The renaissance of Suzanne Belperron : an interview with Olivier Baroin

This article is a translation by Claudine Seroussi of : Suzanne Belperron, histoire d’une consécration. Entretien avec Olivier Baroin 

« Suzanne Belperron is the most talented and influential jewelry designer of the twentieth century, » said David Bennett, now Global President of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division, when he opened the auction on May 14, 2012 in Geneva of « the personal collection of one of the greatest jewelers of the 20thcentury: Suzanne Belperron (1900-1983) ».

The sale was comprised of 60 lots, all of which sold, for the most part, at exceptional prices – on average three times their estimate.

‘Jewels from the Personal Collection of Suzanne Belperron’. Sotheby’s. Lot 59. A carved rock crystal, white gold and platinum brooch of scrolling design set with diamonds, Suzanne Belperron, 1932-1955. Makers mark for Groëné et Darde. Estimate: 45,000 – 72,000 CHF (37,537 – 60,060 EUR). Hammer price: 302,500 CHF (252,355 EUR). An iconic piece of innovative and avant-garde design that the designer loved to wear. It sold for four times the high estimate.
Jewels from the Personal Collection of Suzanne Belperron. Sotheby’s. Lot 60. A rock crystal and diamond ring, circa 1935. This ring is set with a 12-carat marquise-cut diamond and is without maker’s mark. With an estimate of 45,000 – 72,000 CHF, it sold for 464,5000 CHF (506,000 USD), more than 6 times the high estimate. It was the most expensive piece in the sale. It was acquired by the renowned gallerist Siegelson, who presented it at that autumn at the 2012 Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris with a price tag of 921,500 USD. The journey of this ring is a testament to its aesthetic value and iconic Belperron design.

At the December 5, 2018, Christie’s ‘Magnificent Jewels’, sale in New York, a platinum and gray gold “Tube” bracelet set with old-cut diamonds, designed by Suzanne Belperron in 1935 as confirmed in her personal archives, appeared at auction. It had an estimate of 200,000 – 300,000 USD and was sold for 852,500 USD. Today, Suzanne Belperron is ranked amongst the greatest names in jewelry: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Chaumet… and collectors of her work push the prices for her pieces ever higher to record levels.

Christie’s Head of Jewellery in the Americas Daphne Lingon explains, « iIf you think of when these pieces were made in the 1930s and ’40s, they transcend the time period in which they were created, revealing a confident, bold and brave visionary. » And she adds : “It has been a true honor to have been a part of this journey with this masterpiece by Suzanne Belperron, from researching and identifying the bracelet, to the excitement surrounding the sale. All of this culminating with a new world auction record for a Belperron jewel and we are delighted with this stellar result.”
A Jean Herz-Suzanne Belperron advert that appeared in French Vogue in February 1948. It is one of the first advertisements published after the establishment of Suzanne Belperron and Jean Herz company in the post war years, and which mentions the name of the designer.
Suzanne Belperron personal archives. Advertisement in Vogue in 1948, original page personally countersigned dating the illustrated bracelet from 1935. On the right side of the page, the certificate of this bracelet expertised by Olivier Baroin.

This crowning glory is the fruit of a very long journey.

Recognized, admired and highly sought after during her lifetime, Belperron’s name briefly fell into oblivion following her death. Her name reappeared in two major sales in the following years.

  • ‘The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor’, Sotheby’s Geneva 2 – 3 April 1987, featured 16 pieces by Belperron.
The Duchess of Windsor wearing her necklace of two rows of blue chalcedony beads, with a clasp of two blue chalcedony leaves set with diamonds and cabochon sapphires. Later the Duchess transformed the necklace by replacing the two leaves with a blue chalcedony flowerhead clasp (transformable into a brooch), the center of which is set with diamonds and cabochon sapphires. A pair of blue chalcedony cuffs completed the set. Photo: Archives Olivier Baroin.
Original design for the Duchess of Windsor’s blue chalcedony parure. Archives Olivier Baroin.
At the 1987 Sotheby’s sale, the necklace (lot 123) was sold for 183,000 USD and the pair of cuffs (lot 124), sold for 146,000 USD. Seventeen years later, the necklace and cuffs appeared in the Christie’s ‘Magnificent Jewels and Jewels of Style, Personal Collection” sale in New York on October 12, 2004. The sale prices were lower than those in 1987, with the necklace achieving a price of 119,500 USD and the cuffs 117,110 USD. The set appeared at auction a third time at Sotheby’s on the 9thDecember 2015, by which time the demand for Belperron had increased. The necklace, lot 459, sold for 430,000 USD and the cuffs, lot 458, sold for 526,000 USD. It is interesting to note that in 2015 the cuffs were estimated – and then achieved – a higher price than the necklace, which is probably more a reflection of the changing taste and fashion. The successive owners of these jewels were the Duchess of Windsor, Fred Leighton and Lee Siegelson. Today the necklace is in a private collection. Photo: Sotheby’s, 2015.
The Duchess of Windsor wearing her blue chalcedony flower clip, set with diamonds and cabochon sapphires. Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1937, Sotheby’s. Olivier Baroin book p 278
  • The May 17, 2004 sale held by Pierre Bergé & Associés in Geneva which featured 62 lots entitled ‘Créations de Suzanne Belperron’.
‘Créations de Suzanne Belperron’. PB&A, Geneva May 17, 2004. Lot 226. Fan-shaped blue agate clip, set with calibré-cut sapphires and featuring a cabochon sapphire (which was chipped), mounted in gold and platinum. Makers mark for Groëné et Darde.
‘Créations de Suzanne Belperron’. PB&A, Geneva May 17, 2004. Lot 279. Cuff with a detachable clip in the form of an ammonite, set with brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds. Makers mark for Groëné et Darde.

