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Lalique Jewellery Has the Power to Stir Emotions

Shirley Mitchell rediscovers the art of René Lalique

David Callaghan receiving award
David Callaghan receiving the Wilkins Award from the IRV

Always on the look out for interesting talks, seminars and workshops to attend, I thumb through the trade magazines and have a phrases programmed into Google in case anything is listed on the internet. Well, one day an email arrived in my inbox with details of a talk to be held by David Callaghan in Thatcham, Berkshire. Now, any talk by David is bound to be of interest to me and his talks are guaranteed to be good! My next thought... ‘What was he talking about?’ ahhh... René Lalique. The chance to hear the great man talk about the legendary René Lalique was not to be missed!

I arrived at the New Greenham Arts Centre in good time and was met by a very nice lady who took my name and pointed me in the right direction. There were no spare seats so I sat on the stage at the back and waited for David to begin. The audience was the local National Trust group of mainly retired couples with a common interest but did they know what David was about to talk to them about? ... possibly not.

We, in the jewellery trade, know of René Lalique and his magnificent jewellery; some of us have been lucky enough to see some of his designs and some of us even luckier to have actually handled them. David is one such person; having been a Director of Hancocks for over 30 years, he has seen and had the privilege of handling such wonderful works of art. For you see, the jewels of René Lalique are exactly that - works of art. Listening to David talk, with his enthusiasm and his depth of knowledge for a particular subject, is nothing short of magical.

Rene Lalique
The young René Lalique

So to the Talk ...

So to the talk... René Lalique was born in France in 1860, studied design and worked as a goldsmith's apprentice before moving to London in 1876 to develop his design skills at Sydenham Art College. In 1878 he moved back to Paris, working as a freelance artist/designer for the fabulous French jewellers including Cartier and Boucheron. With his love of the female form, nature and naturalistic themes it was hardly surprising that he became one of the leading designers of Art Nouveau jewellery Lalique's creations are truly beautiful with many aspects to each piece; it is said that every time you look at a piece of Lalique jewellery you see something different.

René Lalique did not often use expensive or rare gemstones in his jewellery but incorporated all manner of gemstones and pearls in his designs; they were picked for their individuality and he often matched their colour with enamels of the same colour. The extent of his attention to detail could be seen when looking at the back of the piece, nothing was left to chance.

St Matthew's Church
St Matthew's Church in Jersey

With the emergence of the Art Deco period in the 1920's, René Lalique's style changed. He had also developed his glass making skills and was responsible for designing the glass columns and lighting in the dining room of SS Normandie, some of the interiors of the ‘Orient Express’ and the interior of St Matthew’s Church in Jersey, also known as the Glass Church.

So inspired by David's talk that night I decided to write about what I had learnt. However as the evening progressed with David showing us more and more slides of beautiful Lalique brooches, pendants and hair comb, I became very aware of a change in the audience ... with each new slide came more gasps of wonderment and, as David explained what he saw in these intricate pieces and how perfect they were, the audience was drawn in a bit more. I stepped back a bit and watched as he took them into a different world, a world of the most fabulous jewels with a quality that we do not often see today, if at all.

Lalique brooch
The Gulbenkian dragonfly brooch

The Mesmerising World of Jewels

Each piece tells a story of its own; the Gulbenkian dragonfly enamel brooch with its peacock feather wings and female head is one such example ... just look at it for a while - can you see all the different aspects?

Of course Lalique isn't all about jewellery; René Lalique designed the most beautiful scent bottles for Coty and stunning crystal car mascots for Citroen, Bentley, Bugatti and Rolls Royce amongst others, and perhaps the most familiar of all ... vases, bowls and statuettes.

Glass car mascot
Spirit of the Wind ~ Victoire, car mascot circa 1928

So my story turned from being about my love for Lalique to one about how jewellery and art has the ability to touch us all. I see beautiful jewellery on a daily basis, maybe not always the quality of Lalique but very beautiful all the same. Watching the audience that night made me question whether I took this privilege for granted and I probably do. However, this has made me realise that I need to take the time to stop and appreciate it for a while - beautiful jewellery should be appreciated.

David inspired many that night, so much so that as soon as he finished talking hands were being raised to ask question after question. The hall was buzzing with excitement, plans were being made to visit museums and the Glass Church to learn more about the legendary René Lalique - a spark had been ignited.
By writing this story I hope that you too will be inspired to learn more about the creative genius that is René Lalique.

Shirley Mitchell Jewellery Valuer


  • Shirley Mitchell FGA, DGA, FJVA
  • Independent Jewellery Valuer
  • Windsor, UK
  • Shirley Mitchell FGA DGA Ltd


  • Designer (primary)
  • Jewellery
  • Objet d'art

Intended Audience

  • Consumers (primary)
  • Appraisal Students
  • Appraisal Academics


  • June 2020
  • 4 mins reading time
  • Dale-Chall readability level:
    Easily understood by an average College Student
  • 6 mins speaking time

About the Author

Jewellery Valuer

Shirley Mitchell FGA, DGA, FJVA

Shirley Mitchell is the owner of a thriving independent jewellery valuation practice in Windsor, England - Shirley D Mitchell FGA DGA Ltd. A Fellow of the Jewellery Valuers Association (JVA) in the UK, Shirley serves as the Member Liaison Officer on the JVA committee, is an active member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV), ODL Tutor for Gem-A and delivers workshops and talks both in the UK and abroad on gemmology and valuation topics.

Shirley Mitchell - Jewellery Valuer

Shirley Mitchell FGA DGA Ltd

Windsor, England

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