When it comes to Lorenz Bäumer, engineering’s loss was fine jewelry’s gain. Bäumer has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s haute joaillerie since last fall, when he debuted his L’Ame du Voyage collection. The Franco-German son of a diplomatic family—“I guess all the traveling links me to the spirit of Vuitton,” he says—had planned to build cars, but somewhere along the way he veered off into making costume pieces. That was in 1988. By 1992 he was doing the real thing. Before long he was anonymously designing fine jewels for Chanel, as well as doing his own line, Lorenz Bäumer. Unsurprisingly, given his LV cohort Marc Jacobs, this isn’t a jeweler who feels he needs to play by the rules. “The day I can’t have fun,” he says, laughing, “well, I won’t be here.”
By fun he could mean incorporating guitar picks, safety pins, and elements from the LV toile monogram into a diamond necklace with a closure that looks like an amp jack—a sly, punkish two fingers up to fine-jewelry conventions. Of course, like any rebel who does something meaningful, Bäumer understands you have to know the rules before you can break them. Another necklace uses the two cuts of diamond that Vuitton developed, one rounded, one pointed, and showcases emeralds of different shades and opacity, a big no-no in a world where the sanctity of the stone has to be respected. Still, for someone who expected to make cars, putting his foot down to go in a new direction is clearly not an issue.