Above: Art Deco platinum, carved ruby and diamond bracelet, courtesy of Paul Fisher, Inc.
Celebrated present-day as the July birthstone, rubies have unceasingly enchanted and entranced humankind. From Greek mythology to Burmese tradition, the scarlet stone has served as a symbol for various societies, cultures, religions, and philosophies. Aptly referred to as the “King of Gems” in Sanskrit, rubies continue to be one of the most precious and coveted gemstones.
Ruby and sapphire are a variety of the mineral corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. Corundum is a 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, second only to diamond, making it a highly popular and wearable gemstone.
Ruby’s iconic red pigment comes from the presence of chromium in the compound: the higher the chromium concentrations, the stronger the red hue. Chromium can also cause fluorescence, which further increases the red color intensity. Rubies of the most saturated color, coupled with natural fluorescence, are referred to as “pigeon blood”. Untreated, gem-quality rubies with vibrant shades of red are especially rare and highly sought-after, asserting higher per-carat prices in the colored stone market.
The inimitable geology of Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Mozambique are all sources for exceptional ruby crystals. For centuries, deposits in Burma (now Myanmar), especially those from Mogok in Northern Myanmar, produced incredible specimens of rubies, some with extraordinary “pigeon blood” vibrancy. In the late 2000s, gem-quality rubies were discovered in Mozambique, and the country has since become the world’s largest ruby producer.
From armor augmentations to lavish ornamentation, craftsmen have employed the “King of Gems” for centuries, particularly as a mineral of choice for jewelry. Rubies have graced countless jewels through the various eras and design periods and continue to play an important role in the modern-day colored stone and jewelry fabrication markets.
Place Vendôme, besides the famous column of the world and the Ritz, the most famous French and international jewelry houses offer to dazzled eyes walkers and enthusiasts their most beautiful diamonds, their most beautiful emeralds and their dazzling ornaments. But this place contains well-kept secrets. Among its unknown places to the general public, there is one more surprising than the others: the Bureau Bleu. It is in this boudoir, beautifully restored, that I take you to discover a small part of one of the most beautiful treasures of the place : the archives of the house Chaumet.
François-Régnault Nitot first installs the house at 15 Place Vendôme where he acquires in 1812 the mansion. We find there his apartment and his shop. Almost a century later, Joseph Chaumet moved the house to 12 of the same place. We are in 1907, the address is now final. This mansion dates, like the rest of the square, from the end of the 17th century. On the first floor is the Chaumet museum and its famous “tiara hall”. This apartment was the on to Claude Baudard de Vaudrier, lord of Saint James, treasurer general of the navy of King Louis XVI. In 1777, he commissioned architect François-Joseph Bélanger for the Grand Salon. Now restored and classified as an historic monument, this place is one of the most beautiful on the Vendôme square. The Bureau Bleu was to be a room. It was especially for many years the one of Beatrice de Plinval: hired in 1969, she was a designer, curator, creator of the internal museum of the house, she is also the “memory” of the house. His successor was recently appointed. Guillaume Robic – passed by the Ministry of Culture, the CMN or the Monnaie de Paris, took office in the house on January 1, 2018.
The Chaumet archives
Discovering the archives of the house is first of all immerse yourself in an absolutely amazing and particularly complete set. Very early, the in-house jewelers gather documents to keep a trilateral order. Albums are made, gathering drawings, sketches and gouaches. Which ones are numbered. Some albums are ordered around a theme like knots when others date from a particular time. Even today, the archivists of the house do not know who made these albums. There are no documents or “mission orders” in a way. It seems that this fund was first created in a completely empirical way. The oldest drawings dating from 1810. We are in full period F.-R. Nitot whose head of workshop is Jean-Baptiste Fossin. It is not about gouaches as elaborate as those we could see during the last exhibitions devoted to this medium. It is about, in this album, sketches often made in graphite pencil. There are only a few colors, but the work of the volume is quite remarkable.
To understand the richness and the complexity of the fund, some numbers are needed. Also the archives of the house Chaumet are composed as follows:
80,000 drawings mainly in the famous albums
66,000 negatives of which 33,000 are actually glass plates.
300,000 photos on paper that represent jewels before delivery. A nuance however, this important figure incorporates duplicates. Indeed, some pieces could be the subject of 3, 5 or even 10 identical photo prints.
Then add accounting documents: account books, deposit books and even about 500 plasters mainly made in the nineteenth century.
Finally, and this is one of the richness of this fund, the house retains some 500 models in nickel silver (often enhanced with gouache) which represent a part of the achievements of the house. This is mainly about tiaras and brooches.
Among the important elements, it must be borne in mind that this fund is fairly homogeneous. Which is not always the case with archives. Wars and removals are all problems for conservation. Here, there is probably no talk of “white areas”. Archivists arriving to find the elements that researchers may need by consulting the various components of the fonds: drawings, photo plates, paper prints or accounting documents … etc.
Chaumet’s researches and willingness to perpetuate as well as to exploit its archives also made it possible to understand their constitution. We know for example that from 1870 the house have in-house photographers. The photo studio was also spruced up in the square because of the light. Before moving several times. But the study of some photos reveal the reflection of the column …
The digitization, a token of protection
From 1990, the house programs annual campaigns of restoration and conservation of its archives. Old albums are entrusted to graphic arts conservators (INP) in order to stabilize them when they are too damaged. Neutral papers and boxes of protection are thus integrated in order to preserve this fund for a long time. Work is also underway creating optimum hygrometric conditions for the preservation and consultation of documents. The heritage department of the Chaumet house is gradually growing. One, then two people to count today 5 people full time.