However, it was the discovery of Belperron’s personal archives by Olivier Baroin in December 2007, followed by the publication of Baroin’s book ‘Suzanne Belperron’, co-written with Sylvie Raulet and published in 2011, that saw the return of Belperron’s name and work to the limelight. In recent years, auction houses have presented works by Belperron at auction with great fanfare, emphasizing the unique style, and artist’s soul, of this grande dame of 20thcentury jewelry.

If the life of Suzanne Belperron was a passionate one, then so too is her legacy. From the incredible discovery of her personal archives, which had been thought to have been burned, to the tensions surrounding the reattribution of her work, the transatlantic disputes over the succession of her legacy, the name of Suzanne Belperron is in no danger of being forgotten for a second time.

Olivier Baroin, expert on the work of Suzanne Belperron, is here to explain to us how this artist, who was celebrated in her lifetime yet slipped into obscurity following her death, has become lionized in the salerooms.

[section_title title= »Beginnings, life and legacy of a singular style »]

Suzanne Belperron: chapters of a life

Madeleine Suzanne Vuillerme was born in the Jura on the 26thof September 1900. At 18 she won the first prize at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Besançon, and soon after moved to Paris. In March 1919 she was hired as a modelist-designer by Jeanne Boivin, the widow of René Boivin who ran the eponymous house.

Five years later, she was promoted to co-director of Boivin. The same year she married Jean Belperron (1898-1970), an engineer from Besançon, whose name she took. The couple did not have any children.

Aguttes, June 2017. Lot 81. ‘Yin and Yang’ ring in yellow gold. The certificate of authenticity attests that this ring was designed by Suzanne Belperron and was ordered in November 1964. In the archives this ring is described by Suzanne Belperron as “Ring in fine gold cross-over like mine”. Designed in 1923, this ring design is the very one the talented Suzanne Belperron – then still Vuillerme – had designed for her own engagement to Jean Belperron. Estimate: 7,000  – 10,000 EUR. Hammer price: (including fees): 43,350 EUR.

In 1932, Suzanne left Maison Boivin to join Bernard Herz, a great dealer in fine pearls and precious stones, as artistic and technical director at Société Bernard Herz until 1940.

Vogue Paris, September 1933. Courtesy of Claudine Seroussi.

At the beginning of the Second World War, shortly before the anti-Semitic Vichy laws, and at the request of Bernard Herz, Belperron purchased the company and created Suzanne Belperron SARL (1941-1945). In 1943, Bernard Herz was deported to Germany, never to return.

In 1946, Jean Herz, The son of Bernard Herz, returned from the war. Belperron offered – in memory of his father Bernard, for whom she held deep affection – the joint ownership of a company incorporated in equal parts, to be called « Jean Herz Suzanne Belperron ». Belperron assumed the artistic and financial direction of the company until its liquidation on December 31, 1974.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, Suzanne Belperron continuously designed and created, and never once showing any desire to work for another house. She achieved great fame in here lifetime, both in France and abroad. In 1963 she was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1963 for her services as a « jewelry designer ».

Personal papers of the Suzanne Belperron. Archives Olivier Baroin

After her retirement, she continued to create pieces just for relatives and close friends. She died in Paris on March 28, 1983. She was eighty-two years old.

Observations on the Belperron style

Her creations reflect a very personal style, a ‘signature’, even though the designer never signed any of her pieces. « My style is my signature, » she said in a famous quote.

Silver brooch, white agate and gray mabe pearls in the form of a stylized bunch of grapes. It formed part of a set that included earrings and a ring. The design is emblematic of the designer’s work. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Private collection. Sotheby’s. Olivier Baroin Book p.252.

Belperron jewelry is often characterized by the bold choice, for its time, to marry precious stones or fine pearls with fine or ornamental stones. Belperron did not hesitate to set sapphires with chalcedony, diamonds in rock crystal, or silver with hematite, or an amethyst with chrysoprase.

Aguttes. October 2018. A modernist signet ring. Lot 82 Estimate: 8,000 – 10,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 75 000 EUR. An important modernist silver (<800) signet ring set with a step-cut amethyst, with all four sides of the body of the ring set with rectangular chrysoprase cabochons. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Created by Suzanne Belperron between 1933 and 1937. « This ring is a piece never seen before. The maker’s mark dates from the very first period, rings of this era are rare on the market. The raw material is not the most precious, but the creativity for the time is remarkable and gives this piece all its value ».

These combinations of colors and materials (transparent, translucent, opaque) created unusual light effects. However, Suzanne Belperron also created pieces that could be described as « high-jewelry » since they were composed of precious materials.

Christie’s, Paris, November 24, 2011. Lot 275. A Gold bracelet set with emeralds, tourmaline, beryl, peridots and colored sapphires. Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 EUR Hammer price: 247,000 EUR. Maker’s mark for Darde & Cie. This appeared at auction following the publication of ‘Suzanne Belperron’ in 2011, and is one of the Belperron record auction prices.

Another characteristic of the work of this avant-garde designer, are the volumes that sometimes border on excess. However, says Olivier Baroin, « even if the jewel is sometimes a little exuberant, it does remains elegant. Madame Belperron’s creativity never went beyond the limits of good taste.  » And he adds: « her work is pure and graphic jewelry, but above all sensual, almost carnal ».

