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Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Belperron Jewelry Revival Begins

Vintage Bamboo Necklace with Detachable Brooches in diamonds, platinum and gold

Suzanne Belperron (1900 – 1983) is considered by many to be one of the most influential jewelry designers of the 20th Century. Her complex, sculptural pieces—personally created for royalty, world-class entertainers and other notable persons from the 1930s to the 1970s—are highly sought among collectors throughout the world, particularly at auction. 

Now for the first time since her retirement in the 1970s new pieces designed by the French artist are available for purchase. In addition, there’s a new showroom in New York to view and purchase both the new collection of posthumous pieces and vintage original items. 

Wai Gu Necklace in nephrite jade and gold

The father and son team of Ward and Nico Landrigan are behind this rebirth of the artist and her brand. It’s something they’ve done before. In 1985, Ward, the former head of Sotheby’s US jewelry department, purchased the remains of the Verdura brand, founded by its creative namesake, Fulco di Verdura (1898 -1978), and with his son returned it to its original glory.

The Landrigans unveiled the Belperron showroom on Thursday. The private space is adjacent to the Verdura showroom, connected by a sliding door. Both are on the 12th floor of an office building on 5th Avenue in New York. 

Inside the Belperron salon during its public unveiling. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco 

In a brief conversation with Ward Landrigan during the showroom opening, he said the formula is the same as with Verdura. Find an undervalued jewelry brand with an impeccable heritage and a famous namesake, acquire it for the right price, and recreate the jewels and heritage. It sounds easy enough but it requires (among other things) great negotiating skills, strict budgeting (particularly for a small business owner) and lots of patience.

After nine years of negotiations with several persons who were unsuccessful in their own attempt to revive the brand, the Landrigans acquired the rights of Belperron in 1999 (or 1998 depending on who you consult) and spent another 16 years bringing the rebirth of the brand to its fruition. As with Verdura, the purchase included artifacts as well as thousands of original drawings by Suzanne Belperron. 

Vintage Godrons Heart Brooch in chalcedony, sapphire and diamonds

With the drawings the Landrigans (as they did with Verdura) began recreating Belperron jewelry using artisans specialized in specific jewelry making techniques, including Parisian workshops with a direct family line to Belperron’s original master craftsmen. 

Over the years, the Landrigans also purchased as much Belperron jewelry as they could through the auction market and private sales to augment the new pieces.

Vintage Torsade Necklace in gold and diamonds

The artistic jewels of Suzanne Belperron reflect a number of different influences. She first became known for her Art deco creations of the 1930s but eventually broke away from the rigid geometric aesthetic and began making jewels with Egyptian, Asian, African and Oceania influences. She was inspired by nature and created shapes based on flora and fauna, on land and below the sea. She was known for her elaborate color combinations and for setting precious stones in semiprecious materials. She also preferred working with 22k gold, despite its softness, because of its color. 

“She was a sculptress, with a gift for divining beautiful shapes,” says Nico Landrigan, who serves as Belperron president. “Belperron had an uncanny sense of texture, color and scale; she understood when to hold a line through the most torturous spiral and when to break it with the rogue placement of an errant gemstone.”

Vintage Tonneau Brooch in chalcedony, diamonds and lacquer

Belperron designed pieces specifically for each individual and hand-delivered them upon their completion. 

She did all of her business by appointment in her private salon in Paris. This leads to the final stage of recreating the Belperron brand.

The Landrigans and their team built a space inspired by the interior of Belperron’s salon. 

Scroll Clasp Necklace with Detachable Vintage Brooch in emeralds an diamonds

This is the third time I’ve seen this space. The first time it was under construction site preparing for the exhibition, “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75” in June 2014. The second time I saw it was at the end of 2014 when the exhibition space was completed. 

Now it has been converted into four comfortable rooms that include a library and a drawing room that captures the aesthetic of a 1930s Parisian apartment. The space features black lacquered trim, sable-colored cases, marble fireplaces and chalcedony blue walls. Couches and fabric-lined chairs of various colors from white to purple are among the antique or antique-styled furnishings in the space. 

Coquillage Earclips in diamonds, platinum and lacquer

The salon’s design came from Belperron’s archive of original gouache paintings, tracings and other archival materials, says project architect, Daniel Romualdez. “I wanted to create an environment that spoke to the elegance and glamour of this spectacular Fifth Avenue location while still evoking the intimate and private world of Suzanne Belperron in Paris of the 1930s.”

The jewelry collection on display includes recreated pieces from the archival drawings and the vintage items purchased by the Landrigans. They are for sale. There also are privately owned Belperron pieces on display that are not for sale. 

Spire pendant Earrings in gold

Among the highlights I saw were the Vintage Bamboo Necklace in diamond, platinum, gold and silver. The two leafy ends of the bamboo necklaces are detachable and can be worn as brooches. A Vintage Tonneau Brooch has the smoky glass appearance of Chalcedony, which seems to be a favorite material for the artist, studded with round diamonds and edges of black enamel. 

Like several of the great jewelry designers of the 20th Century, Belperron found artistic uses for many materials. She was unafraid to use jade as shown by a bold gold necklace lined with rings of nephrite jade. The Wave collection of cuffs and stackable bracelets are as contemporary today as when they were when she first created the design. 

Vintage Roof Cuff in rock crystal, emerald and diamonds

There’s at least one significant way the Belperron brand differs from Verdura. When the Verdura brand was released the Landrigans made a decision to augment its vintage jewels and one-of-a-kind and limited edition recreations, with more affordable recreations. For the first Belperron collection the lowest priced piece item I saw was $13,500, with many pieces well into six figures.

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Cambodian Cuff in Smoky Quartz

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