One of the 20th century’s most gifted artists, Jean Schlumberger, created objects of unparalleled beauty during his tenure with Tiffany & Co. He was a man of refined taste—an artist who conceived spectacular jewelled statements with an incredible sense of dimension and life. Schlumberger was uninhibited in his conceptualizations of flora and fauna, at once representing and creating a unique fusion of natural forms to create his distinctive designs.
Early Life of Exploration
Born in 1907 into a prominent family of textile manufacturers in Alsace, France, Schlumberger demonstrated a talent for drawing from a young age. In his early 20s, he moved to Paris, where he could hone his creative impulses and love for the arts. He revelled in Paris’ vibrant and eccentric zeitgeist, drawn to the originality and novelty that saturated 1930s Parisian culture.
Paris Flea Market Beckoned
Creating new jewelry designs inspired by his discoveries gleaned from the legendary Paris Flea Market, Schlumberger soon opened an atelier on rue de la Boetie. In 1937, fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli enlisted Schlumberger to lead design for her buttons and costume jewelry collections.
It was while designing his fantasy buttons for Schiaparelli’s suits, legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland discovered him impressed by his creative vision.
Across the Atlantic Ocean
By the end of the 1940s, Schlumberger had become a success story in his own right and after serving in the French Army during World War II, Schlumberger moved on to the city of dreams – New York. It was in Manhattan in 1956 that the legendary partnership with Tiffany & Co. began. As the company’s new vice president, Schlumberger had access to vibrant rare coloured gemstones and diamonds and quickly created some of Tiffany’s most iconic designs, including the Bird on a Rock clip.
One of his first grandiose and artistic moves was to mount the famous Tiffany Diamond on a high jewelry design. Tiffany entrusted the young designer with setting the 128.54-carat Fancy Yellow diamond—the largest and finest yellow diamond in the world then—a bold move that solidified Schlumberger’s artistic role at Tiffany & Co.
Later the same year, Schlumberger unveiled a rather unusual creation for Tiffany & Co. Famed for his naturalistic designs; the brooch had a small-eyed, crested bird in 18-karat gold and platinum. The bird was set with brilliant-cut diamonds and a pink-sapphire eye atop an impressive topaz. In the limited editions that have followed, Bird on a Rock has proven itself by being continuously in demand, and the whimsical bird has been set on an array of stones including tourmaline, morganite, and aquamarine.
Evolution Brings Bird on a Pearl
Earlier this year, Tiffany & Co. unveiled Bird on a Pearl, an exclusive high jewelry capsule collection that reimagines the iconic Bird on a Rock brooch with the world’s rarest saltwater pearls. The collection was unveiled at a brand event in Doha, Qatar. All the pearls in the collection were sourced in the Gulf region and purchased from the personal collection of Hussain Al Fardan — a Qatari business magnate who grew up in the pearl trade.
The worlds of art and fashion have celebrated Schlumberger’s brilliant career with numerous honours and awards, and he amassed an impressive client roster, including royal families and international socialites.
An Enduring Legacy
Jean Schlumberger died in France in 1987 at 80, leaving a legacy that will persist as an ode to his brilliance. Almost 70 years after starting at Tiffany & Co., style arbiters, tastemakers and celebrities like Jay-Z and Michael B. Jordan continue to revere his high jewelry designs—both on and off the red carpet.
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- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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