Photos are among the most complicated documents to keep. The papers dry and crackle, the prints pass and do not support the light of day. For example, the gouachés of the exhibition of La Piscine will have to find in the dark for 18 months after two months of exposure. A time necessary to “rest” and sustain them.
Since the 2000s, digitization has helped the work of archivists. Thus bill books between 1838 and 1958 are now available in digital format. Saving time for researches. Since last year, it is the photographic collection which is digitized progressively with the rhythm of recurring campaigns. Because it takes time, a photo sometimes requires up to 15 minutes of work to get a satisfactory result.
Be blown away
This visit and discovery of the archives will have been particularly inspiring. The album Fossin is remarkable for its content. But the thematic album on the knots is even more surprising. Hundreds of pages, sketches, gouaches testify to the talent of the designers of the house. And the bow, DNA of the house, has been treated more than sharp. At all times, in all styles and with all possible materials, it is reinvented perpetually. Exciting! Finally, I immersed happily in a 70s album where the yellow gold is perfectly treated. Work with thread and stones for timeless renderings. A real nice trip made possible by the team of the house who knew how to answer to my too many questions!
Silver over gold or silver-topped jewelry was very popular during the Georgian jewelry period. It dates from circa 1714 to 1835, spanning the reigns of four kings of England, all named George. It makes it easy to remember.
Back then, they used silver and gold for jewelry design. Platinum, although discovered in the 1700s, was not widely used in jewelry until the late 1800s.
The jewelry designs were inspired by the Baroque and Rococo style. Bow motifs and teardrop shapes were in fashion. Jewelry was set with colorful large stones such as sapphires, emeralds, topazes, citrines, amethysts, garnets, and diamonds, of course.
It was especially important for the security of the gemstones that they were set in gold. A layer of silver over the gold was added afterwards to get a different shiny look than the glowing gold one.
The silver topping works its magic when the diamonds sparkle in candlelight. It looks like the diamonds are floating out of their mountings. This unique appearance actually happened unintentionally.
We can all picture the elegant balls, dinners, and parties that were held with huge chandeliers and candle holders everywhere as electricity did not exist yet. The ladies were dressed up in large elegant dresses, wearing wigs and shined up with a ton of jewelry. The movie of “Marie Antoinette” of 2006 with Kirsten Dust has a few scenes where you can see this floating effect of the stones in candlelight (Fig. 1).
How to wear this jewelry today?
The elegant flows and romanticism in its design is in line with the boho chic dress code. Earrings, rings, headbands and necklaces are especially popular in style.
This article was born from a purchase. One day, my Partner came back from the USA with a beautiful object in his pocket: A gold Cartier cigarette case adorned on both sides with extraordinary Persian hunting scenes, probably inspired by a page of a Persian manuscript, and made in delicate mother-of-pearl and hardstone inlays by Wladimir Makowsky, the master of jewelry marquetry of the Art Deco period. This box was signed “Cartier Paris Londres New York”, but it also bore a mysterious mention: “incrustations de Linzeler Marchak” (inlays by Linzeler Marchak) (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). It was curious, to say the least, to find a double signature on an Art Deco box. To my knowledge, Cartier and Linzeler-Marchak did not work together. Another enigma was then added to the first. I knew the jeweler Linzeler more for goldsmith’s pieces rather than for jewelry and Marchak more for his post-war creations and, in particular, his big “cocktail” rings rather than his Art Deco creations, but I had only very rarely seen the association of the two names on a pièce. And suddenly, I remembered that most of the silver pieces made by Cartier in the 1930s bore the maker’s mark of Robert Linzeler. There were a lot of such pieces, because if, for the common people, Cartier is a jeweler above everything else, a very important part of the sales during the Art Deco period was represented by silverware, in particular, table silver, household silver, centerpieces, torches, etc. (Fig. 2). At the time, I was doing research for the book I was writing with Alain Cartier, Cartier: Exceptional Objects. It was therefore time to put a little order in all this to see more clearly and to understand the relationship between three famous names in Parisian jewelry: Linzeler, Marchak, and Cartier.
Robert Linzeler was born on March 9, 1872. He descended from a dynasty of jewelers-goldsmiths who had been settled in Paris since 1833. In 1897 he moved to 68 rue de Turbigo, when he bought the workshop of Louis Leroy. By the same occasion, he registered his hallmark of master goldsmith on April 14, 1897. It consisted of the two letters R and L surmounted by a royal crown (see maker’s marks below). As tradition among the French jewelers, this hallmark takes the symbol of the hallmark of its predecessor, i.e. a royal crown (see maker’s marks below). One could believe considering the name of Leroy (“the king” in French) that this symbol was chosen by the latter because in general the symbols were chosen according to puns referring to the patronymic of the manufacturer, but in reality, this symbol was that of Leroy’s predecessor, Jules Piault, a goldsmith who specialized in the manufacture of knives whose workshop in the rue de Turbigo had been bought by Leroy in 1886 (Fig. 3) (see maker’s marks below).
