Today the name Lacloche is synonymous with some of the most dazzling pieces of Art Deco jewellery produced in 1920s Paris. The four Lacloche brothers: Leopold, Jacques, Jules and Fernand, built an empire of retail spaces across Europe. Recognising their strength in numbers, the four Lacloche brothers paired off, with Leopold and Jules running Lacloche Freres in Paris, and Jacques and Fernand selling Parisian made jewellery under the nameLachloche et Cie in Madrid. From the late 1890s they provided jewels to Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, and Queen Alexandra and King George I of Greece. The Spanish royal family were also loyal clients, with Alfonso XII, his mother and wife buying lavishly.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Lacloche Frères
The Agra Diamond
In 1900 tragedy struck the family with the premature death of Jacques in a train crash. His son, also called Jacques, inherited a passion for jewellery working in the business from 1912. He continued the family legacy into the 1960s after the death of his other uncles and financial ruin of his cousins.
In 1904 the surviving three brother’s made an important purchase. The London dealer Edwin Streeter retired and sold the brothers his entire stock, including the magnificent rose pink Agra diamond. With the sale of this historic diamond at Christie’s a year later, the Lacloche brothers expanded rapidly. Leopold and Jules collaborated with Louis Gompers to open Lacloche Gompers on the fashionable Rue de l’Opera and then opened a shop on the prestigious Place Vendome, Paris. They also opened branches in the fashionable thermal spa of Aix-les-Bains, and in Monaco, Nice, and Trouville. By 1923 they also had branches in Deauville and a year later in glamorous Cannes.
The French Riviera
In Madrid, Lacloche et Cie, also expanded to the fashionable seaside towns of San Sebastian and up to Biarritz. Recognising the happy marriage of leisure and luxury, together the two branches of the family had a foothold in every fashionable location along the French Riviera.
A second important purchase was made by the brothers in 1917, this time of Faberge’s London stock. They then opened a London branch, run by Jacques Jr. from 1920. Fernand’s sons, Henri and another Jacques, also entered the family trade, moving across the Atlantic to 5th Avenue, New York, and forging ties with Hollywood starlets on the West Coast.
The Grand Prix
In 1925 Lacloche Freres exhibited in the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, winning the Grand Prix for their collection of jewels inspired by the fables of Fontaine. The 1920s also saw the production of the brand’s most iconic designs. They embraced the Art Deco style, covering cigarette cases, vanity boxes and other new fashionable accessories with intricate designs inspired by Eastern cultures, such as scrolling calligraphic foliage from Japanese prints and pottery.
However, by 1929 the family’s businesses were badly affected by the Wall Street crash. Of the four founding brothers, only Fernand now survived. On top of this his sons, Henri and Jacques, had accumulated heavy gambling debts. Under this strain, the Lacloche family filed for bankruptcy in 1931, closing all but a small showroom in Paris.
Bracelet for Grace Kelly
Jacques Jr continued his uncles’ legacy under the name SARL Jacques Lacloche. From a small shop in the Place Vendome, Paris, he cultivated relationships with a glittery array of clients, from aristocracy to starlets. Prince Rainier of Monaco commissioned a bracelet from Jacques as a wedding present to his wife Grace Kelly. In 1936 he opened a small concession in the Carlton Hotel, Cannes where he could supply to the glamourous occupants of the Riviera, as well as in Paris. Jacques continued dealing in high quality jewellery until his retirement in 1967.
An exceptional collection of Lacloche Freres Art Deco jewellery was produced in 1925. 1925 was an important year in jewellery, with houses such as Lacloche, exhibiting in the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs. Art Deco is part of the now quintessential Lacloche aesthetic. Lacloche Freres mastered the new style that had swept across Europe.
Inspired by Japanese screen painting, the surfaces of broad bracelets and dangling earrings are covered in diamonds accented with onyx and black enamel. In December 2019 an exemplary pair of Art Deco Lacloche Freres earrings were sold at Christie’s Geneva. Framed with a rim of black enamel the gem-set panels hang from diamond studs. These wide, flat panels are shaped and decorated like Japanese silk screens. The highly stylised landscape contains clouds of diamonds billowing above scalloped sapphire waves, emerald foliage and a lattice work ruby roof. They exceeded their estimate of 40,000-60,000 USD, selling for 237,500 USD.
The multifaceted Lacloche businesses, from Madrid, New York, London to Paris, were consistently filled with exceptional quality fine jewellery. The brothers adapted successfully to the demands and desires of their clients, moving with the changing fashions, yet never compromised quality.