Photographs courtesy Baccarat and Rizzoli New York
A red carpet and velvet ropes drew attention to a most glittering Madison Avenue façade on a recent autumn evening.
The atmosphere – at once festive, exclusive and oh-so-chic – was most fitting, as the Baccarat flagship was hosting a Champagne reception to launch “Baccarat 1764: Two Hundred and Fifty Years.”
The 420-page book, destined to be a favorite of collectors who have long scooped up the company’s signature crystal creations, has been published by Rizzoli New York ($85).
The French luxury brand, its name recognizable around the globe, would spend a couple of hours celebrating in grand style, with not only Champagne, but hors d’oeuvres and a book signing with Murray Moss.
Design entrepreneur Moss and writer and historian Laurence Benaïm teamed up for the commemorative volume’s text, which delves into everything from historic Baccarat pieces commissioned by royalty and heads of state to the contemporary collaborations with designers such as Philippe Starck. It is filled with historic photographs and drawings from the archives that chart the company’s growth and operations, taking readers on a journey that touches on everything from its glassblowers to its advertising campaigns to its celebrated clientele.
Mingling among the partygoers who came out to honor the book were Courtney Plumb, the manager of the Baccarat boutique in Greenwich, and Daniela Riccardi, the company’s global CEO, in town from Paris.
Riccardi, who was previously CEO of Diesel, joined Baccarat in June and has shared her thoughts with WAG on the impending 250th anniversary – and the book.
“I am thrilled to be joining Baccarat during such an iconic time. Baccarat is rich in history. It has been at the center of the life of illustrious personalities for two and a half centuries. The brand has a wealth of stories that until now have not been compiled together in such a beautiful and comprehensive way.”
Baccarat, a treasured source for fine crystal, jewelry, lighting and gifts, is truly having its moment in the spotlight. Established in 1764 by decree of King Louis XV, Baccarat has crafted a prestige that continues to build through its glass service and tableware, vases, chandeliers, jewelry, perfume bottles and so much more.
Notable have been items ranging from the glasses commissioned by Louis XVIII to the majestic candelabras made for Czar Nicholas II. Maharajas were clients, as was Prince Rainier, who had pieces made for his marriage to Grace Kelly. The iconic Harcourt glass, created in 1841, remains a part of the toniest of tables around the world.
The book is a celebration of advances in technology, artistic partnerships, a love of fine living and at its heart, French craftsmanship. Baccarat’s passion for excellence is reflected in its team of glassmakers, cutters, engravers and gilders who today continue to be led by a master of art and 22 best workmen of France.
So whether you’re longing for an artfully shaped wine decanter or a light-catching necklace, a dramatic wall sconce or a vase seemingly designed to showcase lush roses, Baccarat is at the ready – with a reputation that can only continue to grow. Have you heard about the Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York, which will debut next year on West 53rd Street? Clearly, the second 250 years of Baccarat history are poised to begin.
And Moss, who spent that celebratory Manhattan evening signing the book and greeting so many Baccarat admirers, took a few moments in the days following the event to answer a few questions that give WAG a behind-the-scenes look into the book.
WAG: How would you describe being an integral part of writing “the” book on Baccarat – daunting, overwhelming, exciting?
“At first one has one’s nose pressed up against the proverbial window, looking in from the street – an intruder, not knowing how to enter this span of centuries. Chronologically? Historically? In verse? In poetry? Explanatory? Descriptively? Objectively? Subjectively?
“I decided to begin the process as truth would have it – a general consumer, with preconceptions and a certain amount of ‘baggage.’ I hung around the perimeters of the manufactory, the administration offices, the museum and Heritage Department at the Paris Baccarat Maison in Place des États-Unis. They got used to me, perhaps forgetting I didn’t really belong. Soon, however, I had a seat at the table, and permeated every corner, every attic, every cranny of every aspect of the world which is Baccarat. Once you fall in love with a collective dream of perfection, you don’t want to leave that family. Forever now, Baccarat is my ancestral home, and there are 700 people in my new family.
“You can only talk about Baccarat from the heart. After all, the clarity of the remarkable crystal renders it mostly invisible. If you do not fall in love with what it represents, you are unable to see it.
“So, to answer your question: How would I describe being an integral part of writing the book? … Being in love.”
What most surprised or impressed you during your research?
“For every day, every minute of its 250 years, Baccarat has been avant-garde, existing not in the history books, but in the present, in that epoch’s ‘moment.’ This ancient company is contemporary.”
Are you a collector of Baccarat? If so, might you share a bit about your own feelings about the brand and its legacy?
“I do collect Baccarat, exclusively the drinking glasses, but I have my favorites, the majority of which are currently out of production, sadly, but hopefully will come back to us. The periods circa 1925 and 1937 were my favorite, along with some spectacular pieces from the 1970s.
“These are all strong pieces, works which are sculpture as much as vessels to contain and pour liquids. They embody equally technology of the day, extraordinary savoir-faire and courage.
“They work the crystal like a cowboy breaks in a wild stallion. With respect, but with uncompromising determination. Georges Chevalier was perhaps Baccarat’s greatest cowboy. His crystal glasses are worthy of a king’s table, yet retain the savage scintillation of a beast that will not be entirely tamed.”
The Baccarat flagship is at 635 Madison Ave. in Manhattan. The Baccarat Greenwich boutique is at 238 Greenwich Ave. Call (203) 618-0900. For more on the company, visit Baccarat.com.
Brotherly love for Baccarat
When Rob and Michael Woodrow, the brothers behind family-owned R&M Woodrow Jewelers in Rye, think of their core brands, Baccarat comes to mind.
The section of their Purchase Street store dedicated to gifts has a strong Baccarat presence, from the shelves, cases and even an artful window display devoted to the brand.
“This side of the store was designed with Lalique and Baccarat in mind,” says Rob, who notes they have been featuring Baccarat crystal creations for more than 25 years.
Indeed, customers wandering into the space will see a bounty of Baccarat, from vases to candlesticks to glasses, along with figurative works. The Buddhas, in varying sizes, are recent additions, while a honeypot is a most whimsical choice.
And then there is also the jewelry, including a stunning array of pendants that catch the light and glisten on a recent afternoon.
“Their jewelry is really beautiful,” Rob says.
Most customers, he adds, come to Woodrow already familiar with the Baccarat name and have been buying strongly for decades.
“We’ve always done very well with barware in Baccarat – and vases,” he says, pointing out the “Serpentine” vases that continue to sell so well.
And this time of year, when people are looking for a special gift, Baccarat offers many choices. There is simply something there that turns even the most traditional choice into the truly memorable.
“Even a pair of whiskey glasses is just a nice presentation,” Rob adds.
Beyond the actual appearance, he says giving a Baccarat gift has deeper meaning.
“It says something for itself. Baccarat’s basis is perfection. Everything is done to perfection.”
And at Woodrow, that fits right into the mix.
R&M Woodrow Jewelers is at 21 Purchase St. in Rye. Call (914) 967-0464 or visit woodrowjewelers.com.