Starting over at any age can feel like diving into the unknown. It can be especially daunting when you’re over the age of 40 and breaking into a field known for its exclusivity in a city not your own. But that’s exactly what Edéenne, a Canadian marketing executive, did in 2003 when two transformative experiences—a divorce and a deep-water dive—led her to create her own House of High Jewelry. With a major show coming up at the Légion d’Honneur Museum, bridging the gap between jewelry and art, Edéenne spoke with INSPIRELLE about her personal reinvention and what advice she would give to other women looking to take the leap…
Edéenne, is there anything in your personal or professional background to suggest you would become a successful high jeweler at the age of 45 years old?
Before I turned 45, I had never thought, even for a second, that one day I would become a jeweler and even less that I would found a House of High Jewelry in the domain’s most prestigious city. What I can say for sure is that my approach to jewelry combines all the skills I acquired between the ages of 25 and 45 in my different professional roles.
What triggered this dramatic life and career change?
My career —and life—change is totally fortuitous. The epiphany occurred during my first dive, at Lake Maggiore 16 years ago. The dive took place in a river flowing between two cliffs into the lake. Other divers went past me, kicking up sand which blinded me. I swam to the surface too quickly without realizing it and was suffering. My instructor found me and told me to go back down. In spite of my fright, I returned to the bottom of the river. Surprised to feel much better, I turned around and at that moment, the sun shining behind a tree at the top of the cliff created a rainbow that turned all the stones below me into fake sapphires, rubies, emeralds… It was a sign, I had to become a jeweler. I picked up the most golden pebble I’d ever seen and two weeks later I was enrolled in the gemology school in Paris. Three months later I officially founded a House of High Jewelry.
Tell us about your first piece of jewelry design?
The first piece I made that I really consider being at the level of High Jewelry, is an anemone carved in yellow and white gold, containing a five-carat diamond. This piece for me is a way to honor the simplest things, like a flower found in a meadow, recreating it in precious and lasting materials. The natural world is, of course, a traditional source of inspiration in jewelry.
However, the piece where I feel that I really start to transcend this traditional environment is the one I created in tribute to the film Peau d’Âne, in 2007. The historian and journalist Vivienne Becker wrote that in the world of jewelry, it was the first time a creator was inspired by world of cinema. That is where I really branded the DNA of my House.
Each of your pieces is unique, customized for your client. What inspires you each time you conceive a piece of jewelry?
On the one hand, I make pieces inspired by our collective memory. But on the other, I mainly make pieces sur mesure. I start by interviewing my client for two or three hours. I ask lots of indiscreet questions and suddenly I see the piece. I am inspired by whatever touches me the most in the life of the person in front of me.
In a way, I make “jewelry portraits” of my clients. Some of them have up to 15 pieces, all related to their story, tangible milestones of their lives. I am in the end a “witness” transmitting what is exceptional in everyone.
During my solo exhibition at Sotheby’s in London in 2018, they called our work “Beyond Bespoke.”
In a city such as Paris renowned for its French jewelry brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels or Chaumet, how did you penetrate this market and attract the attention of high-profile clients?
My approach relies exclusively on word of mouth, unlike the big brands that invest in huge and expensive marketing campaigns. I believe that today’s customers, particularly the privileged ones, seek out unique experiences and, like the art world, particularly appreciate the opportunity to meet the artist in person. These same people appreciate wearing one-of-a-kind pieces. This, for me, is the real luxury.
Who would you like to design for today?
For women who change the world!…and all the men who want to witness it.
Your “reinvention” story is so inspiring. What advice do you have for women who need to or are forced to make changes in their life?
“Being a woman never held me back from any of my desires, whatever they were.”
My advice to others would be:
- To dream big and not be afraid.
- To turn dreams into desires and ground them. Faith in yourself is the most powerful engine of all.
- Identify the toxic beings in your life and eliminate them while building your project.
- When chaos and/or doubt settle in, do not run away. These moments often generate constructive ideas and lead to better performance. Since my dive, I have never stopped repeating that you must not be blinded by what you fear because through difficult times you may discover incredible surprises.
- Life is a beautiful voyage, don’t let the “good” trains pass you by.
- Being a woman is becoming more and more an advantage rather than a liability. Yes, it’s true, the world is changing.
What does it mean to you to exhibit a collection of your pieces of jewelry at the Museum of Legion d’Honneur in Paris?
It is a great honor for me to exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum, especially as it is my third exhibition in this magnificent setting (the others were in 2009 and 2011). No other jewelry house has had the privilege of occupying this space. It has almost become a “family” to me, the people who work there are exceptional.
This place is emblematic in the history of my House and I decided that this would be where I unveil my new centerpiece, the one I’ve been working on for two years, as well as my other pieces rooted in works of art. I like to think of the Maison Edéenne today as the place where art meets jewelry.