Her grand father was a stone cutter, supplier of the entire Place Vendome, and her father, known as one of the greatest experts of coloured gems, is the founder of the French Association of Gemmology. It’s easy to believe that jewellery was almost a destiny for colourist Isabelle Langlois.
Passionate from an early age, the talented designer had to work hard to gain recognition in this male-dominated world, until she eventually created her own jewellery line and became successful.
Portrait of the bright woman we met in the boutique she decorated herself, located in Paris, 12 rue de la Paix.
Isabelle Langlois, born amongst precious stones…
Isabelle Langlois, you are the heiress of a family of stone cutters from the French Jura region, the passion for coloured gems is a family tradition: was your journey thus made easier?
It wasn’t! After graduating from business school, I had set my sights on working for my aunt, Catherine Vassort, who was then head of Vassort high jewellery workshops. My aunt was a wonderful incarnation of the “Parisienne” : elegant, passionate and inspiring. At that time, the sector was on a high thanks to the customers coming from the Middle East and I really wanted to learn within this workshop, famous worldwide for its collaborations with the best jewellery Maisons of the Place Vendôme such as Van Cleef & Arpels or Boucheron … My uncles refused at first and so I started working elsewhere , at Condé Nast media group before eventually joining the Vassort atelier a few years later, ignoring the family ban yet with the consent of my aunt.
What did you learn from this experience?
I keep an amazed souvenir of the exceptional craftsmanship and dexterity of the artisans working in that workshop. I remember a necklace in gold and coloured diamonds which had been ordered for the second wife of the Sultan of Brunei, on which the head of the workshop intervened manually to adjust the setting of the stones with a total control and without damaging neither the crimps nor the in-mesh, I was astonished. I also have the wonderful memory of having designed myself for Jean Puyforcat a specific jewellery line. Very 30s, in gold, silver and stones, it would be very fashionable nowadays!
When did you decide to establish your own brand?
After the birth of my second child in 1992, I had gained enough experience to start my own business. I started to create my own jewels by using « left over »stones supplied by my father’s special orders. The first years, I also worked for H.Gringoire at the creation, until my company took off. H.Gringoire was then led by a strong-willed woman, Françoise Betschart, who trusted me and granted great autonomy. I remember she gave me a very nice compliment: “I recruited a Ferrari, now I need to drive it! “. Throughout my career, I have had great pleasure collaborating with great and strong women such as Françoise and also Brigitte Pery.
What are your oldest memories refering to coloured gems?
It goes back to when I was 6 years old, I remember a black velvet box that we had discovered in secret with my brother. When we opened this box, holding our breaths, expecting to discover a treasure, we saw 3 coloured gems: 1 chrysoberyl and 2 Burmese rubies of 15cts! The effect was wow, what a fabulous discovery for the wondering eyes of a child. These stones have turned out to be synthetic but since then I have a great passion for chrysoberyl!
I also remember my visits to the lapidary workshop with my grandfather and the excitement when the rough cut finally reveals the brilliance and colour of the precious stone. That experience is absolutely magical and unique.
Your first jewel?
I created my first jewel when I was about ten years old for a school play for which I had made nightingale wings with emeralds and aquamarines. I already loved mixing stones, making colour combinations and creating harmony. A budding colourist.
Isabelle Langlois, talented designer.
How do you work? What are your sources of inspiration?
Sometimes gems are the source of inspiration. Ideas may arise at any moment. I write them on a little notebook which I always have with me. I love playing with precious stones and colours ever since my childhood, it’s a second nature for me. I am inspired by nature and its beauty. The flowers inspire me in particular for their universal message and are at the base of most of my creations. I want to marvel ; nature and the big wide world still enchant me and I hope people see this through my creations.
How do you select your stones? Tell us about your latest favourite?
I’m lucky that the profession of my brother, Emmanuel Piat, is to find beautifully cut stones. I select the stones according to my taste but I also do depending on the market and trends. I love opals, violet chalcedonies, rhodolite garnets, yellow sapphires and of course chrysoberils. I mix stones and colours to make alluring and cheerful jewellery. Colour is life and I want my clients to put colour and cheerfulness into their lives with my jewels.
What piece of advice would you give to individuals who want to buy quality gems?
The purchase of stones has become increasingly difficult. I advise to rely on professionals to ensure authenticity of the gems. This does not preclude giving in to a crush and succumb to temptation if it is not an investment. As for me, I offer a choice of gemstones that I select and source with special care so that my customers always have a very beautiful quality that values their jewel.
Who chooses Isabelle Langlois jewellery? What makes it so special?
My jewellery is for women of character, who know what they want and are sensitive to the beautiful gems and the blend of colour of my collections. My family inheritance forces me to attach great importance to the stones’ cut, an essential know-how that reveals the beauty of a coloured gemstone. My jewellery is accessible and a woman can treat herself. I did my best to make sure that women feel welcome and comfortable in my Paris boutique, at 12 rue de la Paix.
Isabelle Langlois, colourist and woman of character
Tell us about your new collections:
After last year’s successful “marbles”, I launched two new collections that I am quite fond of. The “Petal” collection which is inspired by the geranium flower petal. It already has a lot of success: it’s a collection that represents me well, made for an active woman, easy to wear, comfortable with an appealing modern design. My Asian customers are crazy about it. I’m guessing you like it too…
Secondly, the “Plume” (feather in English) collection which can be worn with or without the feather. Composed of real feathers which are easy to remove and put back, always very colourful, they evoke happiness and joy, like all of my jewels.
Last year, you released a new access collection, « Ange » (angel), which is available in full gold or full silver: is this a change of strategy?
When I created my brand, it was already my aim to make jewellery very accessible so that all women would afford it. I think this line is very meaningfull, it represents “the guardian angel”. It’s easy to wear, symbolic and is sure to please at any occasion. For celebrating birth, love (a motif that changes from the usual heart), important moments such as anniversaries, the 15th, 18th or 20th birthday of a young girl. It’s like a talisman or a lucky charm. I always wear a little angel whatever happens, it brings me luck.
You regularly run gemmology workshops for children, is it important for you to pass on your passion?
As I discovered gems at a very young age, I understand the fascination that one can experience even as a kid for stones and gemmology. I enjoy animating these workshops with the French Association of Gemmology, children are very enthusiastic and can be very demanding! We are launching a seventh session from 23 to 25 October 2017 and we hope to discover new interesting and interested young geniuses!
Your collections are distributed in more than a hundred points of sale on all the continents, what are your medium to long-term plans? The next appointments?
We will be present at the international trade show in Hong Kong and Vicenzaoro in September 2017. Generally speaking, we want to strengthen our presence in Japan and China and I’m always eager to travel to meet my clients.
Thank you Isabelle for this unique moment, and congratulations for your creations which we have been fond of at Like a B for several years already! These colour combinations make your jewellery unique and recognisable among all. You have an undeniable talent as a colourist and the gems you use are of high quality. We have fallen for the easy to wear Petal collection but also for all your happy rings. We dream of wearing a new one every day.
12 Rue de la Paix – 75001 Paris
contact : +33 (0)1 42 46 75 00
The store is open on Mondays, by appointment and from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11AM to 7PM