In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’ve decided to shine a spotlight on some of the talented women who have shaped the jewellery design industry over the years. Read on to learn more about Suzanne Belperron, jewellery designer and member of the French Resistance during World War II!
Suzanne Belperron. Image: Belperron LLC
Suzanne Belperron (1900 - 1983) was, and remains to be, a respected and coveted jewellery designer who worked for both the Jeanne Boivin and Bernard Herz jewellery houses in Paris before World War II.
After his first arrest by the Gestapo in 1940, Herz (being of Jewish origin) urged Belperron to take over the company completely in order to avoid the Nazi-inspired Statute on Jews legislation set forth by the Vichy Regime. After several years, Belperron was joined by Herz’s son Jean to form the Herz-Belperron company.
Emerald and Gold Roof Ring by Suzanne Belperron. Image: Christie's
Throughout the trauma of World War II and at many other points over the years, Belperron received multiple offers to design jewellery in the United States, but she always chose to remain in Paris and ultimately joined the French Resistance. On July 12, 1963, she received the rank of Knight of the Légion d’Honneur and was presented the medal by friend and fellow Resistance member Jean Marchat.
Belperron drew her inspiration from many sources including “exotic” cultures like those of Egypt, India, China, Japan, and Africa. She was also fascinated by the natural world, and was particularly fond of all things underwater.
Many of Belperron's pieces featured emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. Here are some of our favourite Skyjems pieces featuring these elegant gemstones:
Over the years she had many high-profile clients from all over the world including the Rothschild family, the Aga Khan dynasty, and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Some of her clients also came from the fashion and show business worlds, including Christian Dior and Josephine Baker.
Belperron maintained her mystique and allure by receiving these clients exclusively by appointment to her home or office. She was also known to delve deep in order to understand a client’s lifestyle before embarking on any design work, and studied their face, hands, and complexion in addition to taking meticulous measurements to ensure a perfect match between the client and their piece.
Insisting that “my style is my signature” and convinced that her work’s originality made it easy to authenticate, Belperron never signed her pieces. This means that work is not always easy for Olivier Baroin, a specialist in the work of Belperron.
“Her singular voice translated into creations with clean lines, which were sensual and, at times, even carnal,” Baroin says. “Her jewelry, though somewhat exuberant at times, always remained elegant, because her creativity never exceeded the limit of good taste. This is the key to the Belperron mystery.”
Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald Ring by Suzanne Belperron. Image: Christie's
Belperron jewellery remains valuable today, and one of our favourite pieces is the beautiful “Scarabée” brooch, which was estimated at approximately EUR 25,000 and sold at auction by Christie’s for approximately EUR 36,000 in May of 2013:
Suzanne Belperron blazed her own trail in an industry dominated by men, and her legacy lives on; in 2015, Belperron LLC opened its first flagship salon in over forty years on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. The salon features the largest selection of vintage Belperron–many from important private collections from around the world–as well as the newly-created Belperron collection, designed entirely based on her archive of paintings and designs.
Tune in tomorrow, when we tell you all about the modern day marvel, designer Paloma Picasso!