Currently on view at Betteridge in Greenwich is “Icons & Signatures: A Selection of Rarely Seen Vintage Jewels From the Private Collection of Seaman Schepps”, a true treat for jewelry connoisseurs and Seaman Schepps collectors. Never has a jewelry exhibition been closer to home, in more ways than one for me.
Fifty-five vintage jewels, a few of them owned by Schepps’s most prominent clients, illuminate the breadth and beauty of the distinctive Seaman Schepps style. Using an array of diverse materials, Schepps designed collectible, yet wearable pieces that combine exotic woods, shells and other carved natural elements with precious and semi-precious gemstones in unexpected ways. His creativity was not bound by the ubiquitous precious stones – diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds – that most jewelers used solely in their designs during the early to mid-twentieth century, and even to this day. Not only are his pieces boldly sculptural and often large in scale, they are also a riot of color thanks to the pastiche of materials he incorporated in his designs.
Born in 1881 in New York’s Lower East Side, Schepps gradually worked his way up from a traveling salesman at age fourteen, trekking across the country to California, to an antiques and jewelry dealer back in Manhattan by 1921. Trying his hand at designing jewelry, Schepps rose to fame in the early 1930s with a coterie of illustrious clientele knocking at his Madison Avenue door for his unique creations. Among those luminaries that came calling for a piece of Seaman Schepps included fashion trendsetters and trailblazers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, and the Duchess of Windsor as well as Hollywood’s leading ladies like Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell.
A number of his most memorable and imaginative designs can be seen on display at the exhibition, including an original design of his clever Mousetrap Bracelet first made in the 1930s. A favorite of Blanche Knopf, who would stack three of the bracelets on her wrist which created quite a formidable-looking forearm, the Mousetrap Bracelet design endures today as part of Seaman Schepps’s contemporary collection.
Other highlights of the exhibition include Doris Duke’s Grape Brooch, commissioned by the heiress in 1941, the Duchess of Windsor’s Bluebird of Happiness Pin and her Bubble Earrings, both circa 1940, and a few of Schepps’ iconic Chessman Brooches.
“Icons & Signatures: A Selection of Rarely Seen Vintage Jewels From the Private Collection of Seaman Schepps” runs through Saturday, May 17th at Betteridge in Greenwich.