One of the star jewels shown to journalists at the press lunch in Hong Kong in March was a spectacular cuff bangle by the French designer, Suzanne Belperron, whose name has become a buzz word in the world of “vintage” jewelry. The bangle, made around 1936 in platinum, diamonds, and caliber-cut sapphires centered on a large single stone diamond, was lent by GemGeneve exhibitor Pat Saling, a New York based dealer in antique and 20thcentury jewelry.
The bangle is a superb example of Belperron’s inimitable style – she used to say “my style is my signature”. Designed as a loop or twisting spiral, a Belperron signature, it shows the designer’s effortless blend of powerful graphic lines and curvaceous sensuality that so captured the bold strong femininity of the 1930s and 40s. It shows the new volumes that Belperron introduced to Art Deco design and exudes an understated glamour that strikes a chord today. Perhaps most of all it is an exceptional showpiece of Belperron’s sense of timeless, enduring modernity. The bangle looks as dynamically contemporary and relevant today as it did when it was first created.
Pat Saling spent 20 years working alongside the late and legendary Fred Leighton in New York. Today, she acknowledges how much she learned from him about antique and period jewelry ranging from 19thcentury to the 1950s. She says, “I had the privilege of working with him and now I have the luxury of his vast repertoire of jewels running through my head. Murray (his real name) had a vision for antique jewelry and he put Art Deco jewelry on the map.”
Pat’s “personal love,” she says, is the jewelry of Suzanne Belperron. She first discovered Belperron’s work in 1981, long before the current surge of popularity and at time when Belperron was virtually forgotten and almost unknown. She began selling Belperron pieces to a handful of collectors and over some 35 years she has watched as this avant-garde, audacious French designer has become a cult figure in 20th century jewelry history. Her pieces are madly sought after by jewel connoisseurs. “Belperron was not a typical jeweler, not a trend-follower. She was more of a jewelry sculptor. She designed jewels to fit and suit women, perfectly attuned to a woman’s body”.
She adds that the jewels are always meticulously made and supremely comfortable to wear. She loves Belperron’s adventurous use of lapidary work, the carved agate and quartz bangles, the chalcedony meads and brooches designed as carved stylized leaves, and the sheen she was able to bring to these jewels. Belperron’s jewels were worn by great mid-century women of style such as Daisy Fellows, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, and the Duchess of Windsor. Pat Saling says, “these were not jewels for shrinking violets. They were, and are still today, bold sensual masterpieces of contemporary design.”