rethink sustainability

    The CLIC® Chronicles: Meet Vever, the 7th generation iconic jewellery house on a sustainability mission

    The CLIC® Chronicles: Meet Vever, the 7th generation iconic jewellery house on a sustainability mission

    In 1982, iconic French jewellery house Vever – a pioneer of art nouveau jewellery – closed its doors, bringing to an end 161 years of history. Now, four decades later, the family-owned firm is back, with brother and sister Camille and Damien Vever at the helm.

    To the House’s traditional values of artistic innovation, French know-how, and quality craftsmanship, they are adding a commitment to sustainability and supply-chain transparency. The first certified ‘Entreprise à mission’ (mission-driven company) in the jewellery and luxury sector, Vever now uses only recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds, and even works with an ivory substitute made from vegetable matter.

    Vever now uses only recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds, and even works with an ivory substitute made from vegetable matter

    The revived House is staying true to its DNA, right down to its location on the world-famous rue de la Paix in Paris, home to Vever for more than a century. We met with Camille Vever, the 7th generation of the Vever family to take the reins, to find out why she decided to reawaken the jewellery giant, and how she hopes their commitment to sustainability will be an example across the jewellery industry.


    What inspired you to bring Vever back to life?

    The idea started when I was 16 years old, when my grandmother gave me a piece of Vever jewellery. When I opened the box and saw my name, Vever, and the address on the rue de la Paix, it was very emotional for me, and I decided that one day I would revive the House.

    I was two years old when Vever closed, so I have no memory of it. But it was still always present, because there are a lot of Vever jewels in many museums across Europe and the US, and every year there are sales of Vever jewels organised by auction houses. So even after it became dormant, Vever was still alive.

    Then it really clicked for me three and a half years ago. I was running a company that specialised in clinical trials. The firm had operational and financial difficulties, and along with my team I was able to turn it around. That’s when I felt, “Okay, now I am ready to revive Vever.”


    You have a saying, “in order for nothing to change, everything had to change.” How did you go about turning things around for Vever?

    Henri Vever was the pioneer of art nouveau, an artistic movement which disrupted many sectors, especially the jewellery sector. He introduced new materials which had never been used in jewellery before, like glass, enamel, and horn. He created a new kind of jewellery, a more modern jewellery.

    I wanted to implement this pioneering philosophy in today’s new world, where we have so many challenges, both environmental and societal. So the idea was to restore the House, and stay consistent to its DNA, but to incorporate sustainability values. That’s why we decided to use lab-grown diamonds, recycled gold, and sustainable materials.

    We’ve got a lot of common values with the past – for example, innovation, the promotion of French know-how, the excellence. But we’ve added two other values – sustainability and transparency. This is the key change.

    Everything is transparent about the materials that we use, our supply chain, about the way we recruit people

    Everything is transparent about the materials that we use, our supply chain, about the way we recruit people. We’ve got a special status as an “Entreprise à mission”, which is a certification for a mission-driven company. This demands responsibility, so we are audited about our objectives and our performance indicators.

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    How did you find your clients and your peers in the industry responded to your idea of bringing the House back to life?

    Our clients are very happy that the House has been revived by the 7th generation of the family. 70% of our clients are traditional, and initially sustainability was not necessarily one of their priorities. They are just glad to be able to buy Vever jewellery because they are in love with the craftsmanship and the beauty and the Vever universe.

    But once we explain convictions: that we are a mission-driven company, that we use only lab-grown diamonds and recycled gold, that all our jewellery is crafted in France –they are then very proud of buying our jewellery.

    I would say that our peers in the industry were astonished, because we’re doing a really challenging thing. I think they were observing us, wondering what was going to happen. We are the only historic jewellery House that has this sustainable positioning. I believe it’s a good example for our peers – to implement changes within their organisations in order to be more sustainable, to really answer the challenges related to their materials supply chains.


    With sustainability there’s an idea of naturalness, but also of durability. How important to you is it that your jewellery lasts a long time – perhaps even forever?

