Undoubtedly, Jean Schlumberger is one of the most prominent jewelry designers of the last century. Born in 1907 to the family of a wealthy textile industrialist in Alsace, he resisted his parents’ wish for him to become a banker. Instead young Jean moved to Paris, where he made friends and began to create costume jewelry.
How it began
The young man had been founding porcelain flowers and stones for his works in urban flea markets. Then they were turned into original necklaces, brooches and earrings. Schlumberger’s friends, including Daisy Fellowes and Marina, the Duchess of Kent, helped him to popularize such works. The word is the unusual earring of the second-mentioned, which caught the attention of Elsa Schiaparelli. Very soon the couturier hired the promising artists to create her costume jewelry and buttons.
World War II and New York
At the beginning of World War II the young Jean joined the French army. He endured Dunkirk, and escaped first to England and then to America. Though a year later he returned to Europe to support the “Fighting France” — the patriotic movement for the national independence of the country, led by General Charles de Gaulle.
In 1946, he combined his talent with the nephew of Paul Poiret Nicolas Bongard to open a small shop on 63rd Street in New York. Here, again, friends helped him. First, the leader of fashionable opinion, Diana Vreeland ordered Schlumberger a “Trophy” brooch. It was made with an amethyst and ruby shield, diamond military armor, a bow, an arrow, a spear, and a sword made of blue enamel. Then she introduced him to such style icons as Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness.
Jean Schlumberger and Tiffany & Co
The true glory and the peak of the artist’s creative career came at the time of his work in the American Jewelry House of Tiffany & Co. In 1956, the president of the brand, Walter Hoving, suggested Schlumberger and Bongard join the company as vice-presidents. He also provided them with a spacious studio with a separate elevator above the flagship store on Fifth Avenue, complete creative freedom, and the right to sign all jewelry by his name. Later this honor was given to three other artists, but Schlumberger remains the most striking of the lot.
At Tiffany & Co the designer got access to an unlimited supply of gemstones. This completely revealed his potential. Here the real jewelry masterpieces that reflect the beauty of nature, fantastic flowers and bizarre inhabitants of the seas and land, with bright stones and enamels, were born. He revived the technique of paillonné enamel. Its essence was to use the smallest scales and patterns, hand-cut from a sheet of gold or silver and then covered with a layer of translucent enamel. Such techniques became used in earrings, rings and bracelets, later known as “Jackie Kennedy bracelets”. Schlumberger was a perfectionist. He worked toward victory and demanded the same from his team.
Jean Schlumberger legacy
The genius left us in 1987. But the American House still continues to produce a limited edition collection of jewelry from his original sketches. It is first and foremost the Sixteen Stone pieces, the iconic “Bird on a rock” brooches, the aforementioned enamel jewelry, pendants in the shape of eggs tied with a golden ribbon, as well as a countless amount of brooches, necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets with animalistic and floral motifs. Schlumberger’s works have huge artistic value and remain relevant beyond time. All thanks to the drama of the plot, the bold game of colors, and the perfection of lines and proportions.