Aguttes. June 2018. Lot 122. Large articulated ‘butterfly’ brooch in 18k yellow gold (750) and platinum (950). Circa 1940. The two upper wings are set with cabochon emeralds and surrounded by old-cut diamonds, the lower wings are set with rows of baguettes diamonds and calibré-cut emeralds, the body and antennas are enhanced with brilliant-cut diamonds. The wings are articulated thanks to a ball-and-socket mechanism. Maker’s mark:  Groëné et Darde. Width of the wings: approx. 13.5 cm. Weight: 98.7g. Estimate: 35,000 – 50,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 303,460 EUR. In the archives of Suzanne Belperron, a note from Colette was found inside the book “Splendor of Butterflies”, published in 1936 by Plon. In this letter dated March 4, 1937, Colette thanked Belperron – who would later become a friend: « Dear Madam, The blue ring is very pretty, thank you. Perhaps one day I will ask you to remove some height, we’ll see. I’m waiting for the small clip. And I send sincerest regards. Colette ».

The craze for Belperron’s style extended beyond the world of jewelry connoisseurs. For example, Suzanne Belperron was one of the first jewelry designers to be mentioned by name in fashion magazines such as ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and ‘Vogue’.  As early as 1933, Elsa Schiaparelli posed in Vogue adorned in Belperron jewels. Suzanne Belperron’s jewelry enhanced the creations of fashion designers – so much so, that designers sometimes feared their creations would be entirely overshadowed!

A designer for the happy few

Belperron’s clientele was incredibly varied. It included the members of royal families and the European aristocracy, rich bankers and industrialists, and also actors, artists and writers. Her personal order books show that she received the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Colette, Jean Cocteau, Nina Ricci, Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Gary Cooper, the Begah Aga Khan, the Baroness Rothschild, Daisy Fellowes, the singer Ganna Walska and Merle Oberon, the beautiful heroine of ‘Wuthering Heights’, to name a few!

Even today, her creations remain unknown to the general public. For the past ten years, however, they have become in great demand for art dealers, jewelry dealers and knowledgeable collectors.

Philippine Dupré La Tour, director of the jewelry and watch department at Aguttes, explains that Belperron jewels occupy a special place in her work as an expert because often clients who consign a Belperron piece are unaware of its value. « It is therefore a double pleasure: to see these jewels and to unearth them ».

Aguttes. October 2017. Lot 114. Geometric tiered silver ring (<800) featuring three pyramidal hematite spikes in the center. The certificate of authenticity for this piece states that it was created by Suzanne Belperron before 1935. This type of design appears very early in the cannon of Suzanne Belperron designs, originating from the period when she was working at René Boivin. It is made by hand. Estimate: 4,000 – 5,000 €. Hammer price (incl. fees): 48 450 €.

Today collectors of Belperron are a new kind of elite. Olivier Baroin finds that buyers are influenced more by the design of the jewel than by its intrinsic value. « Collectors who appreciate Belperron pieces do not need their jewelry to be set with diamonds; those who recognize her style understand its importance. »

During auctions, buyers are rarely wrong; the most expensive pieces are those that are the most emblematic of the Belperron oeuvre. Karl Lagerfeld, one of the leading collectors of Belperron jewelry, sums it up as follows: « A Belperron jewel can be recognized right away. It’s an attitude. »

‘Fine Jewels’ Christie’s, Paris, December 4, 2018. Lot 253. Bracelet in fine pearls, cultured pearls, onyx, enamel and diamonds. 26 Fine pearls and 69 cultured pearls, onyx beads, black enamel, round diamonds and square diamonds, platinum (850) and 18K gold (750), French hallmarks, circa 1940. Circumference: 16.2 cm. Estimate: 30,000-40,000 EUR. Hammer price: 122,500 EUR

[section_title title= »Olivier Baroin and the rebirth of Suzanne Belperron »]

How did your affiliation with Madame Belperron come about?

By an incredible twist of fate!

I had been a jeweler since 1987 and an expert in antique jewelry since 2001. At that time I already had a great admiration for Suzanne Belperron whose work I knew thanks to my friend Miriam Mellini, pearl merchant, who is passionate about old jewels and Belperron amateur enthusiast.

One day in December 2007, I was sketching a project in front of a client and he looked at me and said: « It’s funny to see you draw this way, my father just inherited the estate of a jewelry designer ». I dared to ask the name of this designer. The customer answered me, obviously uncertain: « maybe Josiane Duperron ». My blood turned and I calmly asked him, « Are you sure? Could it possibly be Suzanne Belperron? « .

At the time, we thought that Suzanne Belperron had burned her archives while she was alive, as Ward Landrigan had explained in the New York Times in August 1998.

The client invited me to visit, the following day, a small apartment located at the foot of Montmartre, which had not been opened for nearly twenty-four years. Stored in this apartment were all the belongings of Madame Belperron. I went there very early in the morning, before the junk dealers came to empty the premises, as an auctioneer had informed the heir that the contents were worthless!

I had no idea what it was worth, but I suspected that what this small apartment contained was priceless. And rightly … there was the contents of this woman’s life stored pell-mell: her furniture and decorative objects, including living room furniture that appeared to be designed by her friend Marcel Coard, decorator and set designer from the 1930s, her table service, her tablecloths, a lot of Asian art … all covered in a thick layer of dust!