Business was flourishing because in April 1903, Robert Linzeler left rue de Turbigo and acquired a 480 m2 mansion located on rue d’Argenson in the luxurious 8th arrondissement of Paris to set up both his workshop and a showroom to receive private customers (Fig. 4). This period before the First World War was a fertile one. The genius Paul Iribe, who also had Cartier as a client and for whom he made silverware, designed jewelry for Linzeler (Fig. 5), as Hans Nadelhoffer points out in his book, Cartier Jewelry Extraordinary. He was, therefore, as often was at the time, both a manufacturer for others and a retailer for himself. After the Great War in December 1919, the company was renamed ROBERT LINZELER-ARGENSON S.A. This change of name was accompanied by the installation of a magnificent store decorated by Robert Linzeler’s friends, Süe and Mare, who were known for their Art Deco decoration (Fig. 6 and 7). Unfortunately, business was poor. It should not be forgotten that the aftermath of war is a period of crisis that makes business difficult. This is when the Marchak brothers step in.
The brothers Salomon and Alexandre Marchak, born in Kiev in 1884 and 1892, respectively, were the sons of Joseph Marchak, nicknamed the “Cartier of Kiev”. He was a jeweler and goldsmith whose high-quality production made the reputation of the company. In 1922, the Marchak brothers entered the capital of Robert Linzeler, and the company became LINZELER-MARCHAK (Fig. 8). They signed the pieces accordingly, and it was still under this name that they received a Grand Prix at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The company LINZELER-MARCHAK was changed to the A. MARCHAK (Société Française de joaillerie et d’orfèvrerie A. Marchak) in December 1927. This period corresponds, I think, to the intervention of Cartier in the Linzeler case but only for the part regarding the mansion of the rue d’Argenson, because, let’s not forget, Linzeler owned this mansion and the store at 4 rue de la Paix. I do not know whether Cartier had entered Linzeler’s capital at the end of the 1920’s, but this hypothesis is probable since in 1932, René Révillon, Louis Cartier’s son-in-law, proposed to increase the company’s capital and give part of it in shares to Robert Linzeler in exchange for the sale of the business and the private mansion on rue d’Argenson. The remaining shares were bought by Cartier-Paris and especially by Cartier-New York, which became the majority shareholder. This date also corresponds to the end of the association between Robert Linzeler and the Marchak brothers. It seems, therefore, that at this date, Cartier took total possession of rue d’Argenson and the Marchak brothers of the store on rue de la Paix.
The Linzeler-Marchak company was definitively dissolved on June 10, 1936. Finally, Robert Linzeler died on January 25, 1941.
Thus, from 1932 onwards, the Robert Linzeler workshop at 9 rue d’Argenson produced many silver pieces for Cartier, its new owner. The workshop became, in a way, the workshop of the House specializing in the manufacture of silverware, especially for Cartier-New York, the owner of most of the company’s capital. This explains why many pieces bear the hallmark of Robert Linzeler, not in a lozange shape, but in a shell shape, meaning that the piece is only intended for export (see maker’s marks below) as is the case on this extraordinary pair of gold, silver, lacquer and glass Cartier candelabra that I was lucky enough to buy. These are now in the Lee Siegelson collection in New York (Fig. 9). It is worth noting that it was in this vast mansion that Cartier would install the Ploujavy workshop in the 1930s, another manufacturing workshop specialized in the making of silver and lacquer objects such as cigarette boxes and vanity cases (Fig. 10).
Robert Linzeler’s hallmark was definitively crossed out in 1949. On July 23rd of that year, the LINZELER-ARGENSON company became the CARDEL company by contraction of the names Cartier and Claudel. This was in reference to Marion, the only daughter of Pierre Cartier, the owner of Cartier-New York. She was born Cartier and became Claudel following her marriage to Pierre Claudel (son of the writer Paul Claudel). Linzeler’s crown was preserved as the symbol on the new maker’s mark (please see maker’s marks below). Finally, to answer the first riddle, why is there a “Linzeler-Marchak” signature on a Cartier cigarette case? I see only one hypothesis: The box was born Cartier. With its frieze of geometric motifs engraved on the edges without enamel, its thumbpiece, and its hardstone corners, it belonged to the series of “Chinese” cases. They were relatively little elaborate cases whose two faces were probably decorated with burgauté lacquer in the image of another specimen of 1930 (Fig. 11). Was the box damaged, or did the customer want a box with a more elaborate decoration, the mystery remains. However, it passed around 1925, under unknown circumstances, into the hands of Linzeler-Marchak, located at 4 rue de la Paix opposite the Cartier store. It was then transformed by adding an enameled surround and two magnificent Makowsky miniatures and was signed with the mention “incrustations de Linzerler-Marchak” (Inlays by Linzeler-Marchak), but the Cartier signature was not removed. The history of this case clearly illustrates the complexity of the relationship between Parisian jewellers and goldsmiths in the first third of the 20th century, where, in certain circumstances, people did not hesitate to buy back objects of competitors, add their own signature, and sell the items on their own behalf.
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : R.L Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, then 9 rue d’Argenson and 4 rue de la Paix, Paris Registration date : 14/04/1897 Deregistartion date : 1949
Maker’s mark of Robert Linzeler stamped on the pieces intended for export. the number 950 means that there are 950 parts of pure silver in weight for 1000 parts of alloy.
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : J.P. Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, Paris Registration date : 1856 Deregistartion date : 1887
LEROY, Louis et Cie
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : L et Cie (the distribution of the letters in the punch is hypothetical) Address : 68 rue de Turbigo, Paris Registration date : 15/11/1886 Deregistartion date : 04/05/1897
Specialty : Silversmith, jeweler Maker’s mark : Symbol : Two crossed lines Maker’s mark : Letters : P.L.J.V. Address : 66 rue de de La Rochefoucault, then 9 rue d’Argenson, Paris Registration date : 08/08/1929 Deregistartion date : ?
