Trained in engineering and an expert surfer, the tide is climbing high for master jeweler Lorenz Bäumer.
Lorenz Bäumer surfs the sublime waves of luxury with his intelligently crafted, other-worldly designs. At his chic Place Vendôme flagship, the tide is climbing high for this master jeweler.
Clad in an austere officer's coat atop his swish vintage yellow bike, Lorenz Bäumer, 40, glides across the place Vendôme with the same singular style and timeless elegance that he pours into every one of his designs. His witty, irreverent creations – crafted at his chic appointment-only salon on the place Vendôme – are as uncommon as the man himself. Trained as an engineer and an avid fan of surf and snow, Baumer began designing furniture (and still does for his home and office) and then costume jewelry before launching into fine jewelry nine years ago.
A polyglot with encyclopedic knowledge, his hypnotic cadence spans subjects as wide as sports and Sixties lighting, to the significance of vanitas, Courbet and the French Commune. "I like ideas, it's not the objects in themselves that interest me, but the concept behind them," he explains, although he has been known to don a mining cap in search of stones.
Inconspicuously working its way into the heart of luxury, his unique cerebral creativity has seduced private clients from Dubai to San Francisco – 70% of whom commission customized pieces – as well as big names in luxury that he discreetly designs for. It just takes one visit to his exceptional space to fall under the Bäumer spell. Decorated from floor to ceiling with his collection of Vendôme column photographs, his eclectic treasure trove includes such ingenious curiosities as a limited-edition Daguerrotype hologram watch, a lusciously playful diamond-crusted 'Vegetable' bracelet with mini-delicacies in jade, tiger's eye and rhodocrosite, and an exceptional two-sided pearl ring.
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is what makes you dream, and what I'm dreaming of right now is a plate of pasta with a sauce that I love. It is also time for myself, because I have so little of it.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
Something that I don't have, that I'd like to give myself or create.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
A moment of absence, where there is nothing inside, no content: a complete and total denouement.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
I would be right here right now: the place Vendôme.
How is your perception of the term 'exceptional' reflected in your designs?
It is all about the experience of living an exceptional moment of beauty –welcoming clients into an privileged space, helping them see beauty in an entirely different way and leading them into a realm that they never knew existed.
Your creations, such as your precious 'Porcupine' ring and Daguerrotype watches have distinct attitude and wit. Why is humor important in your designs?
It's important to de-dramatize fine jewelry in order to make it more accessible. It's just like with people, if you have a good sense of humor, they approach you more easily. There is a French proverb that says something like "une femme qui rit, un pied dans le lit" or "make a woman laugh, and she's halfway in your bed. "
You have said that all of your creations can be divided into three categories: architecture, gardening and poetry. What does this trilogy represent for you?
There is a maelstrom of ideas behind each design, and sometimes people ask themselves, 'What is he doing exactly?' The categories help elucidate each part of my personality, be in the architecture side, which is structured, organized, rigorous and geometric; the gardening side, which reflects my love for nature, surfing, animals; as well as my poetic side, which is expressed through my message-bearing designs. Sometimes the three categories blend together.
Who or what are you currently inspired by?
I recently purchased an Egyptian 'Isis and Osaris' statuette at auction that's over 3,000 years old and that has inspired me to build a bejeweled Mysterious Pendulum. Bridging 3,000 years of expertise, from the language of the artisan who built the sculpture, to the best in modern science and design, we are going to create an incredible jewel-encrusted object. I'm going to put some kind of detector on the design so that when you pass in front of it the solar disc will light up and give the time.
Who or what inspires you the most creatively?
The discovery of objects and contemporary art inspires me greatly, especially light sculptures from the Sixties by Lionel Lebovici. I have a small five-piece Lebovici museum here in my office, including his iconic Safety Pin lamp.
What attracts you to light designs?
Jewelry is light. Without light, the stones wouldn't shine. In essence, jewelry design is the sculpting of light through stones.
What can customers expect from Lorenz Bäumer that they won't find anywhere else?
What we propose here is a luxury service in the truest sense of the term: the time to discover the client's desires and to offer them exceptional things, a unique style and a real creative opinion. Most fine jewelers have completely lost sight of the sense of true luxury. These days, you're likely to find better service at a car dealership than at a fine jeweler.
Seventy per cent of your creations are customized. What is the creative process like between you and your clients?
They either choose from pre-existing designs, or I draft an idea that they can leave with and think about. There is an elaborative process before we arrive at that moment. They try on many designs to see the style that pleases them most, and then we have a lengthy discussion. I have one hour to really get to know the person that I have in front of me.
Are there often any unexpected surprises in terms of your clients' tastes?
It's very rare. I can usually tell right away the type of person I have in front of me by the way that they're dressed, the jewelry they come in wearing, who recommended them, etc. It's a sort of skill that I learned on the job. The process is very similar to the study of corporal gestures. I just read a very interesting book on the subject. It deconstructs the term a 'woman's sixth sense', by explaining how women develop a certain sensibility to non-verbal language during child rearing by reading their child's facial and bodily expressions. So, after 16 years of meeting with people, I've learned to read the signs that are put before me. It helps me to better understand what my clients want, often before they know it themselves.
Is there often a difference between what they say they want, and want they actually buy?
Absolutely. Sometimes someone will say that they want a small ring and then choose an enormous stone, or that they only like black jewels and select a very colorful one. There are all sorts of social and cultural codes that cloud they way desire is expressed. It is my job to find out what they're truly after, and to bridge the gap between what they express and the choices they make.
Do you hand-choose your clients or is anyone welcome at Lorenz Bäumer?
You have to come with an open frame of mind, if not, the collaboration won't work. The more you have to offer during the creative process in terms of interests and passions, the more enriching the process will be, and ultimately the design.
Which of your creations mean the most to you personally, why?
It's always the creation to come. If I were a historian it would be the past, but it's the future that mobilizes all of my creativity and passion.
The fine jewelry market has reached staggering heights within the last year, what do you attribute to fine jewelry's remarkable resurgence?
It's very simple: the extraordinary economic boom of the last few years has unleashed extremely wealthy consumers onto the market. They are all seeking something exceptional and extraordinary. But I think that within the market we need for consumers to be more daring and ambitious in their aesthetic tastes and choices.
Is jewelry gaining the place of fashion amongst the wealthy?
People buy jewelry for its style, longevity, and for its sentimental value. It has an entirely different perspective than fashion because of its highly emotional power. Therefore what is most important for me as a designer is to fine the delicate balance that responds to all three categories – fashion, longevity and emotion.
Which past and present jewelry designers do you admire the most? Why?
René Lalique because he revolutionized fine jewelry and the allure of women.
4, place Vendôme