Back in the early 1800s, when Napoleon I reigned as the Emperor of the French, his official royal jeweller was a man with almond eyes, a prominent and stately sharp nose, and dark curly brunette hair. His name was Marie-Etienne Nitot, otherwise more widely known as the founder of the contemporary Parisian jewellery house, Chaumet.
Nitot designed and created the most intricate of jewellery pieces for Napoleon I (reign 1804 to 1814), and these were instruments for the emperor to display and convey his power and reign. There was a particular motif that the emperor fancied — a gold bee.
The bee was a symbol that Napoleon I reportedly plucked from the Merovingian dynasty in the 5th Century. It was "an imperial and royal symbol owing to their submission to a queen [bee]," wrote Nathalie le Luel, author of the Dictionnaire des Symboles.
Napoleon I himself was not born into nobility, but to a common family of Italian descent. He assumed general status and rose to be the First Consul of the French Republic, which was the first governing body since the French aristocracy collapsed. When he reigned as the emperor, the ancient royal bee motif was his subtle way of reiterating his power.
He reportedly wore these gold bees on his dress and accessories, notably on a purple velvet coat which he donned to his coronation — made by the jeweller Nitot. Eventually, the bee came to be a symbol of royalty in his time — and remains so in French culture, along with other symbols such as the Fleur de Lis.
It was this slice of French history of their founder that the Parisian jewellers Chaumet wanted to bring back to life with their "Bee my love" collection. Instead of an actual gold carving of the bee, the house abstracted the concept and history into hexagonal honeycombs. These honeycombs would link up to form bangles and rings — which went on to be made in 18-carat pink, yellow, and white gold, and decorated in diamonds.
Instead of instruments of power, the brand intends for these bracelets to be talismans symbolising the longevity of life's most cherished of things — relationships.
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