Specialty : Silversmith Maker’s mark : Symbol : A crown Maker’s mark : Letters : S.A.C.A. Address : 9 rue d’Argenson, Paris Registration date : 19/09/1949 Deregistartion date : ?
O. BACHET, A. CARTIER, Cartier,Exceptional Objects, Palais Royal 2019. M. DE CERVAL, Marchak, éd. du Regard, Paris, 2006. Articles on Marchak and Linzeler in J. J. RICHARD, BIJOUX ET PIERRES PRECIEUSES, Blog, August 2017, March 2018
Coral is a living polyp, which lives in colonies, and forms an external calcareous skeleton, which can reach the size of underwater reefs. It occurs in several nuances of red, white, and a pink called “Angel skin” and is frequently used in jewelry. From the beginning of the 20th century, purveyors of coral, such as Herbet Frères who had factories in Naples, Genoa, and Livorno, were amongst those who supplied the House. However, at the time, it was only used on the rare occasion to make accessories or objects. It started to be used more frequently during the 1920s. Due to its arborescent growth underwater, the size of coral was limited. It was for this reason — with the exception of ancient Chinese elements already sculpted, such as the head of a large chimera acquired in the 1920s and mounted as a paperknife in 1943, or a long piece carved into fruit and mounted as a parasol handle in 1928 — that the only coral elements used by Cartier were modest in size.
The small size of coral elements did not present the same disadvantage for jewelry making as it did for objects. It was also after the First World War that the use of coral became widespread in the manufacture of jewelry. All different shades were used, although red coral, the most expensive, was most frequently found in small touches on the House’s jewelry. Some pieces were carved at the head of chimeras to form elements of bracelets or jabot elements in the Chinese taste. More precisely, these elements in the shape of a chimera’s head “combined the tradition of animal-head bangles of the ancient Mediterranean, the Indian makara, the Chinese dragon and even African variants,” writes Hans Nadelhoffer in his book “Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary”. Louis Bozzacchi’s workshop in the rue de Turenne was entrusted with carving the chimera forms. In 1922, Louis Cartier ordered a bangle made of two chimera heads of carved coral with bejeweled combs and two carved spherical emerald (Fig. 1). In 1923, this bangle was followed by a chimera jabot pin also ordered by Louis Cartier for his wife (Fig. 2).
Although the neoclassical style had gone out of fashion in Paris, the Cartier branch adapted its production and made pieces in this taste to cater to New York where neoclassical elegance remained appealing. This is the case of a beautiful jabot-pin decorated with a Greek mask (Fig. 3). As a bead, cabochon, or sugarloaf (Fig. 4), coral served as secondary motifs on necklaces, brooches, or bracelets, or were placed on the top of perfume bottles (Fig. 5), on handbag clasps (Fig. 6) or on the tops of lids. Sculpted into rods and half cylinders, they covered vanity cases and desk clocks (Fig. 7). As in the field of jewelry, they were used especially on Oriental and Chinese-inspired pieces where the coral was often carved as figurative details. Chimera heads were placed on smoking sets. A sculpted seated dog was set on the top of a pen. An Egyptian head covered with a Nemes was applied to a handbag clasp made in onyx, and small Chinese plaques, sculpted as an effigy of Buddha, were placed at the center of some vanity cases. Lastly, small branches of coral were mounted realistically on some objects to give them a natural aspect.
Despite the crisis at the beginning of the 1930s and the progressive abandoning of expensive materials and intricate decor, coral remained a frequently used material. Its colour allowed for a contrast with black and lacquer used on a multitude of objects and jewels, the most famous being undoubtedly the ladybug brooch (Fig. 8). In many cases, it remained the only coloured element to brighten up finished objects. In the 1940s, the strong contrast between red and yellow gold, which characterised production at the time, permitted coral to be used as decorative elements on a large number of accessories, handbag clasps, vanity cases, powder cases, etc. Sometimes, it was used in a much larger scale, for example, on a yellow gold clock, reminiscent of the oriental fashion of the “Roaring Twenties”, where a statuette sculpted in coral was the central decoration. After World War II, coral continued to be used extensively, often in the manufacture of many different types of brooches. It formed the face of a beefeater (Fig. 9), ducks’ feet (Fig. 20 and Fig. 11), or the shell of a turtle. In these cases, orange coral became the norm, the beautiful red coral becoming almost impossible to find.
After browsing through Elle and Vogue‘s reporting, this AW 2020’s jewelry style is all about bold gold jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets and cuffs especially stand out. Even brooches have made their comeback. Occasionally, baroque style jewelry pops up as well.
The looks and trends spotted on the runways and down the streets during these fashion weeks can be traced back to the flamboyant style found in retro jewelry and the eclectic 1980s jewelry period.
The scrolls, knots and buckle motifs of the 1940’s are what we find in the bold style of today’s fashion as well as the typical “two tone”: the combination of rose gold and yellow gold from that period reappears today. Sophisticated gold wires, plain or twisted fringes and tubular gold linking necklaces and bracelets jewelry of the late-1940’s/early-1950’s are emerging once again. The 1980’s large curb link gold necklaces and bracelets finished with pearls and diamonds are back as well as spray or gold brooches.
Show it off OVER your clothes
The clothing style of this season has a formal and masculine look, from moccasins to oversized blazers.
The gold jewelry plays in to upgrade the outfit and gives a chic finishing touch. To bring it to the spot, bracelets are worn over the blazer or pull over. Same for necklaces, which are often worn over the shirt.
This winter is about capturing attention — maybe if you wear another necklace every other day no one will notice that you have been wearing the same clothes!
