Vanessa Cron is the curator of the “A Golden Age” exhibition by Maison Chaumet running until 5 November, and a jewellery historian. Her expertise has been honed over many years of research, fueled by her love for jewellery, discovered through a chance encounter.

Diotima Schuck
1st November 2023

Having joined Christie’s in 2000 as a graphic designer, Vanessa Cron discovered the jewellery department within the auction house and met the man who would become her husband, himself a jewellery expert. This marked the birth of a passion, cultivated for over twenty years through research, teaching, and exhibition curating.

On the Field

From Paris, Vanessa Cron moved to Geneva in 2005. With no formal training in jewellery history, absent from university or school curricula, she learned to look at the object through alternative means. While gemology diplomas exist, primarily enabling the identification of stones or being able to “tell the difference between a piece of glass and a diamond,” to learn more about the jewellery itself, the only way is “to study auction catalogs, go see the pieces, and observe them one by one,” explains the historian.

It was thus under the tutelage of dealer Thomas Faerber, also co-founder of GemGenève, that Vanessa Cron delved into jewellery, particularly antique jewellery: “I had the chance to come into contact with very important pieces that I had to authenticate, with the help of experts, and that I had to describe,” she recounts. “My training came from looking, asking questions, being curious, and wanting to learn more about the jewels.”

Returning to Christie’s in 2009, to the jewellery department this time, Vanessa Cron specialised in the jewelry of the 19th and 20th centuries through both reading books and the precise examination of numerous items. There, she built personal experience and understanding of periods, styles, and countries producing jewellery. A knowledge acquired through diligent, rigorous research, which she soon began to share.

The Joy of Sharing

In 2012, the historian began teaching jewellery history at HEAD — the Geneva School of Art and Design — to young designers. She structured the courses based on her knowledge and her desire to impart. She shares: “Courses are given by freelancers, historians who create them, so they depend on the teachers and the audience they are intended for. I tailored my courses to what I found interesting and adapted them to different configurations.”

From classrooms to conferences, Vanessa Cron decided to devote herself to teaching. In December 2016, she left Christie’s to become independent and to give masterclasses in New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or London. Through Christie’s Education, the house’s teaching institute, she catered more to jewellery professionals, collectors, or enthusiasts.

It was also at the request of her students that she eventually created her Instagram, Jewels and the gang. “At the end of the semester, my students wanted to continue learning. One of them advised me to open an account, and everything started from there. The idea was to post jewels that I like or that I find interesting, associating them with anecdotes and sometimes a little educational aspect,” she narrates.

From Palais de Tokyo to Chaumet

In 2020, Vanessa Cron was approached to work on the very first retrospective of Maison Fred at the Palais de Tokyo, inaugurated in September 2022. A major exhibition, prepared with Vincent Meylan, journalist, historian, and high jewellery specialist, for which she was tasked with narrating the house’s history.

Soon after, she was contacted by Chaumet, where the historian began working on the Maison’s heritage collection thanks to her skills and expertise: "Having worked with dealers and collectors, I can possibly identify pieces, I know where they can be found to be repatriated and integrated into the heritage collection," she confides.

Meanwhile, the historian rediscovered forgotten pieces thanks to the Maison’s archives and proposed the theme for the ongoing exhibition, “A Golden Age: 1965-1985”. “Things came quite naturally with this desire to create an exhibition around a theme that had not yet been addressed,” Vanessa Cron recounts. “It’s interesting because within the Maison itself, some people were surprised by the rediscovered pieces.”

From this rediscovery, driven by the historian’s perspective, emanates a fundamental passion for the object, and the desire to continue discovering and learning.

A Love for Jewellery

From her work with an art dealer and an auction house, her role as an archivist or historian, from teaching to exhibition curating, Vanessa Cron’s activities are manifold. All, however, are directed towards the same object: jewellery. Long gone are the days when, as a graphic designer, she was not interested in these creations. These objects now “speak” to her, “tell stories”. “What matters is the emotion they evoke,” explains the specialist.

For Vanessa Cron, regardless of the jewel, its spectacular aspect fades behind the sentimental value, which is essential. “Someone’s favourite jewellery pieces are usually those that mean something,” comments the historian. Similarly, among the own jewels, her preference goes to a gold bracelet by Ernesto Pierret, devoid of precious stones, a “sentimental piece” she specifies.

And if the desire to know who made the object, what composes it, what inspired it arises quickly, Vanessa Cron doesn’t hesitate to speak of “magic” when referring to an exceptional piece: a combination of things, from design to manufacturing, through the stones used. And she confides: “Experts don’t always agree, but there’s a real convergence of opinions when it comes to the excellence of high jewellery.”

Today, Vanessa Cron has left Geneva and Europe for the Caribbean. From a small boat, she sails between the islands, continues her research work for Chaumet, and plans new courses in her free time. “I might do some lectures next year at GemGenève. But I’m coming this year to see everyone, there are a lot of people I like a lot. And then, it’s the perfect opportunity to discover fabulous jewelry.”