Palais Royal Paris is a sophisticated little shop on a street corner in Soho, but what makes them different is their stunning collection of antique and vintage jewellery. When I headed over with Dervla to scope it out, we were immediately drawn to the beautiful animal themed pieces in the window and just had to get inside. Luckily, one of their wonderfully accommodating jewellery connoisseurs Esmee buzzed us in and met us at the door, revealing a world of bling unlike anything else in Hong Kong.
According to Esmee, their Soho store is the company’s first flagship store, as well as the first boutique in Hong Kong to offer fine antique and vintage pieces to discerning buyers. (Ladies, you’ve got the inside scoop!) Although the store only opened in 2013, the team behind Palais Royal Paris has more than 25 years of experience sourcing, handling and selling antique and vintage jewellery internationally – meaning everything that you come across will have been selected by some of the best eyes in the business.
Sound good? It gets better. Palais Royal Paris’ stunning collection is comprised of antiques created between the 1880s-1970s, featuring distinctive pieces from movements such as the art deco period. While there’s no shortage of brand names in this store including jewellery monoliths like Tiffany and Co., Boucheron and Cartier, they also feature a number of high quality unsigned pieces.
Esmee explained that she wants every buying experience to be a personal one for her customers and that feeds into the design of the shop, where there are two desks at either end for you to sit down with one of their friendly experts and chat about what you want. The boutique is beautifully laid out and their featured pieces are arranged artfully in well-lit display cases dotted around the perimeter for easy browsing. Like us, they’re obsessed with vintage fashion goddesses and sophisticated sassy girls like Audrey Hepburn whose portraits lined their walls.
We were fortunate enough to be there during their Parisian Zoo exhibition, meaning we got to see animal inspired pieces such as miniature fly brooches by Van Cleef & Arpels and some of Cartier and Boucheron’s show stopping turtle brooches in all manner of colours, both of which dated back to the 1960s. While we were absolutely taken with their new exhibition, we wanted to know more. Esmee sat us down in the back for a cosy chat and produced a selection of pieces that she’d selected just for us (and by extension, all of you lovely ladies). We’d told her we were interested in looking at anything wedding appropriate: engagement rings, bridal bling, you name it, and Esmee certainly didn’t disappoint.
She brought out two extremely sparkly display trays, as well as a very intimidating red box. As we oohed and ahhed over the treasure trove before us, Esmee told us more about the pieces they sell and how to go about selecting the best pieces for yourself (or in the case of a few, for someone else!).
Sometimes it’s easy to feel completely out of your depth when it comes to jewellery shopping and unfortunately, some shop assistants are going to be cold and jargon obsessed. Esmee was nothing like that and warmly walked us through each of the pieces in a manner that was friendly and not at all condescending, even taking lengths to educate us and answer our excited onslaught of questions with no shortage of patience.
The very first thing she did was open the big red box we’d been eyeing with no small curiosity to reveal a stunning Cartier diamond tiara that would put Anastasia to shame. After we’d recovered from our jewellery-induced shock, Esmee let us hold onto it and even put it on. (I don’t think I’ll ever touch anything as precious in my life again.)
We moved onto the selection of engagement rings Esmee had chosen and they were all widely differently though equally as breathtaking. My personal favourite was an art deco combining glassy light emeralds and diamonds. Esmee handed us a very simple unsigned emerald cut 1950s diamond ring with baguettes on either side and the centerpiece just drew you in: it was like looking into a pool of water.
“This stone, it’s not completely perfect,” she told us, pointing out how it was slightly golden. “But it has character. You can buy a flawless stone from any jeweller in Hong Kong nowadays, but it’s difficult to find stones with personality. It’s always more important to find something that speaks to you – that tells a story – rather than something that’s supposed to be conventionally beautiful.”
As Dervla put on a stunning gold choker, we asked what the advantages of buying true antique and vintage pieces rather than modern pieces inspired by each time period. Esmee picked up a delicate art deco tiara with pearls framing either side of a simple diamond and coral pattern, pointing out each of the gorgeous hand cut stones.
“There are machines to do all the diamond cuttings for you nowadays, but someone worked to make these all individually. Even with new pieces that are antique-inspired by big brands, they just don’t have the same energy or beauty. They don’t have the story,” she explained.
Ladies, if you’re looking for a little bit of oomph to add to your wedding dress, we definitely recommend Palais Royal Paris’ bigger pieces. One of the ones that we saw was a stunning Mauboussin diamond and emerald platinum bracelet dated 1927; the deep green hue of the central stones would be absolutely beautiful against an ivory wedding gown. For those of you ladies into more understated yet breathtaking pieces, their 50s diamond platinum necklace comprised of sophisticated infinity links is definitely up your alley.
The range of jewellery styles and periods at Palais Royal Paris is perfect for fellow vintage fanatics, as well as brides wanting a unique, elite piece with decades of romance behind it. The period settings are innovative and timeless, certain to inspire (or devastate) modern jewellers, and as Esmee has said – there’s no comparing modern homages to the originals. Every single one of their pieces comes with certified papers and the passionate love and care their team holds for their clients and collection shows through every second with them. While we weren’t completely taken with all of their rings, there were definitely a couple that made our hearts sing (to be honest, you only really need one) but their bigger pieces and brooches were undoubtedly their forte. In any case there’s no substituting Palais Royal Paris’ expertise and invaluable advice which is something any number of hours on the internet just can’t give you.
“Antique and vintage jewellery should be treated like fine art,” Esmee told us, leaning back in her chair. “If you want to fully appreciate it, it’s best to educate yourself or go to a trusted dealer with years of experience.”
Well if jewellery’s fine art, then Palais Royal Paris is certainly Hong Kong’s most fashionable art gallery.
Palais Royal Paris, G/F, 74A Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2964 9088, www.palaisroyalparis.com
Hi, I’m Megan and I’m an aspiring superheroine, avid wanderluster and now an editorial intern at Sassy Hong Kong (which is something of a post-university dream). I just graduated from the University of Warwick’s English Literature with Creative Writing programme and am somehow still obsessed with words after dissecting and reassembling them over the course of my degree. I’m a little wedding stir crazy (you’ll undoubtedly see my pieces clogging up the wedding section), though I’m always looking for the next best thing to do in my hometown with a pen, camera and maybe a cheeky glass of wine in hand.