The Royal Jewellers S01 ep9 : Christofle [Paris]

Interview with Aldo [Albert] Bouilhet

PARIS - Albert Bouilhet - Christofle - Dynasty of silversmiths and sculptors.

In 1830 two brothers in laws one was called Charles Christofle and the other was Joseph Bouilhet were partners in jewellery store in Paris. Ten years later in 1840 they met a rather very strange type of character that you would find in the middle of the 19th century this man was called Henri De Ruolz - He was a chemist, a play writer, an opera composer and most likely a crook on top of all that. He sold to my ancestors the patent of Electroplating, which he pretended that he had invented, and in reality, he had worked on the work of two brilliant British silversmiths called Elkington.

 

Albert Bouilhet

11.44
In 1830 two brothers in laws one was called Charles Christofle and the other
was Joseph Boulhiet were partners in jewellery store in Paris.

12.04
They met 10 years later in 1840 they met a rather very strange type of
character that you would find in the middle of the 19th century this man was
called Henri De ??? - He was a chemist, a play writer, an opera composer and
most likely a crook on top of all that. Because he sold to my ancestors the
pattern of Electroplating, which he pretended that he had invented, and in
reality, he had worked on the work of two brilliant British silversmiths called
Elkington.

12.56
The big advantage of this patent was that you could produce silverware at a
fifth of the price of the sterling, because you would then use copper or brass
and then cover it with silver.

Christofle - Dynasty of silversmiths and sculptors

13.17
How Christofle became so successful immediately was due to one king and
one emperor. The first King was Louis Philip of France who was not very rich,
but liked to live comfortable and placed quite a few orders which made us
become supplier of the court. This made us well known and so on and became
known rather quickly. But he man who was really the biggest promoter of
Christofle was Napoleon III and he was telling everybody 'you know this
beautiful silver that you see here is not sterling and I am very proud to tell you
that this is Christofle'. Being a very hospitable king, he had all the reigning
families and their courts, coming through Paris and of course we had
immediately orders from the Russian, from the Austrians, from the Prussians
from everybody.

14.18
I wanted very much to be an architect and my father told me that I was not
talented enough to do so and that my younger brother Henri..

14.34
KM: Who became and architect!

14.35
Who became an architect and was I must admit an extraordinary designer.

Christofle - Dynasty of silversmiths and sculptors

14.41
KM: Yes!!

14.42
Like my father, like my grandfather and like my great grandfather and so the
only guy who couldn't hold a pencil was I, so he said why insist, after all…
And so I started from the university onwards my life at Christofle. And very
cleverly my father immediately sent me abroad.

15.09
Firstly he sent me to Germany, he asked the owner of the company will you
please put my son at the lowest level, pushing a truck

15.20
KM: And let him learn

15.22
At the lowest level of whatever he wants to do - let him be at the bench,
certainly not in the offices. I did this for one year, after that experience I was
sent in Maryland Connecticut where there was the biggest silverware factory in
America called… , which doesn't exist anymore, which was called International
Silverware Company. I learnt the new method of producing silver in the most
economical method.

Christofle - Dynasty of silversmiths and sculptors

16.01
All this marketing that we know now a days of luxury trademarks was
something totally unknown. The idea of going to a market likes the United
States, and saying to a shopkeeper, who sold silver and saying to him that " I
am sorry sir, but your shop is not good enough for Christofle" was something
unheard of. People would say….

16.26
KM: But you were doing this?

16.27
Yes!

16.34
The only passion of my father was this artistic world. He was a close of Jean
Cocteau. Jean Cocteau had this mania that he was drawing all the time, on
everything. While at restaurants he would draw on the plate, on the table
clothes and my father one-day said, Jean this is a very good idea. Do you
mind if I ask the restaurant here if I can take the plate with me?

17.08
That gave my father the idea to send to every leading important artist of that
time the same restaurant plate, stupid white plate, asking them to make
anything they wanted. He gathered a collection of 200 - 250 plates, which of
course he exhibited in his gallery later on and it was a great success. He did
that later on with the painter, with poet, with musicians, where they would write
a score on the plate.

Christofle - Dynasty of silversmiths and sculptors

17.55
When the government started to generate the Pompadour Museum in Paris,
an Italian called Piano and an Englishman called Roger, were the architects of
the Pompadour Museum

18.10
KM: Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers!

18.12
That is it, and Henri was the man who was responsible for all the inside…

18.17
KM: The interior..

18.18
Yes, the interior of the building. Henri started to work with my on a constant
basis since 1967. He was the curator of the trademark. In other words nothing
that was produced under the name of Christofle would not be released without
his approval.

18.46
The Maharaja placed an order with my great grandfather and it was very
specific. He ordered a bed and at each corner of the bed there was to be a life-
size naked statue of 4 ladies. One that was to represent the Italian symbol of
Beauty, the second one was Greek, the third one was Spanish and the fourth
one was French. In the mattress of the bed should be music that could put him
to sleep for 40 minutes. And the ladies were ventilating him whilst he was in
the bed with big fans held in each arm. The most extraordinary thing was that
the man who ordered this bed was 21 years old.

10.28

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