Born in Mulhouse, France, in 1907, Jean Schlumberger was constantly sketching as a child. He dreamed of becoming an artist one day, but his parents, who hoped he’d take over the family textile business, sent him to Berlin to practice banking instead. In his early 20s, he defiantly moved to Paris and opened a jewelry workshop on Rue La Boétie, where he handcrafted delicate floral brooches out of Meissen porcelain, antique cameos and decorative Victorian objects he found at the Marché aux Puces. His fantastical creations soon captured the attention of the fashion world. After spotting Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark in a pair of his earrings in 1937, the Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli commissioned him to design buttons shaped like fruits and insects.
Around 1947, Schlumberger relocated to New York and opened a boutique on East 63rd Street. Bunny Mellon, Babe Paley and Diana Vreeland became devoted collectors and, in 1956, Schlumberger was appointed vice president of Tiffany & Co. With access to a trove of exquisite gemstones, he was able to design some of his most memorable, otherworldly bijoux, many of which were inspired by his frequent trips to the Caribbean: clamshell pillboxes studded with garnets, 18-karat yellow-gold sea horse brooches and ruby-encrusted clips made to look like glistening sea slugs.
Now, Tiffany & Co. is revisiting a piece from Schlumberger’s archive: a star-shaped clip-on brooch from 1956 with spindly coral branches poking out from a diamond-pavéd ribbon intertwined at the center. This new iteration arrives with chandelier earrings, each with its own pair of oval imperial topaz stones, surrounded by spikes of hand-carved carnelians and strung together with strands of brilliant round-cut diamonds. “I want to capture the irregularity of the universe,” Schlumberger once said. Almost 70 years later, his vision still compels.
Photo assistant: Christopher Thomas Linn. Set designer’s assistant: Joseph McCagherty