Lively jewels that brighten the most serious of jewellery collections
Jean Schlumberger (1907-1987) was never one to stick to the status quo. In life as in his jewels, he wanted to be bold, but he always recognised the unpredictability that comes with boldness.
His parents had hopes of Jean becoming a banker in Berlin, but he had other ideas. He left the family home in Mulhouse, then in Germany, and bypassed banking in Berlin for the creative world of Paris. Here, he made his way by handmaking flower brooches from Meissen porcelain; luckily for him and the jewellery world, his brooches caught the attention of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. She invited Schlumberger into her design team, first to work on button designs, then costume jewellery.
As with so many of his contemporaries, professional life for Schlumberger had to be put on hold when the world entered the Second World War. It is remarkable that we can marvel at Schlumberger’s jewels today as he was part of a French army regiment that was involved with Dunkirk, one of the largest battles to evacuate Allied forces of the war. Perhaps his war experience instilled a sense of the importance of playfulness, a trait reflected in all his jewellery.
After the war, he moved to New York and soon opened his own jewellery salon with the support of his business partner, Nicolas Bongard. His work was spotted by the chairman of Tiffany & Co., Walter Hoving, who offered him a job in 1956. Schlumberger’s jewels for Tiffany are renowned, so, too, is was his working style. He had his own workshop, salon and private elevator but, most importantly, he had access to all the most fabulous, coloured stones to base his designs around.
In a Schlumberger jewel, look for its liveliness and the sense that it is growing; he adamantly professed that his flora- and fauna-inspired jewels reflect the random and uneven forces of nature. His shells, sea creatures, birds and flowers have yellow gold veins, thorns and tentacles that wrap round pavé-set diamond petals. Stones were selected for their rich colours and were the true centre pieces of every design, complemented by bright enamel.
Schlumberger famously told reporters that he hated modern jewellery; maybe he was right to dismiss time periods, as his jewellery has become timeless in the eyes of his avid fan-base of collectors.