We took an inventory of the contents and then we came to an agreement to purchase Suzanne Belperron’s personal belongings. The heir was a great gentleman, a very straightforward and loyal man, passionate about art, having come from a family of painters. Once he had realized who Suzanne Belperron was, having greatly admired the pieces he had seen, he wished that Suzanne Belperron, who was then somewhat forgotten, should receive new recognition. It was this man, heir to Mme Belperron’s legatee, who suggested that I write a book about her work. Sufficed to say we owe him a lot.

He died a few days after the sale of the personal jewels of Suzanne Belperron, which took place Geneva in May of 2012, reassured as to the legacy of the work of the designer. Prior to his death he had read with infinite attention the book I co-wrote with Sylvie Raulet, entitled ‘Suzanne Belperron’, which was published in August 2011.

It is a very romantic story!

Indeed, the odds were slim that I would stumble across the personal papers of Suzanne Belperron! Moreover, the daughter of the heir hoped, one day, to make a film retracing Belperron’s life and her career. There is so much to tell: her personal story, her creative genius, her famous clients, her estate, the discovery of personal archives, the recognition she enjoys today and so much more …

When you rediscovered Suzanne Belperron’s personal archives in December 2007, it was twenty-four years since the designer had stopped working. What remained of her work?

Suzanne Belperron officially stopped working in 1975, but in reality she continued to create pieces for her most favored clients and friends virtually up until her death in March 1983.

Once I had acquired her personal archives, I began with the important task of tracing the jewels. Through researching auction results, I realized that 90% of the jewels by Suzanne Belperron had not been attributed to her, regardless of the period in which they were made. The expert authority on René Boivin made virtually no distinction between Boivin and Belperron. Based on the assumption that Suzanne Belperron began her career at Boivin as a « young saleswoman » (sic) before moving under the leadership of Jeanne Boivin, the certificates of authenticity didn’t differentiate between her work at Boivin, the house in which she had worked from 1919 to 1932, and the next forty years of her career.

Drawings by Suzanne Belperron for Maison Boivin, circa 1920. Suzanne’s artistic maturity, especially when it came to illustrating designs, was already apparent. Personal papers of Suzanne Belperron. Archives Olivier Baroin.

Today we know that Suzanne Vuillerme, after obtaining the first prize at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Besançon for a watch design featuring champlevé decoration, entered René Boivin in 1919 not as a « young saleswoman » but as a « model-designer » before becoming in 1924 co-director of the House and marrying Jean Belperron.

It is also now recognized that René Boivin, prior to the arrival of Suzanne Belperron, was a manufacturing workshop, which produced pieces for other jewelry houses. It was a family workshop, which had bought up other Parisian workshops in the late nineteenth century, in order to acquire the best craftsmen and equipment.

Boucheron Archives, 1912. Photo courtesy of Olivier Baroin.

For example, these three necklaces, photographed above, which are of relatively classic design (diamond-set with pearls) were manufactured in 1912 by René Boivin for Boucheron. I am very grateful to my friend Claudine Sablier, curator of the Boucheron archives for sharing these images with me. In 1912, René Boivin moved to 27 rue des Pyramides, with reception rooms that adjoined his workshops. However, the fact remains that the house gained its notoriety only after the arrival of Suzanne Belperron. In a letter from Jeanne Boivin of November 1923, that Suzanne Belperron carefully preserved, she writes that Suzanne « is now a necessary active force and holds a great place in the artistic life of the house René Boivin ». As such I challenge anyone to show me a modernist work that was created Mr. Boivin!

Letter from Jeanne Boivin to Madame Vuillerme, Suzanne’s mother, dated November 1923. Personal papers of Suzanne Belperron. Archives Olivier Baroin.
Extract from the letter quoted above.

How did you go about reinstating the work of Suzanne Belperron?

Many at the auction houses have helped with my research – especially Aguttes. Philippine Dupré la Tour agreed to contact some of her “selling” customers. If a jewel appeared to me to be by the hands of Suzanne Belperron , then they were asked if they would agree to give us the names of their ancestors, and any information as to whether they were purchased at René Boivin or Suzanne Belperron.

This allowed me to go back to the archives and see if I could find the seller’s family. It allowed me to go back in time. I soon learned many jewels sold at auction under the name of Boivin, were actually pieces ordered from Suzanne Belperron by the seller’s family after 1932.

I am very grateful to Philippine Dupré La Tour for her cooperation as well as her trust – auction houses are normally very secretive. David Bennett was also incredibly helpful. He was immediately supportive of the book project and consequently Sotheby’s made their resources available, worldwide, so that the owners of Belperron jewels could have their pieces recorded, valued and photographed. I am very grateful to David Bennett and Claire de Truchis-Lauriston, then the head of the jewelry department in Paris. They had the courage, and the strength, to take that risk, while others would have been fearful of destabilizing the market.  Sotheby’s was incredibly supportive of the book.

With the discovery of the Belperron’s personal order books, it allowed her pieces to be formally authenticated. Has it helped propel Belperron’s position in the auction market?

When my book was published, the jewelry world, (the auction houses in particular) became aware that Suzanne Belperron and her universal legatee had preserved the archives, consisting of about twenty order books, that Belperron maintained and kept. They date from 1937, and contain the names of 6,730 customers and nearly 45 000 appointments!

As a result, it became possible to attribute the jewels – if one had the last name of the client and/or their family or associates. The order books end in 1974. However, later, between 1974 and 1983, various letters testify to the fact that Suzanne Belperron remained active.