Have a look and get inspired!
Below are some examples of estate jewelry in fashion:
Here are some looks spotted by different fashion magazines:
Tortoiseshell comes from the backs of tortoises. Translucent, amber in colour, spotted with brown or red markings, or pale yellow with brown or black marbling depending on the species, it was regularly used by Cartier. At the beginning of the XXth century, a multitude of merchants supplied the jeweller with raw material. Amongst them Chatenet and Latouche not far from rue de la Paix, Prével, MacPherson & Billy, both established on rue de Turbigo supplied combs, fans, lorgnette handles, knitting hook tips, fountain pen sleeves, mirrors and a variety of other elements. Tortoiseshell’s easy malleability when heated allowed goldsmiths to use it to cover objects with uneven surfaces.
A pair of gold opera glasses were thus covered with a beautiful transparent blond tortoiseshell which meant that the gold’s guilloché aspect could be seen, giving it the appearance of orange enamel (see illustration). To accentuate the preciousness of these objects made with tortoiseshell, small gold dots were inlaid into the surface using the “piqué” technique. Very fashionable in the XVIIIth century, this technique meant that the goldsmith drew the desired pattern on the tortoiseshell and then after piercing the required spaces, he heated the tortoiseshell to enlarge the hole in which he was to place the gold decor. The eventual cooling down of the tortoiseshell imprisoned the gold motif definitively. During the period between the two Wars, large pieces made in tortoiseshell were gradually abandoned. Although a few desk clocks with folding struts and some simple table cigarette boxes were made, its main use was for combs and for the backs of mirrors for vanity cases. Although blond tortoiseshell was mostly used at Cartier, the brown tortoiseshell was also used for some elements as for the comb illustrated here. With the 1929 economic crisis, the workmanship required, as well as the material’s price, meant that its use was gradually abandoned, to be replaced with synthetic substances such as celluloid and Bakelite.
Some desk clocks were also covered in lacquer imitating tortoiseshell such as a model in the shape of a sea mine, registered for Paris stock on 11th December, 1930 and described in the archives as “a spherical clock in tortoiseshell lacquer.” After the Second World War, its use remained about the same as before and other than for a small desk clock by Cartier-London whereby the dial was made using brown tortoiseshell, it was no longer used to make important pieces, as had been the case at the beginning of the century.
As far as jewellery is concerned, the use of tortoiseshell developed particularly in the 1960s with a series of jewels that met with great success: the Blackamoor clips. Representing proud African warriors, these clips, which appear in the shape of a gold bust often adorned with precious stones and a head engraved in brown tortoiseshell, have become icons of jewellery (see Illustration).
Like ivory and for the same reasons related to the protection of wildlife, the use of tortoiseshell in jewellery has now completely disappeared.
As many of you may or may not know, my love for jewels of the Art Deco period is as great as my love for fine natural gems. It is a period that is so rich, that one cannot sum up any of its various styles in a single phrase. (Refer to the Art Deco section of The Magical Art of Cartier, Antiquorum’s catalogue of November, 1996, and Antiquorum’s VOX, January, 2003, pages 12-14). There was an enormous amount of travel, which stimulated the imagination and sparked much innovative thought and new discoveries. There was the “chiaroscuro” theme, or “light and dark” – the use of contrast as design, known simply as the black and white style (or any contrasting color with white). There was the “Chinoiserie”, or Chinese influence, as well as the Japanese influence on design. The Persian or Indian style had a huge effect on design, giving us the richly ornate “tutti frutti” with its unabashed use of bright bursts of color. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb gave the Art Deco period a completely new Egyptian Revival style, totally different from that of the 19th century. Of course the clean shapes and geometric themes is that style which most people think of when they think of the Art Deco period, thanks in part to many new gem cuts and the use of platinum, which actually applies to all of the various styles of the period, all of which radiated exotic themes. While I can’t think of a single phrase to describe this magnificent period of jewelry making, two words describe its essence – LUXURIOUS EXOTICISM.
The French were the true masters of this period. They were the leaders for the rest of the world in this variety of style, and not simply because they are responsible for giving the period its name (named after the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs & Industriels Modernes” – the international fair held in Paris in 1925). The “Art Deco” styles developed long before the fair of 1925, and it is interesting to note that this fair had been planned for 1916, but the First World War caused it to be postponed. (There was a large overlap between the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco styles, some jewelers, such as Cartier, shunning the former style). In any event, Paris was the home to many, many fine jewelry firms, both French and foreign, and the cultural exchanges at this time were exciting; many French jewelers traveled abroad for inspiration, and for business, and vice-versa! These, in my opinion, were the most exciting times of all for the jewelry world. Some of the great houses included Cartier, Lacloche Frères, Boucheron, Mauboussin, Marzchak, Marzo, Ostertag, Van Cleef & Arpels, just to name a few. However, there is one major contributor to all of these houses and more, who still remains obscure to many today – a creative force so outstanding that I feel it is an injustice that the name is not automatically synonymous with luxurious exoticism, and that is the house of VERGER!!
