While you might not recognize this designer’s name immediately, you’ll recognize who he most notably worked for. French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger is known for his legacy of fine jewels and his work with Tiffany & Co. In fact, you might recognize some of his works, but you never realized who the genius was behind them.
Here’s everything you need to know about this groundbreaking designer who helped define not only one of the world’s most iconic jewelry brands, but also the 20th century of jewelry design.
Jean Schlumberger was born in 1907 in what is now part of France, but was at that time an enclave in Germany. Originally shipped off to Berlin to follow a financial career, Schlumberger decided against his parents’ wishes and moved to Pari instead, where he made flower brooches by hand. While Schlumberger had been born into a textile family, he knew very little about jewelry fashion, and so he made his first pieces out of porcelain, based primarily on his own intuition and artistic style. In his early days, he would search out various pieces and materials to incorporate into his works at flea markets.
Soon, an Italian fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, came across his work, and commissioned his designs for both buttons and costume jewelry. Following service in World War II, Schlumberger moved to New York City to design clothing, before opening his own jewelry salon. A decade later, Tiffany & Co. would scoop him up.
Working at Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co. influenced Jean Schlumberger, but Schlumberger also heavily influenced Tiffany & Co., being hired immediately as the brand’s vice president. He was given a specially designed studio and salon, and was given unlimited access to whatever materials he needed to create his eye-catching works of art.
Schlumberger quickly gained a following and fame as an artist and trailblazer. He attracted a substantial client list, including quite a few famous names, both celebrities and royalty. Some of his most famous clients included Greta Garbo, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, the Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Kennedy. In fact, Jacqueline Kennedy wore Schlumberger’s work so often, that some of his bracelets were simply nicknamed “the Jackie bracelets.”
One of Schlumberger’s most iconic pieces, however, is the Bird on a Rock brooch. The initial design featured a larger-than-life topaz stone, topped with a tiny-in-comparison diamond bird. Following designs featured other rocks, such as lapis lazuli, tourmaline, morganite and aquamarine. The birds always feature pink sapphire eyes. Known as both quirky and amusing, the brooches became favorites with Schlumberger’s celebrity clientele. Now, the very first, original brooch can be seen on museum tours, as well as on display at the Tiffany & Co. New York City flagship store. Brooches are available in this signature style from Tiffany & Co. still, priced on request.
Schlumberger also made waves when he mounted the Tiffany Diamond — a 128.54-carat fancy yellow diamond — in one of his jewelry designs, the Ribbon Rosette necklace. Later, he’d take that same diamond and reset it in one of the Bird on a Rock brooches.
Other notable designs include the Two Fruit clip that was worn by Jacqueline Kennedy. Now, that two fruit clip in ruby is housed within the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. There’s also the gold, diamond, sapphire and emerald dolphin brooch design; one of these brooches sold for more than $1.2 million in 2001, as part of the Elizabeth Taylor collection. Fewer than 10 of the brooches are still in existence.
Schlumberger has received a wealth of notable honors for his work, including the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award (he was the first-ever jewelry designer to receive the honor) and the Un Diamant dans la Ville tribute from the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, which was given posthumously, marking Schlumberger as only the third jewelry designer in history to receive it. Another honor? Schlumberger is one of only four designers who has been allowed to sign their jewelry produced under the Tiffany flag; the other three designers to do so include Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti and Frank Gehry.
While Schlumberger passed away some time ago, Tiffany & Co. continues to produce some of his designs. You can browse a range of Schlumberger pieces on the brand’s website. There, you can find more than 60 versions of Schlumberger’s rings, brooches, earrings, bracelets and more. However, you won’t find some of Schlumberger’s iconic nature-inspired pieces, featuring the flora and fauna that he was so known for during his heyday. (As can be expected, Schlumberger found a wide array of inspiration in nature, and was known for traveling to tropical locales in the Caribbean and Asia, which makes sense given the parrots, dolphins and other sea life depicted in his pieces.)
Beyond Tiffany & Co., you can find Schlumberger designs via jewelry retailers such as La Maison Yamron. For example, here is one of Yamron’s Schlumberger diamond rings, sporting the Schlumberger signature on the interior of the band.
If you’re looking for a more valuable vintage Schlumberger piece, you want to look for an earlier piece, one that Schlumberger helped make or oversaw — so at least something that dates back earlier than the 1980s. You can often find these pieces available at auction. Christie’s has sold a variety of Schlumberger pieces, such as citrine Bird on a Rock brooch for $25,000, as well as some of Schlumberger’s more playful brooches from his earlier days, such as a multi-gem and diamond hippocampe brooch, which sold for $52,500, and an enamel and multi-gem parrot brooch, which sold for $20,000.
And always keep your eye out for “new-vintage” Schlumbmerger pieces. Tiffany & Co. released a never-before-seen Schlumberger necklace just in late 2021. The piece is a fish tail necklace made from the designer’s archival sketches for the very first time. The necklace features a red enamel and diamond fish, aside strands of tanzanite and beads. The piece is part of Tiffany & Co.’s Blue Book collection and is only available to select clientele.
Want to Add a Schlumberger Piece to Your Collection?
While you could easily purchase a modern Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger piece for your collection, if you do want an older, original piece, you’ll likely need a little help. That’s where the experts at Yamron come in.
Our team of expert jewelers and gemologists know the histories and collections of the world’s most prolific and famed designers — and how you can still find their pieces today. While many beginning jewelry collectors aren’t sure where to start shopping for one of these antique pieces, a knowledgeable jeweler has the connections and insider access to the jewelry industry that you need to help you snag pieces when, or even before, they go to auction.
Want to know more? Get in touch. Visit the Yamron team in Naples, Florida, or give us a call, at 239 592 7707. We can also be reached via email, at [email protected]
Jean Schlumberger (Jewelry Designer) (Wikipedia)
Jean Schlumberger: ‘A trailblazer in the world of fine jewels’ (Christie’s)
About Jean Schlumberger (Tiffany & Co.)
The Delightful, Feather-Ruffling Story Behind Jean Schlumberger’s Iconic Tiffany & Co. Brooch (Paper City)
Jean Michel Schlumberger: One Of Tiffany & Co.’s Most Successful Independent Designers (Wilson’s Estate Jewelry)
The Amazing Jean Schlumberger (The Back Vault)
Tiffany & Co. Reveals a Never-Before-Seen Schlumberger Necklace (Town & Country)