I began to work on tracing the provenance back to the original orders, to reestablish the work of Suzanne Belperron and to reattribute the pieces she had created over a period of fifty years. My certificates ended up clarifying the auction market for Belperron. Her position in the market continues to grow and auction prices for her jewels are almost on a par with those from the biggest jewelry houses.

Aguttes. December 2017. Lot 83. Pair of 18k white gold pendant earrings (750) composed of 3 tiers of frosted rock crystal domes, each with a band of diamonds set in platinum from which drop–shaped pearl is suspended. Created by Suzanne Belperron before 1935, this type of design appears very early in her work when she was at René Boivin (1919/1932). Estimate: 15,000 – 20,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 255, 000 EUR. And, lot 84. A brooch in the form of a sprig of leaves made in platinum (950) and 18k white gold (750) and set with old-cut diamonds. Made to order on January 14, 1946 according to the archives. Estimate: 6,000 – 8,000 EUR.  Hammer price (incl. fees): 45, 900 EUR

How do you authenticate a jewel by Suzanne Belperron?

Suzanne Belperron never signed any of her pieces, neither at René Boivin nor at Herz where she became the sole decision-maker and creator in her own right.

At first I was particularly vigilant! When I was in doubt and when there was no factual evidence, or documented order, I abstained. Over time, knowing that I have many elements: studio models, plasters, drawings and sketches, photos and press articles countersigned by her hand and of course the personal order books, I managed to crosscheck. My eye was formed by the twenty years I had spent in the studio. As a jeweler, I am familiar with jewelry making; I know how a jewel is constructed, mounted, adjusted etc…

But it’s mostly the years spent authenticating and the accumulated experience – I’ve searched, searched again and again! – that allowed me to refine my expertise.

Rock crystal brooch in the form of a stylized bunch of grapes, set with sapphires of different shapes and mounted in silver. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Private collection. Olivier Baroin book p.122.

At the very beginning, the quality of workmanship of certain pieces was almost closer to that of costume jewelry, with pieces executed in silver, than high jewelry – although I should clarify that during this period costume jewelry was of high quality and well made.

Eve, Paris, December 7, 2018. Lot 794. Agate clip featuring three gadroons – each set with a pearl, probably fine. The frame is white gold (750) and silver (800). Circa 1935. Estimate: 2,000 – 3,000 EUR. Hammer price: 22,000 EUR.

Between 1942 and 1955 saw a return to high quality production, reaching its apex in the 1950s. All jewelry is made by hand using precious metal wire, sheets and soldering.

Two views, exterior and interior, of a platinum ‘Toit’ ring set with three rows of pavé diamonds. Private collection. Olivier Baroin book p.298

Then, between 1955 and 1970 the manufacturing techniques begin to evolve. These new techniques mean the quality is no longer the same but not because of a lack of skill from craftsmen. Lost wax casting begins to take over the market, resulting in the acceleration of production. We are entering a new era of industrialization of jewelry, which resulted in Belperron jewels still remaining, in part, handmade as well as now being cast.

In the 1970s and 1980s became easier to execute, but those that were unable to be cast remained entirely handmade.

In 1932, the Groëné et Darde workshop was working exclusively with Suzanne Belperron and it remained exclusive right until the end. The various workshop marks allow us to date, approximately, the jewels by Suzanne Belperron and, at the very least, to authenticate them.

– From 1928 to 1955, the company bears the name of Groëné et Darde (Emile Darde and Maurice Groëné). The workshop mark has the initials GD with a fleur de lys in the center, which is surmounted by surmounted by Ste.

– From 1955 to 1970, the workshop took the name of Darde et Fils (Emile Darde and his son Michel). The workshop mark shows the initials DF with a fleur de lys in the center.

– From 1970 to 1974, the workshop is known as Darde et Compagnie (Michel Darde) and the workshop mark has the initial D a fleur de lys, surmounted by Ste, followed by the letters CIE.

set of white agate ‘Camellia’ scatter clips, the center of each is composed of a cluster of diamonds and cabochon rubies. This set is an example of mastery of Adrien Louart’s work. Private collection. Olivier Baroin book p.199.

In cases where there is no record of an order in the archives, only the extraordinary skill of the lapidary Adrien Louart (1890-1989), to whom Suzanne Belperron entrusted to work on carving her hard stone pieces, makes it possible to authenticate the Belperron pieces.

Rock crystal bracelet punctuated by three diamonds. This bracelet is one of the pair carved by Adrien Louart. Private collection. Olivier Baroin book p. 62.

What about certificates?

In September 2008 when I acquired all the archives, discovered the previous year in Montmartre, the last universal legatee authorized me to safeguard « the future expertise of the work realized by Madame Suzanne Belperron ».

That’s how I started to authenticate jewelry for Sotheby’s, Aguttes, Artcurial, and so many other auction houses …

Today, I establish the certificates (or simple testimonials in the instances where I believe a jewel was created by Suzanne Belperron, but that I do not have the documentary proof in the archives!). For the majority of collectors and auction houses, including American auction houses (most recently Fortuna in New York) I am sometimes considered as the gatekeeper, though I would prefer to be thought of as guardian of Madame Belperron’s memory, especially since I now devote practically most of my time to her work.