The founder of this great firm was Ferdinand Verger (1851-1928), himself a great man from the little I have found out about him. He started his apprenticeship at 11 years old, as was the tradition at the time, went to war, moved to London in 1871, and returned to Paris in 1875. There, he began to work as agent to the famous house of Vacheron & Constantin, of Geneva, from 1879 to 1896 (and later became a partner for the French market). It was in this last year, in 1896, that it is archived that he registered his own trademark – “FV”. In his obituary, in the Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie of 1928, he is called the “apostle of horological art”, and is described as a man of great heart, who was able to organize the Parisian jewelers (he was the President of the “Chambre Syndicale des Bijoutiers”) and even bring together the conflicting egos of the Swiss and French watchmakers. He had known misery in his lifetime, and apparently was a great contributor to various charities, donating jewels to retirement homes and orphanages. In the same obituary, he is described as “the nicest figure in the world of jewelry – and watch makers… armed with an irresistible smile”
Ferdinand had two sons, Georges and Henri, who were trained in the great tradition of their father. They joined their father, and in 1911, moved to 51 rue Sainte Anne under the name of Verger Frères, (Verger brothers), -the trademark now be – coming “VF”! It may be interesting to note that Ferdinand, in 1914 sold all of his remaining stock of Lépine, whom he bought out in 1901, to Louis Leroy, the famous Parisian watchmaker, but he kept his trademark. It is in the period of Ferdinand’s sons, especially with George, that the house of Verger Frères reaches its peak, and on January 1st, 1921, Ferdinand officially leaves the business to his sons (according to his letter dated December 31, 1920).
The house of Verger was unique in that it was involved in all the aspects of jewelry making and watch making. The creations of Verger reflect some of the most original designs of the Art Deco period, and while many spectacular jewels are known to have been made, their specialty was the jeweled timepiece. They employed a whole array of artisans – lapidaries, stone-setters, gold-, platinum-, and silversmiths, enamellers, watch-makers and case-makers, designers and renderers and so on, all of whom were fully employed by the firm. In other words, the Maison Verger didn’t subcontract to the various local talents, but made their great works of art, in house!
One of the foremost authorities on the subject of Verger is Ralph Esmerian, whose family was close to the Verger family. As Mr. Esmerian confirms, they went from “the design, to the production, to the final product”, and as he points out, it was not the great retailers that went to Verger Frères with their ideas to be put into production, but Verger Frères that sold their designs to the great houses of the time, giving them each exclusivity for their choices. Verger Frères made for most all of the great maisons around the world. They made for Vacheron & Constantin, Cartier, Lacloche Frères, Marzo, Bousquet, Boucheron, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels, Ostertag, Jaeger, Chaumet, Janesich, Fouquet, and others in Paris. They made for American firms such as Charlton & Co., Trabert + Hoeffer, Udall + Ballon, J.E. Caldwell, Black, Starr, & Frost, Spalding & Co., and Tiffany. Other important clients included Bulgari of Rome, Hauser-Zivy y Cia in Mexico, Gübelin of Switzerland, as well as important firms in England, Denmark, and many other important European jewelers.
One cannot define the “style” of Verger; it is as varied and rich and creative as the whole Art Deco period itself. However, the attention to detail – the extra – ordinary workmanship, the use of the finest gems, no matter how insignificant their part may play in the final design, and the originality of the theme is their calling card. I hope that the few examples that are illustrated in this brief article will help the “uninitiated” to appreciate this great house. My personal favorites are the lady’s (of course!) lapel watches, for which Verger Frères were truly masters. These treasures are rare and highly collectable and are always sought after. Not only are they extremely elegant (and easy to wear), but judging from my personal experience, I have yet to find one that is not truly unique and fantastic in design. I have included 4 such jewels in this article, each of a different Art Deco style, and each made in platinum and 18K yellow gold.
The color combination is quite beautiful and quite representative – blue and black enamel, framing red coral flowers with onyx leaves, mounted on a background of round diamonds in platinum – lots of contrasting colors in a linear and floral motif. The entire design is created by the use of gems, creating a picture similar to that of a painting, as opposed to the 3-dimensional, metal flower brooches simply accented with the use of stones, as was the custom in earlier eras. In figure 3, we get even bolder! This is a beautiful example of an Indian “tutti frutti” style lapel watch. This was made for Mauboussin, in 1930, and has just the perfect balance of bright bursts of color seen in the carved leaves and berries, with the round and baguette diamonds. This piece is in perfect harmony – not a bit too much, and yet this tiny jewel stands out boldly, which is the sign of mastery when it comes to this style! It is also unusual in that it has a double clip on the back, rather than a suspended watch section. An interesting and fun jabot lapel watch is illustrated in figure 4 (jabot is like a double-headed stick pin). This piece is totally asymmetrical. It is exquisitely decorated with jade, onyx, natural pearls, diamonds and sapphires. Note that: none of the sections are of the same size; the graduating sapphires are stacked asymmetrically out of the corners; the watch section is hanging off to one side, suspended by sections of natural pearl chain, one side of course shorter than the other – in other words, everything is off symmetry! These are the amusing and whimsical designs of Verger Frères!
Another beautiful watch is figure 5. It is not a lapel watch, but a lady’s wristwatch, which is articulated, allowing for flexibility on the wrist (it would have been worn with a black gros grain strap). This piece was made for Fouquet, and dates circa 1920. It is quite simple in design, but extremely sophisticated with the fine blue, buff-topped sapphires contrasting with the white, round diamonds. As with the Japanese and asymmetrical lapel watches described above, plea se notice how each of the sapphires (or pietre dure) was specifically cut to fit a precise point to complete the design of the piece.
On the more masculine side, Verger made many fantastic pocket watches. One such example is figure 6, the “Samurai” dress watch, made for the New York jeweler, Charlton & Co., in the Japanese style. It is very thin, featuring an 18K yellow gold samurai figure on one side, within a background of black enamel and a foreground of green enamel, finely trimmed with white enamel and yellow gold. The dial follows the same style, featuring heavy gold “bamboo” style Roman numerals. It is elegant and exotic at the same time.
