The jewelry world is abuzz about Belperron, the 20th century iconoclast known for her stylishly distinct designs. Her pieces sell for many multiples over their estimates at auction and her growing circle of collectors remain ever hungry for her inimitable jewels.
From the 1920s at age 19 until her death in 1983, Belperron pioneered a whole new aesthetic in the annals of jewelry design. While her peers at larger houses remained faithful to the Art Deco motifs of the time, the young Belperron made her unique mark as a draftswoman at maison Boivin in Paris. Her early work at Boivin cultivated the sensual style that would later define her oeuvre. In 1932, Belperron left Boivin to work for Parisian stone dealer Bernard Herz, who embraced and encouraged her artistic freedom. World War II would tragically shake their partnership as the Nazis arrested Herz and sent him to a concentration camp, where he died. After the war, Belperron resumed the partnership with Herz’s son Jean under the name ‘Herz-Belperron’. The company flourished until Belperron retired in 1974, though she continued to design until her death in 1983.
Daringly modern and boldly different, her singular aesthetic gained the attention of fashion’s most influential leaders – Collette, Diana Vreeland, Daisy Fellowes and Elsa Schiaparelli. Often referred to as the JAR of her day, Belperron gave no interviews and refused to sign her one-of-a-kind pieces, famously stating ‘my style is my signature.’ Her clientele resembled a chic ‘underground’ troupe of tastemakers at the forefront of fashion, small in number as she only saw clients by appointment and by referral. For years after her death, the name Belperron existed almost exclusively amongst the most in-the-know collectors and dealers in the business. It was not until the watershed sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels that her name and work gained a more global audience.
Her artistry knew no limits, unconstrained from the trends and fashions during her lifetime. She established her own style, one that brilliantly transcends time with its avant-garde modernity. She dared to pair precious stones with humbler materials, unflinchingly setting a diamond in a ‘tourbillon’ of chalcedony. More modest stones also curried favor in her designs, chosen for their look instead of their value. Hazy blue sapphires sleepily shimmer in a pair of ‘Branche’ brooches while a pearl perfectly perched atop a ring made entirely of smoky quartz. She challenged convention and broke away from the classical ideas of jewelry, a mantra with a lasting impact that can be seen in jewelry today.
Amidst the widening demand for her work, the brilliance of Belperron breaths new life in the 21st century under the careful stewardship of Ward and Nico Landrigan. Much like the successful re-launch of 20th century society favorite Verdura, the Landrigans have applied the same passion and vigilance with the new Belperron.
After acquiring the archives and exclusive rights to reproduce her designs in 1999, Ward Landrigan, owner of Verdura, along with his son Nico, president of the new Belperron, have spent nearly a quarter century acquiring unique original pieces and objets. What’s more, they have tirelessly worked to not only select new designs to recreate from an archive of more than 9,200 gouache paintings, many of which were never created in her lifetime, but finding the right workshops to produce them as well. Naturally, the search brought them to Paris where some of city’s oldest workshops are dutifully making the new collection, one of which has a direct family line to Belperron’s original master craftsmen.
The new Belperron, unveiled last month with 50 new pieces alongside 50 vintage jewels, also has a new home. Designed by noted architect Daniel Romualdez, the salon – which is adjacent to Verdura – transports guests to a Parisian apartment circa 1932, around the same time as Belperron’s success began to rise. To cap off the launch, a new book Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron will be released on December 15 of this year.