Suzanne Belperron was an iconic Parisian jewelry designer who insisted “Mon style est ma signature.” Her jewelry embodies a sensual elegance as well as an intellectual fascination that appealed to a sophisticated clientele from socialites to stage and screen stars. Working until the 1960’s she never signed a piece believing that her work was so distinctive that the jewel itself was her signature. Her pieces can be identified by the marker’s mark of Darde et Groene, who produced her designs, additionally many of the pieces she made in partnership with Bernard Herz are signed “Herz-Belperson”. However, it takes a trained and discerning eye to identify her unsigned and unmarked creations, and since almost no archives remain. Her works are immensely rare on the market. A very private person, Belperron burned her personal papers and photographs, and, after years of obscurity, has only recently been rediscovered.
Suzanne Belperron was born in 1900 near the Swiss border and left her village at a young age to study at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. While there she became friends with Germaine Boivin, daughter of the late jewelry designer René Boivin whose pieces creative design style was carried on by his wife Jeanne. In 1923 Belperron joined the Boivin as a jewelry designer, enhancing the female partnership of the firm and reaffirming her beliefs gained from coming of age during the suffragette movement that women could achieve anything they set their minds to. She left in 1933 to join with prominent pearl merchant Bernard Herz, who offered Belperron total artistic license. Under Herz, Belperron achieved great success and gained an elite following.
Belperron’s customers were devoted to the undulating forms the unusual, large stones she incorporated into her jewels, and the personal attention they received; Belperron often designed jewels to suit the nature of a particular client. She was completely in tune with what was wanted
by a younger generation, mixing precious and semi precious stones within curvaceous and sensual designs, never producing a flat jewel. Her designs were highly imaginative and distinctive, drawing inspiration from nature and exotic world cultures. Fiercely independent and opinionated she insisted that her clients came in person to her small shop at Rue de Chateaudon.Elsa Schiapparelli, who appeared in a 1933 issue of Vogue wearing Belperron’s jewelry, was one of the designer’s many prominent clients along with Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, the Duchess of Windsor, and Colette.
An example of Belperron’s work can be seen in the necklace and pair of bangle bracelets commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for his wife. The necklace is composed of a double strand of chalcedony beads with a flower-form clasp. The five-petal flower is set with cabochon sapphires at the center from which emanate rays of diamonds reaching out to the carved chalcedony petals. The articulated construction gives freedom of movement to the petals that can be twisted individually, thus giving it the feeling of an actual flower. The coordinating bangle bracelets are formed as cuffs, each made up of two bands of carved blue chalcedony with a row of blue chalcedony boules surmounted with cabochon sapphires. The diamonds serve as sparkle points to the monochromatic design.
During World War II Bernard Herz was interned and Belperron was approached by Tiffany & Co. to design for the firm in America. Belperron was determined to remain in Paris and partnered with Herz’s son Jean to form a new firm called Herz-Belperron. The firm remained open and highly successful until Belperron retired in 1974. She continued to make occasional commissioned pieces as gifts. Her designs continue to be manufactured in Paris for sale at Verdura, but her original pieces still remain a rare delight.