[section_title title= »Portfolio: some of the most beautiful pieces Belperron that have for sale in recent years »]

Suzanne Belperron holds a special place in the jewelry market. Overall, Belperron jewelry is reaching stellar prices at auction, but in reality, there is no benchmark applicable to Belperron. The buyers judge each piece according to the significance of the jewel. That is, they judge and buy each piece according to its aesthetic value and its place in the cannon of Suzanne Belperron. These criteria are very similar to those applied to the market for painters or visual artists.

Christie’s Paris. 2011.

Here is an additional selection of some remarkable jewels that have been on sale in recent years and that Olivier Baroin has appraised.

AGUTTES

Lot 91. June 2016. Important platinum ring composed of a large curved ring set with rubies and small diamonds. Maker’s mark  for Groené & Darde is partially readable. Sold with box. This ring was made between 1942 and 1955. Estimate: 20,000 – 25,000 EUR. Hammer price: 116,025 EUR
Lot 143. June 2014. Chalcedony and grey cold ‘barrel’ clip set with six old cut diamonds, with lines of black enamel at side. Circa 1935. Sold with a B.HERZ box. Estimate: 15,000 – 20,000 EUR Hammer price:  61,200 EUR.

 

Lot 89. Sale December 2016 ‘Dome’ ring in 18k yellow gold set with an important cushion-cut citrine and gold, honey and cognac colored citrines set in a honeycomb setting.honey or cognac. Circa 1953. Estimate: 25,000-30,000 EUR Hammer price: 67,575 EUR
Lot 83. December 2017. A pair of 18k white gold pendant earrings (750) composed of 3 tiers of frosted rock crystal domes, each with a band of diamonds set in platinum from which a drop–shaped pearl is suspended. Accompanied by certificate LFG N ° 325647 certifying the pearls are saltwater in origin. Accompanied by a certificate by Mr Olivier Baroin attesting that it is a creation of Suzanne Belperron dating from prior to 1935. Estimate: 15 000 – 20 000 EUR. Hammer price: 255,000 EUR

ARTCURIAL

A U-shaped lapel clip in platinum (950) and 18k white gold (750), set with brilliant cut diamonds, finished with two button-shaped pearls, one white and the other gray. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Executed between 1942 and 1955. Estimate: 15,000 – 20,000 EUR. Hammer price: 96,100 EUR
‘Important Jewelry’, July 23, 2014. Lot 741.  A rare pair of platinum (950) ‘Christmas Tree’ pendants. The design of each features diamond-set long arched leaves, each punctuated with 9 brilliant cut diamonds and the base of the trees are set with baguettes. Executed between 1942 and 1955. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Estimate: 120,000 – 150,000 EUR. Hammer price: 121,500 EUR
‘Important Jewelry’, July 23, 2014. Lot 740. In 18k (750) white gold bracelet, featuring a beveled edge, adorned with a line of baguette cut diamonds between two lines of brilliant cut diamonds. The edges of the bracelet are lined with pear-shaped settings each set with two brilliant-cut diamonds. Executed between 1942 and 1955. Maker’s mark: Groëné et Darde. Estimate: 40,000 – 60,000 EUR. Hammer price: 155,100 EUR.
July 19, 2016.  Lot 651 Pair of ‘Spiral’ lapel clips. One in 18k (750) and platinum (950) white gold, set with a half-cut diamond in a spiral pave setting with brilliant-cut diamonds, the other in 18k yellow gold (750) of the same design, set with yellow, brown or Madeira diamonds. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Circa 1938-39. Fittings on the reverse of the clips allow them to be joined and mounted on a necklace in yellow gold and gray gold.  Estimate: 40,000 – 50 000 EUR. Hammer price: 105,920 EUR.
January 19, 2017. Lot 401.  ‘Egyptian’ bib necklace in yellow gold and 18k white gold (750) formed of a solid circle in a fall, highlighted by a line of old-cut diamonds. The bib is attached by two long loops to the back of the necklace. Circa 1942.  Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. In a box labeled B. Herz. Provenance: Ms. Arman Salacrou, academician and playwright. Estimated 30,000 – 40,000 EUR. Hammer price: 77,500 EUR
« Egyptian » clip and its original plaster cast. Personal archives of Suzanne Belperron. Archives Olivier Baroin.
January 19, 2017. Lot 402. A stylized paisley « Egyptian » clip in 18k (750) yellow gold and 18k white gold set with a ruff of diamonds. Circa 1937. Maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Estimate: 10,000 – 15,000 EUR. Hammer price: 14,300 EUR.

CHRISTIE’S

Paris Jewels, 19 May 2010. Lot 228. Featuring a stylized cornucopia of amatiated yellow gold set with cabochon emeralds and old-cut diamonds holding an old pale yellow oval diamond weighing 32.80 carats, French gold markings. Circa 1950. Estimate: EUR 160,000 – EUR 200,000. Price realised: EUR 553,000
Paris Jewels, 1 June 2016. Lot 81. Pair of « seashell » clips. Each contained a shell paved with old cut diamonds and enhanced with a line of black enamel (accidents), around 1935, gross weight: 25.09 gr., Platinum (850) and 18K gray (750), French punches. Wear the hallmark of the company Groëné & Darde. « The shell is a new kind of jewellery because it is eternal. But these are entirely of human invention, being made from diamonds, black enamel and crystal. They can be worn as clips, as a brooch or even to support four strings of pearls, making this a superb piece of evening jewellery ». New jewellery, Vogue Paris, September 1933. Estimate: EUR 40,000 – EUR 60,000. Price realised: EUR 85,500
Paris Jewels, 24 November 2015. Lot 166. Pair of diamond clips. Each adorned with two patterns set with round diamonds wrapped around a larger diamond and enhanced by a line of baguette diamonds, gross weight: 48.86 gr., Platinum setting (850) and 18K gray gold (750), french punches Wear the hallmark of the Groene & Darde Company for Suzanne Belperron. Estimate : EUR 80,000 – EUR 120,000. Price realised: EUR 111,900
Jewels for Hope: The Collection of Mrs Lily Safra. Geneva, 14 May 2012. Lot 30. The central scalloped swirl centering upon a circular-cut diamond collet and extending a rigid cuff, set with diamonds and enhanced by a line of calibré-cut sapphires, 1941-1945, inner diameter 6.0 cm, with French assay mark for platinum With maker’s mark of Groene et Darde (partially indistinct) for Suzanne Belperron Estimate CHF 74,000 – CHF 110,000. Price realised CHF 159,000.

