or French chic, a Scottish banker and an Italian jewellery maker…
So close to Valentine’s day, you probably have your present sorted.
Jewellery being a classic when it comes to Valentine’s day presents, we wanted to explore the story of an area in Paris where you can find the most prestigious brands: Place Vendôme and its neighbouring streets including Rue Cambon, Rue de Castiglione, Rue de la Paix and Rue Saint Honoré.
Here are 10 Facts we have selected about Place Vendôme and its immediate surroundings:
1. “The Vendome quarter revolves around luxury and the art of living. Historically it is also the favoured spot for high finance and service companies such as banks, law firms, legal advisors and property companies. While it was true that the Vendome quarter housed the power, money and craftsmanship, it was with the “added ingredient of soul” fueled by creativity and talent that it developed a feel for authentic luxury”. (The Vendôme Committee )
2. The prestigious residents of Place Vendôme nowadays are, amongst others, Chopard (no 1), Guerlain (no 2), Breguet (no 6), Christian Dior Couture (no 8), Chaumet (no 12), The Ritz Hotel (no 15), Chanel (no 18), Mauboussin (no 20), Dubail (no 21), Van Cleef & Arpels (no 22), Louis Vuitton and Cartier (no 23), Bulgari (no 25), Boucheron (no 26)… a rather impressive selection.
4. Mademoiselle Chanel opened her first boutique 21 Rue Cambon; Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz during German occupation in WWII.
5. In the 17th Century, Place Vendôme used to be called Place des Conquêtes and Place Louis Le Grand; It looks like someone’s ego needed flattered… indeed, Louis XIV bought and demolished a convent along with a townhouse owned by Cézar de Vendôme in order to erect a grand square and showcase his royal equestrian statue. But apart from the 40 ton bronze piece of art, the square remained empty. For financial reasons, Louis XIV abandoned “his” square to the city, which sold its property rights to six financiers. The Scottish banker John Law, who was also financial adviser to Louis XV, bought the lot at number 21 and set up a “stock market” where shares were sold in exchange for cash, jewellery, furniture, carriages and horses. Since then, the financial world has been omnipresent around Place Vendôme.
n.b.The king’s statue was toppled during French Revolution and the square was renamed Place des Piques; The square received its current name in 1799.
6. The opening of the Ritz Hotel in 1896, with its prestigious clientèle, helped transform Place Vendôme into an exciting cosmopolitan center attracting other high-fashion jewellers.
7. In 1893, Boucheron was the first jeweller to move onto Place Vendôme itself. He shared the Hôtel de Nocé townhouse (no 26) with the Countess of Castiglione, who was reputed to be the most beautiful woman of the century, and Napoleon III’s mistress. She loved Boucheron’s creations and soon became one of the Maison’s most important ambassadors.
8. But it is actually François Mellerio who opened the first jewellery shop in the area, rue de la Paix, in 1816. The company Mellerio dits Meller, makers of classic silver and gold jewellery, are amongst the oldest jewellers in Europe. They started making simple jewellery in 1200, emigrated to France in 1515, at a time when the Italians were considered trendsetters in the arts. The family was offered royal protection under Marie de Medicis and, as a result, enjoyed the benefits of royal patronage and distinguished clients such as Marie de Medicis and Marie Antoinette. You can still find them no 9, Rue de la Paix.
9. The original Vendôme Column at the center of the square was erected by Napoleon I to commemorate the battle of Austerlitz; it was torn down on 16 May 1871, by decree of the city of Paris, but subsequently re-erected and remains a prominent feature on the square today.
10. To finish – and at the risk of sounding a bit cliché – it is a very romantic part of Paris with great spots to get engaged, which is exactly what I did back in 2008! For more information visit http://comite-vendome.fr/en/circuit/romantic-circuit/
Happy Valentine’s Day… which, by the way, can also be celebrated with just a kiss or a smile.