The American jeweller reaches into its archives to revive the nature-inspired creations of Jean Schlumberger.

To simply call Jean Schlumberger a jewellery designer is ignorance, an abomination even. He crafted jewels that were inspired by nature, which he interpreted as wonderfully playful artworks that used yellow gold as their canvas, and multihued gemstones and enamel as their colour palette. He was, by all intents and purposes, an artist.

And like many compelling artists, his legacy has lived on even 30 years after his death. His designs are still sold at Tiffany & Co, and if we didn’t know better, we would think that the Sixteen Stone rings and the Egg charms were created in the 21st century. Late last year, the American jeweller also released a high jewellery collection based on Schlumberger’s archival pieces. The Masterpieces collection is a menagerie of flora and fauna, imbued with that signature touch of whimsy that Schlumberger was famous for.

Oddly enough, when Tiffany & Co enlisted the French artist to design its jewels in 1956, his first collection was hewn primarily in platinum with diamonds. Then-Tiffany & Co chairman Walter Hoving requested that he employ his signature designs in gold, enamel and coloured gemstones, thus ushering a new era of decadence for the American jeweller.

“I try to make everything look as if it were growing, uneven, at random, organic, in motion,” Schlumberger once said. He travelled extensively to his home in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Bali in Indonesia, Thailand and India to seek inspiration, and his travels delivered jewels that derived their form from the bounty of nature, especially flowers and animals, and everyday objects such as bows and crosses. 

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With and Whimsy

Schlumberger rose to prominence in Paris as the jeweller to Elsa Schiaparelli, and moved to the US during the Second World War. After setting up his own design studio with business partner Nicolas Bongard, he was enlisted by Tiffany & Co in 1956 to create jewels for the American stalwart. He would become one of only four designers that Tiffany & Co allowed to stamp their name on its pieces—the other three being Frank Gehry, Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso—and would go on to amass a number of famous fans, including Diana Vreeland, Elizabeth Taylor, Babe Paley, Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor, and more.

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Above The Flower pendant from the 2017 high jewellery collection in yellow gold and platinum with diamonds

With hundreds of Schlumberger designs in its archives, it only makes sense that Tiffany & Co revisits its talented collaborator’s heritage and brings them back to life with a dedicated high jewellery collection. The Masterpieces collection features iconic designs that Schlumberger had created in the past and showcases his ability to transform a flower or a bird into a precious thing of beauty.

Even a critter as mundane as the cricket is given the Schlumberger treatment, with gorgeous results: the 1965 clip, made originally for Rachel Lowe Lambert Clopton (mother of New York socialite and Schlumberger fan Bunny Mellon), has been modernised with a body of platinum and yellow gold, and studded with diamonds, emeralds, pink and blue sapphires. It is truly an accolade to Tiffany & Co’s craftsmen, who have articulated the body in such a realistic manner, down to the last detail, while ensuring that the end result embodies glamour. 

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While coloured gemstones were Schlumberger’s calling card, he could also weave magic with a monochromatic palette of yellow gold, diamonds and pearls. Derived from a 1957 suite sold to Bunny Mellon, the Flowers and Bars necklace makes you marvel at the intricate craftsmanship displayed by Tiffany & Co. The diamond flowers and their Akoya pearl stems appear to be floating, but are ingeniously linked by yellow gold bars.   

Only a jewellery house as accomplished as Tiffany & Co can do justice to Schlumberger’s vision, and it is an accolade to the artist’s creativity that the jewels today are still as coveted as they were 60 years ago. After all, old truly is gold. 

Exotic sea creatures, flora and fauna featured heavily in Jean Schlumberger’s body of work. Check out the slideshow below for the archival pieces that were a point of reference for the current Tiffany & Co Masterpieces collection:

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