On style, splendour, and sustainable luxury

Two minutes after meeting Caroline Scheufele, one would realise that beneath her calm and gentle demeanour lies the quiet strength of a woman in charge. As Chopard’s Artistic Director and Co-President, Caroline is responsible for the brand’s ladies’ jewellery and watches’ division, reshaping and changing how we look at and appreciate jewellery. Starting July last year — with Caroline at the helm — Chopard has started using 100% ethical gold in their jewellery and watch collections, a feat that is not easy to pull off.

As a little girl, I remember going through my Mum’s jewellery box whenever she was at work. I would sneak into the bathroom and try her jewellery on

Much like Chopard’s stunning jewellery creations, Caroline embodies elegance, mettle, and dedication to sustainable luxury. When he and his brother, Karl-Friedrich, took over the business in the ‘90s, both have envisioned a more dynamic and innovative brand that’s still rooted in the traditional ways of jewellery and watch making. Ingenious and audacious, and with a solid understanding of what women want, Caroline managed to steer Chopard into becoming one of world’s iconic jewellers favoured by the stars. Since 1998, Chopard has been the official partner of the Cannes Film Festival, creating pieces for the red carpet, year after year.

Solitaire caught up with the ever-elegant Ms Scheufele in Singapore to talk about her personal style, favourite jewellery, and her journey towards sustainable luxury.

How would you describe your relationship with jewellery?
It’s my passion. It’s my business. I’ve always had a passion for jewellery. As a little girl, I remember going through my Mum’s jewellery box whenever she was at work. I would sneak into the bathroom and try her jewellery on. As somebody who loves jewellery, I think there’s no rule in wearing them. I don’t think you cannot wear a big diamond piece with jeans, or that you should only wear the beautiful precious stones in the evening. These days, everything is democratic. Personally, I like to mix and match pieces and wear different shades of gold. I don’t believe in wearing the full set of jewellery, either.

Do you prefer diamonds or coloured stones?
I like both actually. It’s not a question of preference for me. If I have to choose only one, it would probably have to be diamonds. But I also love emeralds. I love beautiful rubies. In our collections, we mix and match a lot of precious stones with semi-precious stones to achieve amazing colour effects. I think all stones have stories to tell.

Chopard Happy Diamond watch, one of Caroline’s favourite accessories

What’s your personal style?
It depends on the event. When I travel, I try to be practical. If I’ll be on the road for three weeks and I need to go to different places, I try to pack my luggage in a way that I can mix and match things. I’m more classical when I’m in the office.

Did the way you look at jewellery ever change after you started the sustainable luxury journey?
I became more aware of the little things. For example, I like to wear big earrings. So if I see a woman taking her earrings off in the middle of dinner, it means the earrings are heavy and she is uncomfortable. In using as little gold as possible in our jewellery creations, we manage to create high jewellery pieces that are still very comfortable to wear. When we started working with Fairmined gold, it was so scarce so we treated it with more respect and we used as little as possible as we didn’t have so much.

Chopard Happy Hearts bangles, one of Caroline Scheufele’s favourite pieces to wear

What were the challenges that you’ve encountered when you just started the journey?
The biggest challenge was the change itself because people are used to doing things in a certain way. They have a routine and it’s often hard for people to go out of their comfort zones. That was the hardest part, to convince everybody in the workshops about the change. We had to make them understand why we’re doing this because it’s them who have to do the job. It’s not just about us taking the decision to make the change. It was a challenge, but we obviously proved that we could do it. Now I’m very happy that a lot of other industries are also following suit. The Swiss banks are starting to invest in some mines. So it’s happening.

What changed for Chopard after you have fully committed to use sustainable gold for your jewellery and watch collections?
Nothing much has changed, really. The production itself didn’t change much. It’s the same people, the same machines. For high jewellery, it’s much easier in the beginning because the pieces are handmade. It’s one person doing one piece, and it’s easy to control. When it goes to more boutique lines, the Happy Hearts or the Ice Cube, for example, it’s a bit more complex but still feasible. Six years down the road, step by step, and here we are — we are making it work.

How do you convince someone to spend more on a sustainably sourced and created piece of jewellery?
Communication, information, education. A lot of the consumers are not aware of what is going on beyond the boutiques. In a way, the pieces have added value because they have the ethical feeling about them, especially in the luxury industry. I think the luxury industry should be the first industry that should be attentive to the cause. The ultimate luxury is transparency.

What’s next for Chopard?

It’s not over yet. There’s still a lot to be done on the side of coloured gemstones. We still have a lot of work to do. Coloured stones are a lot more challenging because they have so many kinds, and they come from different places from all over the world. You have to work with different governments; they, too, have to stand behind the cause. That’s why we all call it a journey because it doesn’t only take us to a lot of different parts of the world, literally, but it’s also a journey over time. You can’t do it in a day, but with time and some patience, you can change things. And even if you only change a little bit, it’s already worth it.