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Gouache: The artistic Vision of a designer

Gouache - the term was first used in France to describe a type of paint made from watercolour opaque in the eighteenth century. Today, gouache - the term is used to describe any drawings made in watercolour opaque. Gouache - is the art of painting in opaque watercolour has a particularly important role within the jewellery industry. Traditionally, the gouache - art form was used for centuries by bespoke designers as guidance to craftsmen to create the final pieces which allowed the craftsmen turning paint and paper into precious jewels.

The gouache drawings aren't a new thing for me as I grew up seeing my brothers using gouache paintings in their drawings. Two of my brothers; one older and one younger, both followed a career within creative art. For me, coming home from school meant the smell of the gouache surrounding everywhere, on the walls, floors and on sketching wooden easel. I would watch hours my brothers' work in awe and enjoy the smell of gouache. I spent a good portion of my formative years in my family examining with a certain obsession the gouache works of my brothers. Their drawings remind me of the original purpose of the jewellery as an art form today.

Anita necklace, design and gouache by Claire-Chine Hardion

In today's jewellery circles, gouache - is also known as rendering - a term which embodies the sense of accuracy the design is trying to convey. The art form of gouache reflects the artistic vision of a designer. Most people consider the term 'rendering' to be a reference to a computer-generated image. Sadly, as with all digital applications, computer-aided design has its own restrictions and lack the touch of the human hand. In the high jewellery world, jewellery houses very much prefer the original handmade drawing as part of the process, from creation to purchase as they very much prefer the handcraft.

CYCLAMENS necklace, design and gouache by Claire-Chine Hardion

The process of creating a gouache is simple, but it can get complex and requires some skill. Gouache is usually painted in Chinese ink metal and stones in washes of gouache of varying intensities, often leaving areas unpainted to give a sense of lightness and delicacy. The brands tend to keep the gouache work on a file with dates and the designer signature once the jewel has been created. This then is used by the designers to refer back to authenticate a gem in the future. Cartier's archives home 30,000 sketches that go back to the 19th century, track the history of the brand from its origin.

Top Haute Joaillerie houses like Boucheron, Cartier, Dior, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget all insist on using the traditional method of gouache drawing in effort creating high jewellery grade of fine jewellery design that reminds us of the original purpose of jewellery as an art form. The gouache works are usually done by those who have studied the art of painting jewels, but this does not limit any skilled person to pursue a career in art.


David & Michael

Delicate gouache rendering that comes from the hands of a talented master is worth waiting for. Two brothers Michael and David Robinson jewellery designers who run David Michael atelier from Australia has found popularity on Instagram. Michael is the one producing stunning gouache designs, he explains: “We love using traditionally old techniques and to start off with the rendering is just the right way to do things. For me, even the final rendering is more of a sketch almost, I agree for some it is an art. Every one of our designs is made by the hands which greatly limits the number of jewels we can make each year. It takes me approximately half a day to a day to complete rendering, but to hand-make, the design can take me anywhere from one to six months.”

David Michael gouache rendering

Frédéric Mané

Painting with gouache seems simple, but the process of creating gouache can take from a few hours to several days for the most complex pieces. Frédéric Mané is a French jewellery and luxury goods designer and a gouache artist who has found popularity among the international brands. He believes that “Gouache paintings are the CHERRY ON THE CAKE! It’s a piece of art in its own way, but two important points need to be considered by the jewellery designer. First, it is a technical map for the factory and second a gouache painting offering a huge emotion for the customer.”

Frédéric Mane gouache of Rubeus Imperial necklace and rings

Claire-Chine Hardion

Claire-Chine Hardion is a Freelance Designer in Jewelry and High Jewelry. She has worked for notorious Jewelry Houses, in France and abroad. Her love for drawing started from her childhood. Her Mexican and Spanish roots are the reason for her much-loved career in jewellery designing. Her work is almost inspired and reflects by her coloured universe, filled with vibrant bouquets in huge vases and her beloved memories. Claire-Chine Hardion is also a teacher in the History of Art of Jewellery and Gouache Painting. She says "I am proud to "bring my stone to the building of the Jewellery world in order to be in the transmission and sharing of know-how. This has greatly enriched my creation and it is complementary to my design".

Claire-Chine Hardion gouache paintings


Jennifer Rowlands is a new jewellery designer and illustrator, Perth based artist that I came across on Instagram. Jen Rowlands designs many inspiring pieces for much-renowned jewellery houses like Hemmerle, Bea Bongiasca Jewellery, and Cartier who request commissions. Her work is mixed medium, she uses a mix of alcohol ink, pencil and gouache to achieve a bold, realistic appearance.  

Jennifer Rowlands gouache works

It is fair to say that the resale value of the signed jewel accompanied by the original drawing can go as much as 20% of the original price at auction. Bonhams has sold a collection of 17 Cartier drawings for £5,000 at auction in 2016. Sotheby’s held an exhibition starring the jewellery drawings in the archives of a collection of never-seen-before pieces of Cartier, Van Cleef and Bolin, Boucheron, the American jeweller Verdura in 2016. Anna Hu, the first jewellery designer who hosted a solo exhibition at Christie's in 2017. Her art is so enchanting that she often sells jewellery straight from gouache to clients.

This, maybe good to know that the traditional method of gouache work is hard to beat and art form in its own way! 

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Helpful & informative article to all my jewellery designing students, allow me to repost! Thank you.

Rahul Desai - CEO & MD

International Institute of Gemology (IIG)

Jewellery Pursuer
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