: Tourmalines with colors that mirror a rainbow. My favorite design era: 21st century. My favorite living designer: André Dubreuil. One unusual detail about my design process: The technical problems that can appear during the production of the jewel don’t put any limit on my design process. On the contrary, they stimulate me. The craziest thing I’ve ever done for a client: Travel around the world to find a special stone. When I create a new collection: My aim is to push my clients’ boundaries. If I were a city, I would be: Paris. The jewelry-related job I would least like to have is: Setting up the windows. While designing, my mind usually wanders to: Contemporary art, photography, nature, decorative arts and surfing.