As a former antique jewelry dealer, Lydia Courteille founded her eponymous brand in 1987 from which her inspiration remains intact. She keeps on creating nearly 300 new pieces every year. Each creation blends uniqueness, colors and a story-telling, all crafted in her Parisian workshop. She loves opals, works mainly on blackened gold to highlight colored stones she believes more joyful. Taking the opportunity to introduce her new book, Lydia Courteille welcomed us in her enchanting Parisian flagship of the Rue Saint Honoré… Interview with a woman who knows what she is talking about!
What was the approach to your book?
After developing products for 10 years, it seemed logical to make a book. I wanted to show five years of my work, which includes about ten collections. On one side, I firmly believe that a book is a positive or enabling factor to sell jewelry specially when it’s yours. On the other side, it can have a negative impact because it feeds the collections of other jewelry designers.
Would you like to expand?
If we can remain the way we are, that’s good. We are here to show what we do. During several years, I didn’t do many fairs. Yet, our models ended up being copied by different people, notably in China, who built brands using our models behind my back.
How did you evolve from being an antique dealer to jewelry designer?
I started by creating jewelry pieces which weren’t creations per sé but sold very well. Something clicked in my mind when I started selling pieces to people who then developed entire collections based on what they bought. I told myself that instead of complaining, it meant they were good, consequently, that I was good. Others revealed the jewelry designer in me, I wouldn’t have dared if I were simply on my own.
Do you miss it?
I am still an antique jewelry dealer; I wear two hats! It can vary depending on the years. Sometimes modern pieces sell better than the antique jewelry, there aren’t any rules really.
What exactly is the job of an antique jewelry dealer?
The lower part of my outside window is dedicated to my Lydia Courteille designs. The upper part is dedicated to antique jewelry and vintage pieces that don’t belong to me. I didn’t want to abandon my clients…
Designing and creating… I have grown a little tired of old things, even though I sometimes fall in love with a specific piece!
How do you define your brand?
My brand is built on talking pieces made casual with the oversize stones and themes. Each and every piece of jewelry comes with a story-telling … with an explanation on the journey that led to its creation.
YOU vs. OTHERS?
I have more freedom in the design process than the big names of the industry and I have more financial freedom than younger brands. I can do whatever I want. I look at what others do, in order not to replicate their work. I can explore unknown materials with the only risk that the final client does not buy… even if in the end, they always do. Here, we say each sale is a miracle!
If you were to wear another brand?
Yeprem and no other. They do everything I don’t know how to do and I love their middle-eastern and feminine touch.
Colored stones have always been your signature?
Beyond the fact that diamonds are not much more expensive, colored jewelry is always more joyful.
The most important thing?
To bare in mind that each organic compound can serve as the basis for a jewelry theme. For example, taking gold coral on which you put diamonds serves first and foremost to make an object more original. People then discover the treasures we have on Earth. There are materials on this planet rarer than diamonds which are never spoken about…
What is the stone you like the most?
The opal which happens to be more rare than diamonds. When I started using opals they were unknown and sign of bad luck! It was very difficult to sell and I sold the first opal to Victoire de Castellane, Creative director of Dior Joaillerie. it was very difficult to sell. I collected opals which were much more beautiful than today!
Do you purchase all your stones yourself?
Yes! I take care of the design, the drawings, the stones and the clients.
Price range & clientele?
The citizen of the world ! My prices start at 5,000 euros but the average price point is between 15’000 and 20’000. It can go up to 400-600K depending on the piece!
Would you want to make your brand last?
If the occasion comes up, than yes. If not, it will be time to step down, it will give even more value to my pieces.
As an antique dealer, have you ever been faced with one of your pieces?
Yes, I have. There are some pieces that ended up getting at a much more expensive price than here and others for much less.
What does it feel like to see your pieces become second hand?
I am indifferent. Once a piece is sold, I move on and I don’t like when they come back. Once a piece is gone, it’s gone. There are still so many things to do…
Your next launch?
The Sahara theme with colors and peculiar stones in the desert!