All text, and images © 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Suzanne Belperron, the Genuine Article

Updated February 14, 2016 

Suzanne Belperron Platinum and diamond bracelet for Bernard Herz 1936

Vogue 1936, mannequin with the above 
  bracelet by Suzanne Belperron
Suzanne Vuillerme later Belperron (1900-1983), was born in Eastern France.

She was intrepid, courageous,  and extraordinarily talented.  Suzanne Belperron was one of the most innovative and original jewelry designers of the 20th century.

As a young woman She left home to study art at the École des Beaux-Arts in Besançon. She was hired  by Jeanne Boivin head of the firm founded by her husband Rene Boivin who died in 1917. The  Boivin firm was well established,  they were known for their bold designs. Suzanne Vuillerme married civil engineer Jean Belperron in 1924.
Gold and diamond brooch by Boivin after a design by Suzanne Belperron
Belperron distinguished herself at Boivin. In 1932 left Boivin to work with a Bernard Herz.

Dress design Madame Gres

Suzanne Belperron was a beautiful  stylish woman with a tremendous eye for style and design.
I can  imagine her wearing the creation of Madame Gres during the 1930's-1940's
with her wonderful jewelry

Ring, yellow gold, fancy colored diamonds.

She literally pushed the boundaries, in this bracelet the stones are hanging over the edges.
She was masterful in her use of multiple stone setting technics.

 In this brooch she used, pave set diamonds in patinum  and yellow gold  bezel set rubies.
the patterns and surface textures are dynamic

Yellow gold bezels and pave set rubies with yellow diamonds.

Bracelet, yellow gold, sapphire beads, sapphires, and diamonds.
By Susanne Belperron circa 1940

Suzanne Belperron wears a Clip brooch at the decollete, with one of her signature rock crystal rings.

Clip brooch, rose Quarts enamel, and yellow diamonds.

Clip brooch rock crystal enamel and diamonds

Photogragh by Hoyningen-Huene 1934
 Jewelry by Belperron for Herz

The Dark history of the war years in France.

Suzanne Belperron was a much sought after European jewelry designer. She  was a jeweler's jeweler. In 1939 she received numerous letters with job offers urging her to leave Europe.  She wanted to stay with her husband who was working in occupied France.

Bernard Herz was an important pearl dealer in Paris. Herz was also Jewish, like so many of the French Jews he was deported. Madame Belperron secured Benard Herz's release once, but failed a second time. Bernard Herz was sent to a camp. Many Jewish families and merchants were in fact turned in to the Nazis by the French.

Heroically In 1941 Suzanne Belperron set up a holding company under her name to protect the remaining assets of the Herz family,  for Bernard and his son Jean.  Herz's buisness had been declared a Jewish enterprise; as such like many Jewish properties, the assets were subject to theft and unregulated sales which benefited the Germans and the French collaborators.
Sadly Bernard Herz died in 1943.  His son Jean survived the war. He returned to Paris and in 1946.  The firm of Herz-Belperron was born.

Suzanne Belperron's use of carved hardstones, like rock crystal, smoky quartz, rose quartz, and chalcedony was unique. She made hardstone sensual and soft,  by  playing with voluptuous shapes and surface finishes (matte or polished). She inlaid these evocative carvings with precious stones in innovative settings.

Ring rock crystal, diamonds and cabochon emerald.

Ring designs by Madame Belperron.

Bracelet, carved smoky quartz, and cabochon sapphires.

Clip brooch, chalcedony, pearls, and diamonds by B. Herz 1933

 Chalcedony diamonds brooch and earrings B. Herz.

 Clip brooches rock crystal, enamel and diamonds

 Brooch, chalcedony, yellow gold, with calibre-cut  emeralds  and cabochon-cut emeralds.

A fantastic collection of Belperron  hardstone and gem-set flower brooches
These are the real thing!

Suzanne Belperrom did not sign her work nor did she have a poincon (French Hallmark) her pieces were signed by the ateliers that worked for her. Some are signed by B Herz, and Herz-Belperron.

in  French Vogue September 1935  mention is made of  Madame Belperron  a Chez Herz.
Pictured here is the wife of the artist Max Ernst, photographed By Horst.

Suzanne Belperron dress clips smoky quartz platinum and diamonds 1935

Madame Belperron  had many stellar clients amongst the taste and style makers, royalty, and celebrities of her day, like  Diana Vreeland, and Elsa Schiaparelli, and the Duchess of Windsor, to name just a few.
Diana and Reed Vreeland at El Morroco 1938.
Mrs. Vreeland is wearing her Belperron bracelet.
Photo by Jerome Zerbe from the Power of Style by Annett Tapert and Diana Edkins
Image of Mrs Vreeland's bracelet from
Bijoux Art Deco et Avant -Garde, Norma Editions 2009.

 Belperron yellow gold and pearl bracelet for the Duchess of Windsor

 The Duchess of Windsor's blue chalcedony, diamond, and sapphire set.

Brooch, amethysts, diamonds, and emerald briolettes
the briolettes are detachable.

Madame Belperron kept up with style, she was an admirer of Balenciaga.

In 1963 Suzanne Belperron was awarded the Legion d'honneur for her efforts with the french resistance, and her lifetime of artistic excellence. She retired in 1974.

Further reading:

Availeble  here

An illustrated biography of one of the most influential and important jewelry designers of the twentieth century.  When asked why she never signed her work, Suzanne Belperron replied, “My style is my signature.”


 Published in 2011
La Bibliotheque Des Arts


P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

How could she have "escaped" notice? Of course my knowledge of jewels is limited-but with Diana Vreeland wearing her-she should be raved over today, No? I love the Rings- rock crystal just superb, almost thoroughly Modern. The book looks fantastic-can not wait to get it in the spring. the pictures of course are gorgeous too Debra. PGT

Anonymous said...

Amazing designs. She was a true innovator. Looking forward to reading the book and seeing what will come out of the Landrigan enterprise.