Suzanne Belperron (1900–1983) was an influential 20th-century jewelry designer in Paris.
In March 1919, she was taken on as a modelist-designer by Jeanne Boivin, the widow of René Boivin.
From 1920, the collections of the Maison René Boivin featured many jewels inspired by the sketches of Suzanne Belperron. At the time, large curvaceous jewels went against the dominant Art Deco style, with its refined, geometric and structured jewels.
She became, at 23 years old, co-director of the Boivin jewelry house, making a name for herself with designs that set precious stones in semi-precious materials like chalcedony, rock crystal and smoky quartz.
In February 1932, frustrated that the original designs for Boivin’s creations were not attributed to her, Belperron resigned her position with Maison René Boivin.
In April 1932, she accepted the offer of Bernard Herz, a renowned Parisian dealer in pearls and precious stones, to take up a central position in his company, as “exclusive, unique and recognized designer creator”. He gave her the freedom to design her own models under the name of Herz.
During the1930s, the originality of Belperron’s works brought increasing international acclaim to the Maison Bernard Herz. Belperron’s fame grew, and she became a major figure in the artistic world, both in France and abroad. Almost every month, her creations appeared alongside those of jewellers such as Cartier, Boucheron or Van Cleef & Arpels in luxury fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. A close friend, Diana Vreeland , major figure in the history of twentieth-century fashion, adored Suzanne Belperron’s style. New York jeweller Paul Flato approached her in July 1939 to propose an artistic collaboration, declined by Suzanne Belperron.
As an unrivalled colourist, the essence of Belperron’s work was her ability to play with aesthetic influences from many sources and motifs inspired by nature. Suzanne Belperron is fascinated by the arts and the distant cultures Egypt, East (the Assyrian civilisation in particular), India Far East (China, Japan), Africa and Oceania. She found inspiration in nature’s flora and fauna, from creatures like starfish and insects to minutiae of a garden’s flower petals and leaves. Suzanne Belperron was also captivated by the underwater world, fascinated by the splendour of its shapes and the combinations of its colours.
Trained at the height of the Art Deco movement, Belperron softened its linear aesthetic, using materials and designs other jewelers hadn’t explored yet. She pioneered the technique of setting precious stones in semi precious materials. In addition to adapting these motifs in a unique way, she also opted for 22 karat gold, a softer karat level than commonly used, purely for its color.
Her jewelry was so original that she never signed her pieces, instead insisting my style is my signature. She was convinced that the originality of her jewelry made it easily identifiable and that there was therefore no need for it to be signed. It was a principle from which she never erred.
After the war, Belperron received her clientele exclusively by appointment in salons situated on the third floor of 59, rue de Châteaudun in Paris. She never felt the urge to set up a boutique, so convinced was she that her pieces of jewelry themselves were her best ambassadors. Her address was only ever given out discreetly, by word of mouth, to chosen clients who had been attracted by the originality of her works, thus ensuring her increasing renown both in France and all over the world.
Belperron always found out about her client’s lifestyle, and also studied the contours of her face, the complexion of her skin and the shape of her hands. Similarly, Belperron took care to take the finger, wrist or neck measurements precisely, as an haute couture dressmaker. If necessary she would also have several ‘fittings’ before delivering the ‘made-to-measure’ ring to her client, to insure that each creation would suit the customer perfectly.
Belperron’s clientele included most of Europe’s royalty and aristocrats as the dynasties of the Aga Khan, Rothschild, Duke of Windsor. Suzanne Belperron also attracted clients from the worlds of arts and showbusiness (actors, comedians, playwrights, dancers and singers) such as Colette, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Ganna Walska, Maria Felix, Arno Breker, Josephine Baker, Raoul Dufy, Daisy Fellowes, Jean Cocteau. From the world of fashion, the names include notably her friends Elsa Schiaparelli, Diana Vreeland, Nina Ricci, Christian Dior and Jeanne Lanvin.