Jewels by Jean Schlumberger
French-born jeweler Jean Schlumberger began his career in the mid-1930s, catering to a well- heeled clientele that included the Princess de Faucigny, the Duchess of Kent and Daisy Fellowes. His reputation was already well-established when he opened his New York store in 1947; it was his collaboration with Tiffany & Co. starting in 1956, however, that sealed his reputation as one of the great designers of the 20th century.
Schlumberger’s whimsical creations flourished in the non-conformist spirit of the 1960s and 70s, his designs embraced by well-bred women who wished to wear something a tad unorthodox and eccentric while remaining comfortably within the realm of good taste. He frequently took inspiration from nature, with flora and fauna figuring prominently into his more iconic works: peridot seahorses, moonstone jellyfish and, as seen on the following pages, meandering vines supporting sapphire morning glories, amethyst grapes, and golden tulips. Believed to be among the few examples executed in each style, these necklaces represent Schlumberger’s skill at interpreting nature’s movement and unpredictability through precious metals and gemstones. The complexity of the twisting stems, revealing no apparent order or symmetry when examined section-by-section, unite to form beautifully balanced wholes—gardens miraculously blooming around the wearer’s neck.
Property from a Distinguished American Collector
18 Karat Gold, Platinum, Cultured Pearl and Diamond Bracelet, Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.
Estimate: 30,000-50,000 USD
Schlumberger occasionally deviated from his more naturalistic renderings to dabble in the fantastical, at times prefiguring the jeweled works of surrealist Salvador Dali. Lot 349, featuring a large silken gray pearl taking fight on blue enamelled wings, is a more elaborate iteration of Dali’s collaborations with Alemany and Ertman (see lot 407, sale N09016). This piece also demonstrates Schlumberger’s fondness for mixing color and texture. While vibrant color combinations are relatively commonplace today (as evinced by the genius of JAR and his numerous copyists) Schlumberger was working against a backdrop of diamonds and platinum. As he was manipulating gold to position turquoise with labradorite, pink tourmaline with green garnet, his contemporaries were showcasing diamonds against more diamonds, or diamonds alongside sapphires, emeralds and rubies.
In time, others followed Schlumberger’s lead, but rarely in such fanciful fashion. Schlumberger’s talent for balancing joyful profusion with tasteful restraint lends his jewels a touch of levity, transforming haute joaillerie into something infinitely more fun and wearable.