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Sotheby's to offer the personal jewellery collection of one of the most important jewellers of the 20th century
Suzanne Belperron. © Archive Olivier Baroin.

GENEVA.- Sotheby's Geneva announced that it will offer – in its sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels on 14 May 2012 – the jewellery collection of one of the most important jewellery designers of the 20th century: Suzanne Belperron (1900‐1983). Comprising over 60 lots, this unprecedented sale features the most significant collection of jewels by Suzanne Belperron in private hands. The jeweller’s personal collection includes some of her most celebrated designs and very intimate items which illustrate her unique style and creative virtuosity, while also shedding light on her life.

Speaking of the sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Department in Europe and the Middle East and Co‐Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, said: “Suzanne Belperron is arguably the most talented and influential female jeweller of the 20th century and it is a huge honour to conduct this historic sale. We are certain that this important auction will contribute to further highlight the immense talent of this great artist and her important contribution to jewellery”.

One of the few female jewellery designers and makers of her time, Suzanne Belperron dedicated her life to the art of jewellery, starting her career at René Boivin in 1919. After having contributed to the success of the “Maison Boivin”, in 1932 through her association with Bernard Herz, she found the perfect framework within which to develop her unique style. Her daring creations remain today of an extraordinary modernity and continue to influence contemporary jewellers.

From the 1930s to the mid]1970s, Suzanne Belperron never stopped creating jewels. Her creations appeared in the most influential fashion magazines of the time, including Vogue and Harperfs Bazaar, and were featured by major photographers such as Cecil Beaton, George Hoyningen] Huene and Horst P. Horst. Her prestigious cosmopolitan clientele consisted of royal families, aristocrats, industrial tycoons, financial magnates, Hollywood stars, as well as members of the intellectual and artistic elite. It was not rare to see in Suzanne Belperronfs Parisian private salons at 59, rue Chateaudun, the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor, Colette, Jean Cocteau, Nina Ricci, Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli or Gary Cooper.

“My style is my signature”
Suzanne Belperron never signed her jewels, considering that their originality made them immediately identifiable. Similarly, she never opened a boutique, relying on the word‐of‐mouth of her prestigious clients and receiving them exclusively on appointment.

The pieces that Suzanne Belperron designed for herself are emblematic of her oeuvre. They reflect her many sources of inspiration and innovative approach to jewellery, which constitute the essence of her work. One of the most intimate jewels of her personal collection is perhaps her engagement ring. Created in 1923, this Yin and Yang ring in hammered 22‐carat gold is set with an old‐mine diamond offered for the occasion by her future husband, Jean Belperron. Testament to the artist’s early fascination for the African civilisation and craftsmanship, this ring in 22 carat yellow gold ‐ a warm and intense gold that she called “or vierge” (“virgin gold”) – was made through the technique of “martelage” (“hammering”). The design of this ring has inspired many other signature pieces in virgin gold by Suzanne Belperron during her career (est. $12,000‐18,000).

Suzanne Belperron introduced unprecedented combinations of stones and minerals in her designs, creating pieces with exceptional contrasts.

Her creations often combine diamonds and hardstones, as seen in a carved rock crystal ring inset with a large navette diamond (est. $50,000‐80,000) and an iconic brooch in similar materials and design of descending scrolls that she was often photographed wearing (est. $50,000‐80,000).

Suzanne Belperron was very fond of pearls, which she used in some of her finest pieces. In circa 1935, she designed a ring mounted in platinum and white gold, composed of multi‐coloured natural pearls, as well as old‐mine and baguette diamonds (est. $30,000‐40,000).

Other examples of Suzanne Belperron’s innovative aesthetic are to be found in a white agate Nuage (cloud) ring, set with two triangular diamonds (est. $20,000‐30,000) and a bracelet mounted in palladium and platinum set with old‐mine diamonds (est. $40,000‐60,000).

A Fleur brooch in yellow gold, set with a cushion‐shaped yellow sapphire surrounded by yellow diamonds of different shapes and colours shows her unique ability to play with the colours and shades of stones, while drawing inspiration from nature (est. $40,000‐50,000).

Some of her floral designs became extremely stylised, as exemplified by another Fleur brooch, mounted in gold and platinum and composed of a cut‐cornered sapphire and two oval cabochon sapphires, enhanced with diamonds (est. $50,000‐80,000). A photograph of the artist shows her wearing this brooch at the end of the 1960s.

Suzanne Belperron not only created jewels and accessories for the most elegant women of her time, she also designed pieces of jewellery for gentlemen. Her personal collection contains a selection of cufflinks in precious or semi‐precious cabochon stones most probably created for her husband, Jean Belperron. Examples include a pair made of square chrysoprase plaques studded with a small diamond in the middle and another featuring square cornelian plaques adorned with cabochon emeralds (est. $8,000‐12,000).

Suzanne Belperron’s private collection also includes jewels by other prestigious makers (including Fabergé and Cartier) and pieces of an intimate nature, giving a unique insight into her private life. Starting her career in the Paris of the “Golden Twenties”, Suzanne Belperron evolved among key figures of the avant‐garde movement and the intellectual elite of the time. Testament to her friendship to Jean Cocteau is an exquisite yellow gold document clip offered to Suzanne Belperron by the poet and reading in his facsimile handwriting “ne pleurez pas” (“don’t cry”) on one side and “je reviendrai” (“I will return”) on the other (est. $1,500‐2,000).

All the jewels in this collection are featured in the monograph Suzanne Belperron by Sylvie Raulet and Olivier Baroin (Antique Collectors' Club, 2011, 352 pages).

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