When Fred Samuel first launched his jewellery house in 1936, he inscribed the words “Fred Samuel, Modern Jeweller Creator” on his business cards, a motto and manifesto that he wanted to impress on potential clients and business partners. 87 years down the line, those three descriptive words continue to ring true and the founder’s spirit lives on in the house that he built. It’s this spirit and vision that the French jewellery house is paying tribute to with the first Asian staging of their retrospective exhibition Fred, Jeweller Creator Since 1936 in Seoul.
Set in the ultra modern ALT.1 gallery at The Hyundai Seoul, the exhibition comprises more than 300 pieces of jewellery and objects, and nearly 200 archival items from the maison’s heritage and private collections. “The aim of the exhibition is really to tell the story of Fred,” the brand’s CEO Charles Leung explains. “The brand is gaining momentum already, but knowledge about the brand has not been made very clear yet.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1908, Fred Samuel was destined to make his mark in jewellery. His father operated a jewellery business in Buenos Aires, and Samuel was brought up around beautiful stones and even more beautiful surroundings—even in his adulthood, he would still make references to the brilliance of the Argentinian sunshine and colours of his childhood, citing it as one of his key inspirations for his bold creations. In 1936, he opened his first boutique in Paris, right before the outbreak of the Second World War. He then distinguished himself by first enlisting in the Foreign Legion, then joining the French Resistance, where he received numerous awards for his contributions to the country. Post-war, Samuel resumed his trade, pushing the boundaries of jewellery creation, while remaining true to his values of love, positivity, audacity, joy, creativity and generosity.
Over nine immersive rooms the maison’s history unfolds, beginning on a ray of gold showcasing key moments from the jewellery house’s history along with the centrepiece of Fred’s heritage— the 101.57 carat “Soleil d’Or” fancy intense yellow diamond. The following rooms each pay homage to a specific element of the brand’s history: from Samuel’s family tree and his personal history; to specific icons of the brand, for example, the Force 10 bracelet and its origins from the founder’s love of yachting; to key pop culture moments, such as the brand’s involvement in Pretty Woman, replete with the original dress that Julia Roberts wore in the movie on display. It is a family and brand history, both intertwined, told through jewellery and objects.
But legacy aside, the ultimate goal of the exhibition is to impart the positive values and messages that the brand’s founder espoused all his life, Leung tells us. “There’s a very positive message here [in this exhibition] to tell young people that even though we could be facing challenges and crises throughout our life, as long as we don’t give up, and follow our dreams, and stay good, that might be a solution to bring us all hope,” he says. “I think the story of Mr Fred Samuel is going to catch on [with our young customers and fans].”
Fred, Jeweller Creator Since 1936 is on display at ALT.1, 6F of The Hyundai Seoul till 25 December 2023.