Josephine de Stael
PhD Viva completed 2019-2020
Josephine de Stael: The role of the model in Parisian fine jewellery knowledge
This thesis investigates the use and role of models in contemporary Parisian fine jewellery production. It embeds the apprenticeship-as-field method within a network approach to build on the literature of knowing by making to investigate Parisian fine jewellery from within the jewellery houses of the Place Vendôme and the Haute Ecole de Joaillerie (HEJ)that trains its jewellers. This thesis focuses on four types of model, including: the training models used to teach jewellery skills in schools throughout France; the production ‘models of intention’ that lie at the heart of the production process between the initial drawing and the final jewel; the models in the archive of the jewellery house and the artisans; and finally digital models. The thesis examines how these four types of model come to manifest Parisian fine jewellery knowledge through their performative roles in knowledge transmission, creation, tradition and evolution.
Parisian fine jewellery refers to the jewellery made in and around the Place Vendôme in Central Paris. It has historic roots in the nineteenth century jewellery community of family firms that emerged to replace the pre-modern craft guilds that were dissolved in the French revolution. In 2019, this production network remains extremely small and personal, although the industry now supplies a global demand, which it satisfies by producing both unique one-of-a-kind and market oriented jewellery. Indeed this global demand and the ownership by luxury conglomerates have introduced a new need for the individual jewellery houses to reassert their authenticity and originality.
This thesis begins by looking at the use of standardised national examination models as training models at the Haute Ecole de Joaillerie (HEJ) to transmit technical and spatial expertise via imitative learning that enables students to become masters of both making and space, resulting in fine jewellery knowledge that is standardised, evaluated and differentiated on a national scale. The thesis goes on to look at model making within the jewellery houses of the Place Vendôme, focussing on the roles of experimentation and of the body of the artisan in the making process. It investigates the production model’s position at the heart of the jewellery production process and looks at how this process is orchestrated by the jewellery house. The thesis expands on this relational role of the model in fine jewellery knowledge by looking at how jewellery houses and artisans use archives of models to narrate their own traditions. Finally, this thesis looks at the use of digital models, which have been introduced at both the Haute Ecole de Joaillerie (HEJ) and the workshops of the jewellery houses in a material evolution. Looking at the scope for increased experimentation and the potential of haptic digital technologies, it shows how the jewellery community has harnessed the similarities between the traditional and digital models to assimilate and localise a global phenomenon.
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