There are many such examples of exquisite lady’s wristwatches, but I am only allotted a few pages here, so ….
One of the earlier styles of Art Deco was that of “chiaroscuro”, or the black and white style, which is illustrated in figure 1. The design is still remarkable, often poorly copied today, and it was revolutionary for the time; it was design for design’s sake! (It was not a representation of nature, or man, etc., as in the previous eras) It is extremely simple and elegant, and was made with Vacheron & Constantin. The top portion houses the “pin”, for those unfamiliar with this type of watch, and the watch portion is usually suspended, which allows for easy rotating to view the concealed dial. This lapel watch is made of black onyx, black enamel, round diamonds and a larger marquise-shaped diamond, and natural pearls. Still having a simple and elegant line, figure 2 , exhibits a fine lapel watch made with Vacheron & Constantin, for Lacloche Frères, in the “Japanese” style. It still is designed with the use of contrasting colors, but it is much more elaborate than the black and white style. This piece is called the “Blue Inro”, after the Japanese timepiece that it resembles.
One of the most spectacular ”revivals” of the Art Deco period was the mystery clock, originally invented in the mid 19th century by the magician, Robert Houdin. It is called such because the hands appear to float on the dial, with no apparent connection to the mechanism. Supposedly, only two knew the secret of the mystery in the beginning of the 20th century –the houses of Verger and Cartier. Cartier holds the record for the number of these magnificent clocks sold, and Verger was the sole manufacturer and supplier for Van Cleef & Arpels and several others. Unlike the invention of Houdin, these clocks of Cartier and Verger Frères were incredible works of art – various stones housing the mechanisms, often inlaid or accented with spectacular gems, in gold or platinum, the dials usually of rock crystal, citrine, of some other transparent gemstone. These unique works of art vary considerably – from Cartier’s model “A” with its simple, pure linear geometry, to the very elaborate “Chinoiserie” and Indian styles, but all evoking imagery of the exotic.
More than the mystery clock, however, Verger Frères is probably more widely recognized for their magnificent table, or mantle clocks. Again, the use of exotic themes, exotic gemstones, and unbridled imagination result in magnificent works of art. Figures 7 and 8 offer a taste of this genius. In the first, figure 7, we have an unusual example of the classics. One happily loses oneself in the dial of this clock, pulled in by the details of a world that no longer exists – a Greek sphinx amongst ruins of Doric columns in a strange flora, overlooking a sea with faraway lands in the background. It is absolutely breathtaking in my opinion, and this is all “painted”, or seamlessly inlaid with the use of a little gold and many different types of shell, such as mother-of-pearl and abalone!! Upon further inspection, one sees that this exquisite, octagonal picture is framed in gold and black enamel, with diamond-set platinum Arabic numerals, and that it is in fact, a clock! It is supported by fluted amber that is bordered by jade spheres, atop an oval onyx base. This was made with Vacheron & Constantin, for Lacloche Frères. What a magnificent, functional piece of art, as is also the last example in this article, figure 8 (and on the cover of this magazine). This is another example of the “Chinoiserie” style. It was also made with Vacheron Constantin, for Lacloche Frères, in 1925. Its simple exterior is made of a stepped case in onyx, decorated with sugar-loaf cabochons of coral and accented with diamonds in platinum, flanked by “concave columns” of onyx, intagliato! The top of the case holds a 3- dimensional carving, in coral, of the Chinese Buddha, Hivan Tsang, with two monkeys. The clock is concealed by two black enamel doors that are decorated with a “tree-of-life” or palmette coral carving, accented with diamonds. A coral push-piece releases the spring-loaded doors, revealing a magnificent, highly ornate dial! This dial depicts a lotus flower motif entirely inlaid with mother-of-pearl and abalone shell. Once again, the inlay is seamless! The execution of these clocks must have required a whole team of artisans, but the end result is so magnificent, that they become timeless treasures. There is no doubt regarding the greatness of the house of Verger. If any of you come away from this article with a desire to collect Verger Frères, I will be quite pleased, and I hope you enjoy your new search. It is not always easy to discover a Verger’s identity. Usually, their maker’s mark will be on the inside of the case, as opposed to the retailer’s stamp, which is usually on the surface of the object. The mark to look out for is a lozenge-shaped stamp, with the initials “VF” inside (figure 9); this will be the mark for the most prized Art Deco pieces. The early pieces will bear the early trademark, “FV”, for Ferdinand Verger (after 1872); “VF” for Verger Frères from 1911–1935; Georges Verger et fils from 1935-1945; and Verger et Co. from 1945-1979 (probably run by Georges’ two sons, Claude and Francois). I must say that I am surprised at how many professionals in my business are unaware of this great French firm, and I feel that it is an incredible injustice, as I have already mentioned. This name deserves immortality, as do most of the objects that they made. As Ralph Esmerian concisely put it: “In terms of their creativity and production, they’re [Verger] right at the top of the French manufacturers, including the great retail names”. So the next time you have the pleasure of buying a beautiful Art Deco jewel, especially if it is a timepiece, go a bit further and see if you might be fortunate enough to have a true VERGER FRÈRES!
Recently, the market has seen a brief reappearance of a necklace by Suzanne Belperron which we had long lost track of. The experts looked at this piece with respect and admiration – and in particular the most famous of them Olivier Baroin, who was kind enough to share his impressions with us and unearth for us the too-often forgotten Aimée de Heeren, a dear friend of Suzanne Belperron, and also a great customer who dreamed of owning this necklace.
