Arguably the most excellent gem collector of modern times, Alexandre Reza traveled the world in search of the finest gemstones fit for royalty -- and highly sought-after by the rich and famous.
From Russia to France
Born in Moscow in 1922, Alexandre Reza enjoyed an ancient Samarkand heritage. As a child, he moved with his family to France to escape the Russian Revolution. When he reached the age of 18, Alexandre determined to set out on his own, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a talented jeweler. Reza's timing coincided with the onset of World War II, delaying his career until the end of the conflict.
A Career in Precious Gemstones
Concentrating on diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, Reza did an extensive amount of traveling to source each gemstone, an activity that did much to inspire his design work. Reza's quest for extraordinary old-mine gemstones took him to such far-flung countries as Colombia, India, Burma (now Myanmar), Sri Lanka, and Thailand. From the onset, Reza quickly gained a reputation for his jewels and began to supply them to such renowned Maisons as Boucheron, Bulgari, Chaumet, Cartier, Louis Gérard, Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels.
After founding his own Maison in the 1950s, Reza continued to work as a supplier for over three decades. In 1984, he decided to open his eponymous Maison on the Place Vendôme in Paris. Additionally, he opened retail establishments in Cannes, Geneva, and Monaco, offering Haute Joaillerie. These included suites of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and objets d'art fashioned with rare diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Their opulence and exquisite craftsmanship made the jewels highly sought after by the crème of society.
Combining old-world style with modern sensibility, Reza's jewels were inspired by art and history of the Renaissance and the 18th Century. The Maison managed to infuse emotion and charisma into their jewelry through architectural designs with a deceptively minimalized touch. The beauty of the gemstones always took precedence, however, and the material used to house the precious gems, while seemingly simple, often took 12 to 18 months to produce. Reza's gemstones, as old as time, were captured in designs that became instant classics. Many have been auctioned off at top auction houses.
From Father to Son
Alexandre groomed his only son to carry on the business. As a youngster, Olivier frequently visited his father at his atelier. Alexandre would conduct tours, showing his son the firm's newest creations. On one such visit, Olivier recalled seeing crocodile belts. Confused, he asked about their significance. Alexandre explained he had been asked to make a belt buckle using one of his exquisite Ceylon sapphires as the centerpiece. The belt buckle had been commissioned by an important royal client.
Olivier also frequently traveled with his father to examine and purchase rare stones. Abandoning a successful career in international banking, Olivier took over the business upon his father's retirement in 2008.
Jewels are the safest investment. A beautiful emerald or ruby never goes out of fashion. – Olivier Reza
Upon assuming leadership of the firm, Olivier reduced the size of the Paris salon and closed the rest of the retail locations. In 2012, he opened a salon in the Hôtel de Fontpertuis Place Vendôme and began expanding the Alexandre Reza collection.
In 2013, an exhibition entitled The Extraordinary Jewelry of Alexandre Reza was displayed at Sotheby's in New York. The following year, the exhibit traveled to London, Doha, and Beijing.
Alexandre Reza passed away on January 15, 2016.
Socialite Florence Gould pursued the best of everything. Her collection of jewelry and precious stones was legendary. One of her greatest treasures was a sizeable floral necklace adorned with a whole host of brilliant diamonds and beautifully matched graduated South Sea cultured pearls ranging in size from 12mm to 16mm. The decorative clasp suspended a pair of diamond and cultured pearl pendants set in platinum en tremblant to create a movement of the jewels.
A breathtaking ring, set in 18 karat yellow gold, showcased a 26.24-carat oval unheated Sri Lankan sapphire, encircled by oval diamonds set throughout the bombé mounting. The diamonds had a total weight of 23 carats.
Alexandre Reza designed a stunning gold brooch featuring a 134-carat untreated Ceylon sapphire and fourteen 17-carat diamonds interspersed with fourteen 8-carat pear-shaped sapphires. A single one-carat teardrop diamond sat atop the brooch to complete the look.