I devised this itinerary for L’Hebdo des Puces. This Paris Saint-Ouen Flea Market, the world’s premier antique market has always been, for me, an infinite source of inspiration and discoveries.
Text and photos by Sandrine Merle.
This Paris Saint-Ouen Flea Market is home to several dozen dealers offering jewelry of all styles and almost all periods. Joyful and unruly display cases are filled with necklaces, creoles, solitary, charms, cameos born of a thousand and one stories… Here, you won’t find cookie-cutter jewelry reproduced in tens of thousands of copies. So follow me as I head for the Dauphine, Biron and Paul Bert-Serpette markets in search of treasures at my favorite merchants.
The realm of charming jewelry
Don’t assume that everything is priceless! Les Puces is the realm of charming jewelry, jewelry not characterized by breathtaking stones but by their delicacy, the refinement of a piece of worked gold, a pompom or a row of micro pearls. Simply irresistible! Looking for a 19th century cameo or steel lace and diamond jewelry? Visit Au Trésorantic or Stéphanie Corvez. Fancy a Napoleon III bracelet or pendant? Delmar Fidalgo has some truly beautiful examples. Or maybe you’re into animal jewelry or tassel necklaces from the 50s? That’s just up Lydia Rupp’s street. You can even find a Rouen cross at Orcadre or a Fernand Pouillon emerald ring at Venon & Madi! As for Marie-Laure Chermezon, she has made these charming jewels her specialty with a superb selection of 60s bracelets and coral earrings.
Couture jewelry, a speciality
We praise the know-how of the glyptician for his intaglios and cameos, the goldsmith who fashions the precious metal, the lapidary or the enameller. But the people who sell these objects, often colorful personalities, are just as precious. Their knowledge is infinite… Only at Les Puces will you find such a concentration of experts, especially in non-precious jewelry (fabric, plastic, bronze, etc). For couture jewelry, four antique dealers are renowned throughout the world for their knowledge and their astonishing selections of Chanel pieces (the most prized), Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent,… Olwen Forest is the largest collector of jewelry from Hollywood stars of the 40s and 50s while Patricia Attwood is best known for her Billie Boy pieces. You’ll meet all the fashion designers at Clara Lardé’s – a fan of the 50-70s. Meanwhile Isabelle Klein, has turned her boutique “Les Merveilles de Babellou” into a magical stage with a flamboyant décor. In a radically different vein, Andréa Guinez offers a selection of unusual avant-garde pieces by Jakob Bengel, Catherine Billet and Berrocal.
In this Flea Market, you have to search, observe, and keep asking questions, because jewelry can often be hidden in a store full of Louis XVI chests of drawers or Italian paintings. At the Chinese Beauty Gallery, amid all the Chinese pottery, I stared in admiration at a necklace made of Peking lacquer balls (dyed red using crushed pins!) from the end of the Qing dynasty. At Benjamin Gastaud, the René Lalique specialist, I saw glass bracelets that have miraculously survived the decades. Another surprise reserved by Les Puces: the presence of creators like Sylvie Corbelin, a former antique dealer. She reinterprets ancient elements (antique pieces, Persian turquoise, etc.) in contemporary gold frames. Another reason I feel so passionate about this market is the profusion of “home jewelry” – boxes, chests or chests of drawers covered with gemstones crystals and shells at Sophie Cougoule’s. She also has those romantic 19th century chandeliers with rock crystal pendants. It’s the favorite material of Charles Mattern (supplier to Goossens, amongst others) who sculpts it in candlesticks and cups.
I would also like to take you to the Lili and Daniel’s store – an Ali Baba’s cave overflowing with pearls, clasps, canetille badges, and buttons. In Les Puces, my jewelry itinerary is never-ending.
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