“It is an exceptional piece, from a private European collection, which I had never seen other than in a photograph carefully kept in the personal archives by the designer herself,” explains Olivier Baroin, expert for Suzanne Belperron and keeper of the designer’s own archives. “This necklace is without a doubt not a unique piece, it is one of those that was created at the end of the 1930’s and then reproduced by the designer over decades.” How many of these necklaces might exist? Difficult to be certain according to the expert, “Other pieces will probably resurface onto the market once this one has been revealed to both the press and the public. I cannot imagine that a piece of jewelry such as this would have been taken apart when handed down to any heirs: the esthetic of this necklace, itself a true work of art, supersedes in this instance its intrinsic value.”
Influenced by the growing interest in African art that was enthusiastically collected by French artists at the start of the 20thcentury, Suzanne Belperron designed this signature necklace at the end of the 1930’s. The below drawing depicts a more slender variation of the necklace to be sold this Spring; although in this example, twisted strand of gold and diamonds, a characteristic of Belperron’s style, have replaced the gold studs.
We find an identical example of the necklace being offered sale in two adverts published in 1948, one in Femina, the other in Vogue, for Maison Herz-Belperron, as seen in the illustration below.
This necklace captivated many of the celebrities who followed the designers of their time very closely and, in doing so, had great influence on their reputations. Among those influential celebrities, Aimée de Heeren was one of the most important.
Aimée de Heeren (circa 1903-2006), ravishing socialite of Brazilian origin famous for her beauty, her originality, her taste and her elegance, had an exceptional collection of jewelry (it is said that the Duke of Westminster, at the same time that he was Coco Chanel’s lover, gave Aimée gifts of jewelry that had once belonged to the Empress Eugénie). In December 2007, the New York Times paid homage to her with these words: “when she died last year at 103, Aimee de Heeren — of New York; Palm Beach, Fla.; Paris; and Biarritz, France — became one more lost link to an earlier age of social grace and high society.”
Always on the lookout for the talented of her time, Aimée de Heeren was one of Suzanne Belperron’s most important clients. “We can even go so far as to say that she and Suzanne Belperron were friends,” explains Olivier Baroin.
The importance of their correspondence, now kept in the designer’s personal archives, is testimony to a friendship that went beyond the communication relating to orders for pieces of jewelry.
Aimée de Heeren was a great admirer of the work of Suzanne Belperron. She supported the project for a book on the oeuvre of the jewelry designer, which would have been the crowning achievement of Belperron’s career. It is, in fact, for this project, which would have seen Hans Nadelhoffer as the author, that the designer assembled her order books and memorabilia. It was Aimée de Heeren who gave Suzanne Belperron the equipment with which to record her memoires and offered support for her friend to have an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In the postscript of a letter sent from the Hôtel Meurice (in the beginning of the 1980’s) to her “dear friend,” Aimée de Heeren describes, in no uncertain terms, the African inspired necklace that she had seen years earlier with Bernard Herz, the memory of which had remained amazingly clear: “if while you are going through your drawings, you happen upon one of that wonderful gold necklace with diamonds (of African inspiration?), which had those large gold studs that I had seen at Herz’s in 1939.(…) It was really wonderful. Would you be able to reproduce it? A gold necklace for the evening that is original and not those horrors that one usually sees is so rare.”
It’s moving that the reappearance of this necklace brings to life a whole part of Suzanne Belperron’s life and in particular her friendship with Aimée de Heeren, a worldly socialite embodying a past period.
“Love, eternity, forever” a few instant associations connected to the Wedding Ring, often the centerpiece of a collection. A woman might also treat herself to a Right Hand Ring, a personal symbol of power and independence. Rings chosen for their clean silhouette and ease of wear can be worn by both men and women. Easily admired on the finger, rings are forms of self-expression and a sure way to let one’s hands do the talking!
Yes! I do rings
The first known diamond engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximillian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The higher classes quickly followed suit. “The wedding set” composed of engagement ring and wedding band has only existed in popular culture since the 1900’s. The traditional solitaire diamond engagement ring, a round brilliant prong-set on a shank, has competition. More and more couples are seeking something more distinctive to represent their personality, style, love and future. Some chose period pieces which lend a sense of history while others might chose a contemporary design. It is a jeweler’s privilege to make this important sale, often the first and certainly the most significant purchase for a client.
Flash – Class – Oversize
The fashion for cocktail rings emerged in the late 1940’s, the post-war days when people were once again able to go out and enjoy life. These eye catching rings are sometimes set with less expensive stones, thus a bigger look for an accessible price. Popular variations include the “ballerina” and “cluster”. Inspiration for the ballerina style came from the wavy tutu, a ballerina’s distinctive skirt. A center stone is typically surrounded by a “skirt” of rectangular or baguette-cut diamonds. The cluster is a timeless style that has been popular for many decades. Imagination is the only limit to the designs of these bold rings.
One and Done
“Gypsy” settings, also called “flush” settings, are stones set directly into the metal without prongs. This style has crossed through centuries of jewelry history. It is an ideal setting for a phenomenal cabochon stone such as star sapphire and cat’s eye chrysoberyl, nothing detracts from their magical characteristics.
Signet Rings, from ancient to fashionable, never go out of style. Today these rings are also popular amongst women. Most often they are crafted out of yellow gold with the flat surface adorned with a symbol or initial(s). Traditionally engraving is the sole embellishment, but today you can find variations with pave accents or a small, single stone. They can be bold or delicate and feminine. It’s always the wearer’s choice.