DROUOT

On Wednesday December 17, 2014 Drouot presented this sumptuous necklace and bracelet achieved a record price. Estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 EUR this parure flew for 415,000 EUR. This set is characteristic of the Belperron style, with its volumes and delicate shades of velvety blue stones selected by the designer.

Large white gold lozenge-shaped articulated bracelet set with cabochon sapphires of varying hues. Executed circa 1935. Gross weight: 163 g. Length: 17 cm. Width: 9 cm. Accompanied by a certificate of origin Ref. No. 141122b Belp / Ppl / De, dated November 22, 2014 by Mr. Olivier Baroin.
White gold bib necklace entirely set with cabochon sapphires. Executed circa 1935. Gross weight: 136 grs. Slight damage to the clasp.  Accompanied by a certificate of origin Ref. No. 141122a Belp / Ppl / De, dated November 22, 2014 by Mr. Olivier Baroin.

FORTUNA

On April 25, 2018, Fortuna Auction in New York sold an exceptional collection of Belperron jewelry from the Bokara « Bo » Legendre estate.

Lot 58. Rock crystal convertible cuff and brooch. A rock crystal flower brooch, circa 1935, set in platinum, displaying cabochon rubies weighing a total of approximately 5.90 carats, and round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.20 carat, with I-J color and VS clarity; can be worn as a brooch fastened by double pinstems or attached to an 18K white gold cuff; flower diameter measures 1-5/8 inches, cuff inner circumference measures 6 inches, with 3/4 inch breach; total weight 50.70 g. Accompanied by an attestation from Mr. Olivier Baroin . Stamped: French assay marks on brooch. Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000. SOLD $78,125

 

Lot 61. A carved chalcedony leaf motif bombe ring, featuring three old European-cut diamonds set in platinum, the center diamond weighing approximately 1.65 carats, flanked by two diamonds weighing approximately 1.00 carat each, for a total diamond weight of approximately 3.65 carats, with K-L color and VS-SI clarity.  Estimate: 10,000 – 15,000 USD. Hammer price: 65,625 USD.
Lot 60. A carved chalcedony fan clip set with marquise diamonds set in platinum. Estimate: 20,000 – 30,000 USD. Hammer price: 62,500 USD
Lot 59. A modified gold and diamond ring, fashioned from one of a pair of earrings created by Suzanne Belperron. Estimate:  4,000 – 6,000 USD. Hammer price: 16,250 USD

Lot 58A. A gold cuff, set with citrines and diamonds. Made in circa 1945, this bracelet features at its center a 160-carat octagonal brilliant-cut citrine, surrounded by two trapezoidal citrines of mixed size weighing – approx. 14 cats each. The gems are separated rows of round brilliant-cut diamonds that have a total weight of approx. 2.50 carats. Estimate: 30,000 USD to $ 50,000 USD. Hammer price: $ 150,000

SOTHEBY’S

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 15 november 2018, Geneva.

LOT 168. Gold and emerald clip, Suzanne Belperron, 1930s. Composed of textured gold centering an oblong drilled emerald bead, French assay mark for gold and maker’s mark for Grœné et Darde, later added pendant loop. Formerly in the collection of Ganna Walska (1887-1984). The Polish-born opera and concert singer, had a personality as large as her fortune. Married six times over the course of her lifetime, she had acquired an extraordinary collection of jewelry. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 CHF (29,814 – 49,690USD). LOT SOLD : 60,000 CHF (59,627 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 15 may 2018, Geneva.

Lot 205. Rock crystal and diamond bracelet, ‘Bibendum’, Suzanne Belperron, circa 1930. Composed of circular carved rock crystal plaques inset with circular-cut diamonds, alternating with single-cut diamond links, length approximately 180mm, French assay marks for gold and platinum. Estimate 70,000 — 90,000 CHF (69,938 – 89,921USD) LOT SOLD : 106,250 CHF (106,157 USD)
Lot 203. Blue chalcedony and sapphire clip, Suzanne Belperron, circa 1940. Of fluted design, the carved blue chalcedony highlighted at the center with three rows of sapphire beads, French assay marks for gold and maker’s mark for Groëne et Darde. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 CHF (19,982 – 29,974USD). LOT SOLD : 65,000 CHF (64,943 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 15 november 2017, Geneva.

