_Meeting with Maria Verchenova
In the life of every great man, there is always a woman who inspires, challenges, and supports him. Philippe Guilhem found in his partner Maria, a muse: she was the one behind the idea for Mashandy, his first collection of unique pieces. Discussing the genesis of this remarkable line to their shared passion for art, gems, and the history of humanity, Maria Verchenova graciously answers our questions and tells us more about her husband’s creative genius.
You are Philippe Guilhem’s wife, but you are also his inspiration or his muse. You inspired the idea of creating a new collection, Mashandy. How did this come about and how does this collection mark a turning point in Guilhem’s history?
For me, it was only natural that Philippe realize his own collection. When I challenged him to do so, he replied that he already knew exactly what he wanted to do, namely creating unique pieces for his customers. He didn’t like the idea of mass production, but designing a collection of limited bespoke pieces really appealed to him. He welcomed it as a challenge: the creative opportunity to stand out. Using mood boards combining all of his artistic passions to develop his ideas, Philippe quickly imagined a line that resembles us, mixing art with precious stones, which we sourced together in Burma and Sri Lanka. This is how Mashandy was born. I am proud of him for all the creativity he puts into his jewellery. His collection was an immediate success, especially with an audience of art enthusiasts, who fully appreciate the concept behind Mashandy.
Art has an important place in your husband’s creative process. He draws inspiration from sculpture, painting, and even from the world of antique dealers. Can you tell us more about this?
Philippe was born in Béziers, which is the oldest city in France. He grew up in a fascinating artistic universe, between sculpture and antique furniture. His father was a renowned expert in antique jewellery but also a recognized specialist and antique dealer. His inspirations for the Mashandy collection come largely from his childhood spent between museums and antique fairs.
More than just a jeweller, Philippe Guilhem is also a passionate gemologist, who travels the four corners of the globe in search of the most beautiful jewels. Can you explain how this is an asset when it comes to jewellery creation?
In the Guilhem family, gems are a tradition. Philippe grew up in a family of jewellers and gemologists, and as he often says, he fell under their spell too. From an early age, he accompanied his parents on trips to Asia, in search of new gems, before working in Sri Lanka in the Colombo office, where he developed a keen eye for spotting the most beautiful gemstones. Once I had finished my sporting career, I joined him because I was motivated by his passion. Our travels in Asia allow us to source gems directly from the mines, without any intermediary. Our perfect knowledge of gemstones is a real asset, both in terms of designing and creating all of our collections.
The Maison Guilhem also sells other prestigious brands and is a well-known address for watch and jewellery lovers. What kind of relationships does Guilhem enjoy with these partner houses?
The Maison Guilhem is a family business, with a family history, and we like to think that by working with us, our partners join our big family in some way. We aspire to develop a real human relationship with each brand, based on kindness and mutual respect.
At a time when the jewellery market swings between large luxury groups and excessively low-quality production, Philippe Guilhem has decided to retain his independence, while offering exceptional creations. What distinguishes Guilhem from competing brands?
I think what makes Guilhem truly singular is this relationship to art and Philippe’s very special creative process: he imagines each jewellery piece as a unique work. This difference is the key to our success because it has allowed us to meet our customers’ expectations. Many collectors like to wear a bespoke jewellery piece on their finger, just like the painting that adorns their living room. The raw but refined aspect of the Mashandy Collection has proved to be extremely popular. Thanks to its voluptuous curves and the quality of its gems, Mashandy rings are true works of art. In a sense, they are also an intentional return to our origins; to the Bronze Age. We have created pieces using this alloy, which has been around since the dawn of time, by transforming it into the beautiful setting of a precious stone.
Creative and dynamic, the Maison Guilhem continues to develop. What are your future projects and where do you see yourself in a few years?
At the moment, sleep is definitely not a priority: we have so many ideas bubbling in our minds. We have always been inspired by history and we wanted to put humanity back at the centre of our creations, by paying homage to ancient alloys, the first traces of which date back to the 3rd Millennium BC, in Mesopotamia. Therefore, Mashandy has continued to evolve and has recently given birth to Mashandy Origyne, bronze pieces featuring engravings of the first writings and languages discovered. Inspired by the past, our aim is to write the future of the Maison Guilhem…