June 13, 2023—Jean Schlumberger had an affinity for the sea. Some of the most memorable jewels by the French designer who joined Tiffany & Co. in 1956 were sea creatures he conceived at his beachside vacation home in Bisdary on Guadeloupe or discovered in one of the inspirational illustrated volumes in his library.
Schlumberger’s creatures weren’t, however, just realistic renditions of animals from the ocean. They were filtered through the designer’s lens of influences that included a touch of surrealism he picked up during the early days of his career when he worked as a byline jewelry designer for Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris.
The spirit of the Renaissance lived boldly in Schlumberger’s sea creatures. He worked with a full artist’s palette of colorful gems and enamels. And he transformed precious metals into sculptural elements making gold rise up and off the surface of a platinum foundation. By comparison to Schlumberger’s work other fine jewelry is flat.
During the mid-20th century many high-profile American clients of Jean Schlumberger—who lovingly called him “Johnny”—had various sea creatures in their collections. During the 1960s, Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor a Dolphin brooch which has nothing to do with the bottle nosed creature from the sea. It’s an homage to decorative Renaissance fantasy fish.
Schlumberger made his dear friend Bunny Mellon a Méduse Brooch after she was stung by a jellyfish while swimming at the Mill Reef Club in Antiqua in 1967 as a surprise to help ease her pain. Mellon absolutely loved the masterwork when she saw it about six months after the accident.
The jellyfish is one of several Schlumberger jewels Nathalie Verdeille, Tiffany & Co. Chief Artistic Officer of Jewelry and High Jewelry, riffed on for her debut Blue Book collection of High Jewelry titled Out of the Blue. “In Jean Schlumberger’s imagination and design philosophy, the sea represented an unknown, infinite world,” Nathalie explained. “He choreographed unparalleled manifestations of its majesty and mystery.”
In the case of the jellyfish, Nathalie transformed the creature into a pair of earrings, an oversized pendant and a brooch with a new sense of scale and proportion. On the larger pieces she tucked in the rim of the bell to give it a snatched waistline and added more movement to the curls of the tentacles and oral arms.
While Nathalie kept the moonstones and sapphires in the design, she also added tanzanites for a new layer of color.
Natalie reimagined one of Schlumberger’s stunning little fish into a big kahuna. The oversized brooch, which can be seen on a model here, has eight perfectly match rare unenhanced padparadscha sapphires weighing over 12 carats decorating its back.
The elegant curves of the diamond body and fins make the fish appear to gently be swimming along in the sea. Suddenly, I don’t know if there is a better mood to set for a piece of High Jewelry.
The seven categories in the Out of the Blue collection are Shell, Coral, Jellyfish, Pisces, Starfish, Sea Star and Star Urchin. Each has its own sense of daring in the design, but the Star Urchin stands out as particularly bold.
An extraordinary Star Urchin choker of hand carved chalcedony and tanzanite set editors into an old fashioned race for an exclusive and have surely become one of the most coveted items among Tiffany’s Blue Book clients.
Another stunner in the Star Urchin category is an over 3-carat Fancy Intense Purplish Pink diamond ring. The gem is surrounded by gold and diamond encrusted spines. It’s an incredibly gutsy and glorious way to set such a rare and valuable stone.
During Schlumberger’s glory days in the 20th century his creations were worn by the chicest women in the world, because they matched the mood of the era and synced up with the fashions to perfection. Out of the Blue has the same type of spirit. Unlike so many High Jewelry collections which seem to exist in a Never-Neverland, its easy to see how these designs could be worn out and about.
Perhaps no piece falls into the wearability idea more easily than the diamond shell pendant necklace. Just yesterday, Tiffany released an image of the jewel on its new ambassador Rosie Huntington Whiteley. The idea that great pieces can be worn with a gown or a t-shirt and jeans often feels hackneyed and untrue. Well, the photo of Rosie at top has me dreaming of the jewel and being able to toss it on. It’s clearly a touch formal for an afternoon coffee meetup, but it would certainly light up a summer cocktail party, wedding and even a slightly fancy luncheon.
“These creations have a distinct Schlumberger quality and personality to them, but the designs are all new,” explained Anthony Ledru, Chief Executive Officer, Tiffany & Co. “We are certain that he would have been as pleased with each masterpiece as we are.” There is no doubt the designer’s spirit has been captured and modernized in the collection.