Lot 213. Pearl and chalcedony ring. Polished engraved chalcedony set with a cultured pearl. Estimate 8,000 — 12,000 CHF (8,108 – 12,162 USD). LOT SOLD : 22,500 CHF (22,805 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 16 may 2017, Geneva

Lot 66. Gold and yellow sapphire brooch, circa 1940. Of stylised floral design, collet-set with two oval yellow sapphires, French assay and maker’s marks. Estimate 12,000 — 18,000 CHF (12,064 – 18,097 USD). LOT SOLD : 21,250 CHF (21,364 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 17 november 2016, Geneva

Lot 195. Chalcedony, cultured pearl and natural pearl brooch, circa 1955. Of foliate design, set with a carved chalcedony of leaf motif, the branches decorated with natural and cultured pearls, French assay mark, maker’s mark for Groene et Darde. Estimate 70,000 — 100,000 CHF (69,843 – 99,776 USD). LOT SOLD : 81,250 CHF (81,068 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 11 november 2015, Geneva

Lot 23. Topaz bangle, circa 1935. Designed as four silver bands swing set with collet-set cushion-shaped, circular-cut and oval light blue topaz, smaller inner circumference approximately 125mm, French assay and partial maker’s marks. Originally purchased by Elsa Schiaparelli from Suzanne Belperron. Schiaparelli admired Suzanne Belperron’s creations for their simplicity, the avant-garde combination of jewels and stones, and their sheer modernity. She was photographed in Vogue magazine in 1933 wearing several Belperron jewels. Throughout the 1930s, Belperron and Schiaperelli creations were used in photo spreads in all the leading fashion magazines. The archives of these two creators reveal many of the same clients: opera singer and socialite Ganna Walska, Daisy Fellowes, Indian Princess Karam of Kapurthala, Mrs. Harrison Williams (the future Countess Mona Bismarck) and the Duchess of Windsor. In Sotheby’s catalogue note. Estimate 39,000 — 59,000 CHF (38,867 – 58,799 USD). LOT SOLD : 212,500 CHF (211,775 USD).
Lot 440. Quartz and diamond brooch, 1940s. Designed as fluted smoky quartz between lines of cushion-shaped diamonds. Estimate 8,000 — 12,000 CHF (7,973 – 11,959 USD). LOT SOLD : 52,500 CHF (52,321 USD).
Lot 443. Smoky quartz, yellow sapphire and citrine brooch, circa 1935. Collet-set with variously shaped yellow sapphires and citrines to a fluted smoky quartz jewel, French assay mark and maker’s mark for Groëné & Darde. Estimate : 30,000 — 49,000 CHF (29,898 – 48,833 USD). LOT SOLD : 93,750 CHF (93,430 USD)

Magnificent jewels & Noble jewels, 12 may 2015, Geneva

Lot 3 .Star sapphire, chalcedony and diamond ring, Suzanne Belperron, 1961 The blue chalcedony ring set with a blue star sapphire framed with a petal-like border of single-cut diamonds. Estimate : 9,000 — 11,000 CHF. (9,664 – 11,812 USD). LOT SOLD : 40,000 CHF (42,953 USD)

TAJAN

On June 29, 2015, the expert Jean-Norbert Salit presented at auction a rare set of four pieces in white gold, diamonds and rubies (of certified Burmese origin and with no trace of heat treatment). Circa 1936 with a maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde.

Lot 262. An 18K white gold platinum domed ruby cuff set with rubies and brilliant-cut diamonds. Estimate: 40,000-60,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 180,700 EUR
Lot 264.An 18K white gold and platinum stylized shell clip set with brilliant-cut diamonds and oval rubies and featuring a cabochon ruby. Frame in. French made, workshop mark of Groënéet Darde. Estimate: 20,000 – 30,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 102,320 EUR.
Lot 263. Pair of platinum pendant earrings, each adorned with a cabochon ruby ​​and set with diamonds and featuring gadroons on the outer edge. Estimate: 15,000-18,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 45,000 EUR.
Lot 265.A platinum ring features three large gadroons. The outer gadroons are pave-set with brilliant-cut diamonds and the central gadroon is set with an oval-cut ruby. Estimate: 30,000-40,000 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees): 72,800 EUR.
Tajan, June 21, 2016. Lot 74. Dome ring decorated with a large cushion-cut sapphire (5,80-6 carats) originating from Ceylon and no heat treatment. The body of the ring is pave-set brilliant-cut and round diamonds punctuated with cabochon sapphires. Platinum frame. French work, with the maker’s mark for Groëné et Darde. Circa 1947. Estimate: 40,000-60,00 EUR. Hammer price (incl. fees):  111,800 EUR.

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My thanks to Aguttes, Artcurial, Christie’s, Drouot, Eve, Fortuna, PB & A, Sotheby’s and Tajan.

Special thanks to Olivier Baroin who combines, as few others do, the precision of an expert and the passion of a pedagogue.

And finally, my warmest thanks to Claudine Seroussi for her beautiful translation.

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La Golconde
Galerie d’Olivier Baroin
9, Place de la Madeleine. 75008 Paris.
Tél. 01 40 07 15 69

Sotheby’s.

Suzanne Belperron, Sylvie Raulet et Olivier Baroin, La Bibliothèque des Arts , 2011.

Les bijoux de Suzanne Belperron, Patricia Corbett, Ward and Nico Landrigan, Karl Lagerfeld, Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Jewels from the personnal collection of Suzanne Belperron, Geneva 14 may 2012, catalogue Sotheby’s

Vente bijoux, créations Suzanne Belperron, catalogue Pierre Bergé et Associés, mai 2004

Claudine Seroussi. Instagram : Artofthejewel

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