Born in 1907 into a well-to-do family in Mulhouse, then part of Germany, today part of France, Schlumberger exhibited an early aptitude for design and drawing which was quelled by his parents who refused to allow him formal drawing and painting training. Undaunted, he developed his skills and today, his designs on paper underscore that he was a gifted draftsman. Many of his original drawings are now in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Soon he was designing buttons for the couture garments of designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who then asked him to fashion costume jewelry for her catwalk shows.
Venturing to America he met, by chance, old friend Nicolas Bongard, who had also been designing buttons. In 1947, the two opened a New York City salon, where Schlumberger began producing fanciful and fantastic jewelry, incorporating Mother Nature’s splendor—undulating flowers, gliding sea life, swooping birds, whimsical creatures—into his jewelry. At the time, he notes, “I try to make everything look as if it were growing, uneven, organic.” Later in his career, he journeyed to exotic ports including India, Bali, and Thailand, and those sojourns further informed his whimsical, mesmerizing animals.
From the Beladora Archives: Tiffany & Co. Diamond Flame Earrings in Platinum and 18K
He became the go-to jeweler for socialites and celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Babe Paley, Diana Vreeland, the Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Françoise de la Renta, Lyn Revson, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Guinness, C. Z. Guest, and Jane Wrightsman.
A hallmark of Schlumberger’s work was his paillonné-enamel jewelry, executed in a 19th-century technique, which produced a saturated and luminescent color. So beloved was Jackie Kennedy of his enamel bracelets that she owned them in a rainbow of hues, and the press dubbed them “Jackie bracelets.”
From the Beladora Archives: Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Red Croisillon Enamel Bracelet 18K
By the mid-50s, Schlumberger’s jewelry had caught the eye of Walter Hoving, the legendary head of Tiffany & Co. who invited him to open a workshop there. Schlumberger, along with the select jewelry superstars who followed him such as Paloma Picasso, Angela Cummings, are among the very few who have ever been invited to design and sell their own signed jewelry at the salon. Schlumberger passed away in 1987 at the age of 80 but his wonderfully creative designs have lost none of their allure and are manufactured under Tiffany’s still exacting standards to this day.