    This is so true with jewellery. When you buy a piece it’s very emotional, then it becomes something that you will pass on to your children, and that they will pass on to their children, and so on.

    There are Vever pieces that are more than 100 years old, and someone will buy them and pass them on. That’s the beauty of jewellery, it can be eternal. And when you use sustainable materials, I would also add that it’s virtuous. The materials correspond to your convictions and values, and then in a way this also gets passed on to your family. It’s a beautiful metaphor.

    …I’ve decided to use only lab-grown diamonds, because they are conflict free, with no mining…

    What are the biggest challenges in the jewellery industry right now?

    The major challenge is the transparency of the material supply chains. Take the stones, for example – what are the conditions of the workers extracting them? What equipment and products are used in the mining? Who are the intermediates along the chain? There is also the concern of conflict stones, and the question of the finance related to their extraction.

    It’s a huge challenge. That’s why I’ve decided to use only lab-grown diamonds, because they are conflict free, with no mining, and we have only one intermediary. So all those questions are answered.

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    How do you respond to people criticising the use of lab-grown diamonds? Who might say that they’re not the same as mined diamonds?

    I don’t understand this problem because a lab-grown diamond is a diamond. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s 100% carbon, with identical physical, optical and clinical properties.

    The only difference is the origin. One was created a very long time ago, a billion years perhaps, and the other one was produced in a laboratory. But they are the same product.

    We only work with producers who use renewable energy or nuclear energy. So we have green, lab-grown diamonds with a reduced carbon footprint. There is lobbying against lab-grown diamonds because it impacts the traditional market – that’s the real reason. But it’s the same product with the same certification.

    I think lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds can co-exist, it needn’t be one against the other. The only thing is that where jewellery Houses use mined diamonds they have to work on their supply chains.

    Recycled gold can come from a number of places, for us it mostly comes from industrial waste and old jewellery

    What about the recycled gold? How can you be sure of the origins?

    Recycled gold can come from a number of places, for us it mostly comes from industrial waste and old jewellery. We work with specific refiners who specialise in recycled gold – who are audited to ensure the source of the gold.

    How do you focus on attracting the next generation?

    I would say that today maybe 20% of our clients are in what would be called the next generation. And they come to Vever firstly because we are sustainable. That is their priority, to buy ethical and sustainable jewellery with a reduced footprint, and because we preserve the French “savoir-faire” or know how.

    That is the first attraction, then after that they buy a piece because they like the design. In 15 years, this generation will represent 50% of our clients.


    How have you found it taking on the reins of a family business?

    I’m very happy to finally run the business with my brother. It’s a great honour. It’s very emotional and personal for me. When you run a family business, you put everything into it. This explains why family companies often have very good performance.

    It has to reflect your values and your convictions. That’s something that Damien, my brother, and I feel in the way we run the company. It’s passion and pride in our heritage.

    Because you are so involved it can be difficult to take a break. I have two young children, so I try to take a break at weekends because it is important for them. But I’m very often on the phone or the computer because I really want to develop the company.

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    Your company is sustainable, do you try to be sustainable in your own way?

    Yes, sustainability is important to me. I really try to favour the train versus the plane. And I try to buy second hand clothes for me and for my children. Or if I buy new clothes they must be sustainable.

    In France there is a sustainable brand that I really like called PATiNE. Otherwise, I buy a lot of second-hand clothes. One of my favourite dresses is a Courrèges dress, which is 40 years old, maybe even 45. It’s passed to me from my mum, and I still love to wear it now.


    What does the future look like for Vever?

    Vever used to produce watches as well as jewellery, so maybe one day we can go after the watch market. But at the moment we will keep our focus on jewellery, because it’s a big challenge. We only restarted 18 months ago, so we are developing products. For now, we are distributed in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Doha – we will be expanding our number of points of sale in France, and across Europe and the Middle East.

    I am very optimistic. My objective is that Vever will become the leading jewellery firm with a prestigious history. And I want to be the leader in the sustainable market and an example to traditional Houses.

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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