Léon Vaguer Antique French Garnet and 18ct Gold Dress Set, Circa 1890
A Léon Vaguer antique, French, garnet and gold dress-set, with a pair cufflinks and four buttons, set with cabochon-cut garnets, some showing signs of asterism, mounted in gold, the cufflinks have carabiner fittings, circa 1890, with French eagle head marks for 18ct gold with an L Vaguer and crescent maker's mark, for Léon Vaguer, active 1888 to 1912.
The Vaguer brothers were very important French craftsmen, Léon was a jeweller, Alexandre was a goldsmith, they had a long career, around 33 years but it is as if they have vanished. If it wasn’t for Vever and Vivienne Becker (who had read Vever) the brothers would be unknown today. Much of the family history was provided by a descendant, Anne Vaguer.
Alexandre, the goldsmith, was born 28th June, 1854, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and died in 1937, in Paris, at the age of 83. Pierre "Léon" was also born in Rio de Janeiro, on 15th April, 1857, he died, aged 87, on 6th January, 1945, in Paris. The brothers were buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris XI.
Their father, Honoré Vaguer dit Frion, 1816-1882, was from Baïxas, near Perpignan. He was a "negotiant" in Rio, in the mining industry. Honoré’s business associate Edouard Pierre Callebaud, owned mines, on Honoré’s land. Honoré sold his shares and operations to Callebaud before his return to France.
Honoré’s family life was a little complicated. He had Alexandre and Pierre "Léon" with Joséphine Cécile Mariez, 1817-1883. They married on 11th December, 1873, in Paris, sixteen years after the birth of Léon, when Honoré was 57. Honoré had a previous relationship with Elisabeth Rose Leport, 1821-1872. They had two children, a daughter, Louise Célina Vaguer Leport, born in Rio, in 1849 and a son Honoré Edouard Vaguer dit Frion, born in Monmartre in 1852, a village which was incorporated in Paris only in 1860. Elizabeth died in Pompadour, Corrèze, in 1872. Their relationship must have broken down between 1850 and 1854. Josephine had married previously, in Paris. She and her first husband, a M. Fournel, had moved to Rio, where they had a daughter in 1847 but they separated and she went to live with Honoré Vaguer, without a divorce. Honoré and Josephine lived at 61 rue des Ourives, in Rio de Janeiro. Josephine’s first husband died in Rio in April 1861. Léon’s birth certificate and Léon and Alexander’s marriage certificates state the name of their father but not of their mother. The whole Vaguer family was present at the marriage of Josephine’s daughter, in January 1864, in Paris. Honoré was a witness. The family was resident in the 11th district in Paris. They had returned from Brazil between 1861 and 1863.
Alexandre and Léon were thought to have learnt their skills in the workshop of Monsieur Toulout. Léon was hired on a conditional basis, at the age of 20, for one year. According to Cissey law, of 27th July, 1872, military service was compulsory for all men, with a fixed duration of five years in the army, then four years in reserve and eleven years in territorial. After Léon’s military service, he was employed in the workshop from 1878 to 1885. He married Toulot’s daughter, Alice Therese Victoire Toulout, 1858-1935, on 14th October, 1882. They had three children, "Maurice" Alexandre Charles Léon, 1883-1960 Jane Berthe Alice, 1885-1944 and Suzanne, 1891-1982. Léon’s wife had two brothers, Dominique Georges Toulout, and Jean Charles Toulout. On 28th October, 1884, Léon joined forces with the Toulout brothers, who came from Nantes and set up shop in Paris, at 83 boulevard Sébastopol. In 1886 Mme. Veuve Toulout handed over the company to her two sons and her son-in-law. The company was named Toulout frères and Pierre Léon Vaguer. In Léon's Légion d'Honneur file, it is noted that he established himself as a manufacturer jeweller in 1885. In reality his maker's mark was registered in 1888. In 1889 the partners separated and Léon opened a shop at 37 rue Etienne Marcel. Léon Vaguer was appointed secretary, in 1894 and later became Vice President of La Chambre Syndicale de la Bijouterie Joaillerie Orfèvrerie, the Union Chamber of Jewellery, Gold and Silverware. He was made vice-president of l'Orphelinat de la bijouterie, the Jewellery Orphanage and was a public education officer. According to the review of Bijouterie Joaillerie Orfèvrerie, in 1901 he was secretary of the board of directors of the Jewellery Orphanage. In all he held these positions for seventeen years. In 1897 Léon Vaguer moved to 41 rue Etienne Marcel. In 1904, Léon's son graduated from the HEC business school, a state-recognised consular school, established in 1881. Léon Vaguer participated in sixteen exhibitions in which he obtained five gold and silver medals. The medals were won at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, Grand Prix in Saint Louis in 1904, in Liège in 1905, in Milan in 1908, in London in 1890 and 1908, in Saragossa (Zaragoza) in 1908, exhibiting in Copenhagen in 1909, then Grand Prix in Brussels in 1910. Exhibiting, in the French section, at the Hispano – French Exhibition, in Saragossa Léon Vaguer was awarded a Grand Prix. Amongst others to win such prizes, at the same exhibition were, Boucheron and Georges Fouquet. Gold medals were awarded to Charles Besnaux, Marie Colret, Jeanne Kraemer and Emile Spot, all workers at the house of Léon Vaguer. In 1912 Léon's son became an Academy Officer. In 1913 Léon transferred the business to his son, Maurice and the company was re-named Vaguer (Maurice).
Vivienne Becker describes most of the jewellery as being “made of platinum and their design was a compromise between conventional elegance and Art Nouveau aesthetics." From the photographs, in the original article, Léon Vaguer’s silver-upon-gold jewellery was typical of the refined designs made in France during the period and beautifully made. Judging by the prizes awarded to Léon, the importance of his position in the jewellery industry and the quality of his workmanship it is an injustice that his name is forgotten today.
Alexandre, was established as a jewellery manufacturer in 1884, taking over the house of Drot fils in 1888. He gradually moved towards being a goldsmith. M. Drot-Douce was a gold jeweller. He had opened a shop at 20 Rue des Rosiers, in Paris, in 1843. He stayed at this address for five years, before moving to 13 Boulevard du Temple in 1848. In 1852, he moved to number 101, staying until 1871, when he moved to number 118. In 1874, his son came to assist him and the Drot-Douse boutique became Drot père et fils. In 1877, they moved to 114 on the Boulevard du Temple. In 1880, the father was no longer in the business and the shop became Drot fils. Alexandre Vaguer applied for an export punch in 1887. In 1888 Alexandre appears in directories as A. Vaguer successor to Drot Fils. In 1892, Alexandre Vaguer's shop moved from 114 Boulevard du Temple to 37 rue Etienne Marcel, Léon’s old shop and became Vaguer Alexandre, no longer citing his Drot predecessors. In 1915 Alexandre Vaguer became a gold jeweller again. He stopped working in 1920.
A generation continued the work of their parents, Jean Maurice Charles Vaguer born in 1883 died in 1960, and Pierre Honoré Eugêne Vaguer born in 1886 died in 1960, they were both Goldsmiths.
The original article, from which this was translated, was posted by Jewellery and Gems, on 26th November, 2018, on the website, “The True History of Jewellery”, by Jean-Jacques Richard. Abridged and adapted by Claire Frost.
- Circa 1890
- Antique gemstone dress-set
- Approximate diameter button 14.3mm, cufflinks 15mm
- Design House
- Léon Vaguer
- Country of origin
- Very good - wear consistent with age and use
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