Suzanne Belperron has been an inspiration for my jewelry designing. I was immediately struck by her style working with large and colorful gems–which is exactly what I love to design with. Her combination of stones, although large, are sophisticated and classic. When I’m in Paris I always visit Lydia Courteille’s boutique at 231 rue Saint-Honore to see Belperron’s jewelry. Lydia has one of the largest collections of Belperron jewels in the world. I immediately recognized the collection while window shopping years ago because, Belperron was correct– she did not have to sign her jewelry –her style is recognizable.
Geneva jewelry auctions next month will spotlight mid-20th-century French celebrity designer Suzanne Belperron and contemporary Brazilian collector and philanthropist Lily Safra.
On May 14, Sotheby’s will offer Belperron’s personal collection with some 60 lots, including her hammered 22-karat-gold, yin-and-yang engagement ring from 1923, adorned with an old-mine diamond, which is estimated at 11,000 Swiss francs-17,000 francs (€9,152-€14,144).
From the 1930s to the 1970s, her jewels were favorites of tycoons, film stars, fashion designers and aristocrats, worn by the likes of the trendsetting Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin, Merle Oberon and Daisy Fellowes.
Belperron didn’t sign her pieces, saying that her style was her signature; nor did she open a shop, working only by appointment from her Parisian apartment. By the late 20th century, the designer was admired by insiders but for the general collecting public, she was in the shadows.
Belperron boldly created revolutionary pieces with innovative materials, forms and colors, combining semiprecious materials, such as rock crystal, smoky quartz, chalcedony and agates, with precious stones. At the same time, her jewels are “very wearable, very discreet,” says Sotheby’s senior international specialist Daniela Mascetti, author of a number of well-known books on jewelry.
In 2007, Belperron’s archives and personal jewelry box were discovered. The archives list 6,729 clients and around 45,000 appointments, offering major insights into her contribution to the history of jewelry and the possible location of the pieces. “Now, in the last five to six years, her jewels are sought after,” Ms. Mascetti notes.
Colorful items include a gem-set bangle from circa 1955, with suspending charms of coral, agate, turquoise and nephrite (estimate: 9,000 francs-14,000 francs); and a brooch from 1955-70 shaped as a horn of plenty, with sapphires and diamonds and a hanging emerald reminiscent of rich harvests (estimate: 18,000 francs-27,000 francs).
Among her flower pieces will be a striking sapphire-and-diamond brooch from circa 1945 valued at 45,000 francs-72,000 francs. There will also be an unusually shaped ring of clustered, aubergine-tinted pearls highlighted by diamonds from circa 1935 (estimate: 27,000 francs-36,000 francs).
On May 14, Christie’s will offer 70 pieces from the famed jewelry collection of Lily Safra. The sale, called “Jewels for Hope,” is expected to raise more than €15 million, which will be donated to 20 charities, including ones supporting children’s health care, Alzheimer’s disease and the fight against AIDS.
Ms. Safra collected jewels along with her husband, the late international banker Edmond Safra. “Rarely have I seen such a varied, yet absolutely perfect selection of jewels and gems, covering 250 years of design and manufacturing at its best,” writes Christie’s international jewelry expert and auctioneer François Curiel in the catalog introduction. “They carry a sense of timelessness, transcending fashion and trends.”
An absolute highlight will be jewels made by JAR, the Paris-based designer who has reached such cult status that his works tend to be kept by their owners and only come to auction sparingly. In the sale will be 18 pieces created especially for Mrs. Safra. They include the one pictured on the Safra sale catalog cover: a flower brooch made with densely packed, blood-red rubies estimated at 1.1 million francs-1.4 million francs. My favorite JAR creation is a tourmaline-and-diamond poppy broach from 1982 in which a flower blooms and a bud prepares to open (estimate: 460,000 francs-650,000 francs).
Along with works by Bulgari, Cartier, Boucheron and Van Cleef & Arpels, the Safra jewels also include a diamond, sapphire and platinum bracelet, shaped as a scalloped swirl by Belperron (estimate 74,000 francs-110,000 francs).
Write to Margaret Studer at email@example.com