Recently, esteemed jewelry curator and collector Siegelson has added another masterpiece to its remarkable collection: a citrine and diamond suite by Sterlé, circa 1950. Rarely is citrine featured so prominently in a piece of jewelry and even more seldom is it accomplished as beautifully as this demi-parure from Parisian jeweler Pierre Sterlé.
Born in 1905 to a family of high powered Civil Servants, Sterlé studied jewelry under his uncle, Maynier-Pincon. In 1934, he opened his first salon on rue Sainte Anne in Paris where he not only began creating his own signature style jewelry but also designed and manufactured jewelry for several prestigious jewelry houses including, Chaumet, Boucheron, and Ostertag. Despite not drawing himself, the talented designer employed a gifted team to interpret his streamlined, stylish nature-inspired designs. Sterlé invented the fil d’ange, or “angel wire”, a fine gold rope fringe that became a hallmark of his jewels, particularly his bird brooches. The resulting effect lends the jewel a splendid fluidity not yet seen before. His tasteful, elegant style soon spread throughout Europe and beyond.
With a growing list of illustrious clientele, Sterlé opened a third-floor showroom on the avenue de l’Opera in 1945 to better accommodate his elite customers, the likes of which included King Farouk of Egypt, the Maharani of Baroda, President Vargas of Brazil, and friend and admirer the writer Colette. His success continued into the following decade, the 1950s, where Sterlé’s designs perfectly evoked the spirit of the era.
The following demi-parure by Sterlé, circa 1950, epitomizes the elegant style and innovative jewelry of this visionary designer, who is considered one of the masters of 20th century design.
• A demi-parure comprising a necklace and bracelet, the graduated necklace designed as a wreath of leaves set with pear-shaped citrines, the spines set with single-cut and round diamonds, the bracelet of similar design enhanced by a gold link tassel accented by round diamonds at the terminals; mounted in 18-karat yellow gold, with French assay marks
• Round diamonds, total weighing approximately 11 carats
• Necklace numbered 2444; bracelet signed Sterlé Paris and numbered 2445
• Measurements: necklace 15 inches; bracelet circumference 6 1/4 inches
cf. Jutheau, Viviane. Sterlé Joaillier. Paris: Editions Vecteurs, 1990.
Siegelson included a superb essay on the significance of this demi-parure by Pierre Sterlé, one which I’d like to share here:
“The 1950s brought on an age of extravagant opulence in design and fashion. After many desolate years during World War II, the world was ready for luxury again. Christian Dior, the leading Parisian couturier of the time, introduced a new female silhouette that was curvy and flowing, tailoring the clothes to the body. Many designers were quick to follow in this style and so too did jewelry design. The jewels of the 1950s had a sense of movement and lightness to them and incorporated naturalistic themes. Precious and semi-precious stones were set in gold that was worked like fabric by pleating, twisting, and weaving it into cloth-like patterns. The fashion of parures, matching sets of three or more items, came back into vogue, which then inspired the creation of the demi-parures, sets of two items. Having earned himself a reputation of being a master jeweler during this time, Sterlé created jewels that perfectly accented the new female form and incorporated his innovative design elements.
“For this demi-parure, Sterlé found inspiration from nature and made a necklace and bracelet that epitomizes the 1950s style. The necklace is of graduated wreath design divided into four sections of curved leaves set with pear-shaped citrines of various hues all with diamond centers. The matching bracelet is further enhanced by fil d’ange, gold fringe, dripping with diamonds that move gracefully when worn. The beauty of these pieces is seen in the representation of nature as Sterlé imagined it. Both the necklace and bracelet come to life and express the dynamic movement of nature with the twisting and bending of the leaves like they have fallen to rest in this arrangement.
“In the mid twentieth century, Pierre Sterlé’s creations were equal to those of Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. Continuously challenging conventional jewelry techniques, Sterlé was able to create bold and innovative designs implementing his unique manipulation to metal. This necklace and bracelet demi-parure surpasses the ordinary and reflects the quality and originality of a unique designer.”
Photos, description and significance essay of the featured demi-parure are all courtesy of Siegelson