Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron : A Book Review

Book cover, sold on Amazon

I knew little about Suzanne Belperron. My first introduction to her work was seeing the blue chalcedony jewelry she designed for Wallis Simpson. I then learned bits and pieces about her life and jewelry designs. These bits of information amounted to photos of past jewelry identified as a Belperron piece and dates such as birth, death, job history, etc. When I heard a new book on her life and jewelry was being published in February, I put my name on Amazon’s pre-order list. Madam Belperron remained a private person throughout her life but it is her work and those around her, clients, coworkers, etc, that really tell a story of the woman behind the designs. The book is fabulous! It has plenty of designs but tells her life in stages and through accounts of those that knew her. I want to share a few stories from her life along with techniques Belperron invented to create the style that makes her pieces recognizable and sought after to this day.

Photos of Suzanne Belperron on Left and Right. Center, Diamond and Platinum Brooch by Belperron auctioned at Skinner Inc, Boston.


Her Jewelry:

Virgin Gold– Madame Belperron had many of her creations made with ‘virgin gold’. It was gold with a high gold content of 22 karat with a matte finish. It was reminiscent of ancient gold used in Greek jewelry. The technique used is ‘doubled or lined gold’. Unfortunately, due to the softness of the gold it would not suit well to hold in all the gemstones and diamonds for her work. The technique needed a modification so her 22kt gold jewelry received a stronger layer of 18kt gold beneath it. Then to achieve the ancient look, the gold required hammering, chiseling and burnishing.

Examples of Virgin Gold by Belperron


Honey Comb Setting– Another effect Belperron used in her jewelry was mixing stones of various sizes next to each other as though they fit perfectly like puzzle pieces. Setting stones of different sizes next to one another is actually a difficult technique to achieve. The workers of Belperron’s created an irregular honey comb setting, “in which each stone appeared to be contained within a single cell-like compartment, scored as if with the sharp blade of a knife.” The effect is stunning to see the stones of various sizes fit together harmoniously in her designs.

Examples of Honey Comb Setting by Belperron


These are just a few of her amazing techniques used to create her timeless pieces.

A necklace from the House of Boivin, Madame Belperron work in the Maison Boivin from 1919-1932, this necklace is similar to her work which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in the Winter of 2015.


Her Clients/Friends:

I am going to pick a few short tales about Madame Belperron that I found particularly telling about her character and life in France around the 1940’s.


Protecting her Clients

  • Suzanne Belperron was careful about reproducing a design already owned by a client. A story had Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild asking Belperron to copy a pair of gold and diamond earclips currently owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. The Baroness explained that the Duchess had given her consent to the request. Belperron still refused. The duchess had to send a personal confirmation to Belperron for the earrings to be commissioned.
  • World War II was occurring when Belperron was working in Paris, her owner Bernard Herz was under an added strain of trying to stay out of the concentration camps. His son Jean was fighting with the allies but Herz and his wife wanted to stay at their home and not flee. Belperron was introduced through some of her clients to a woman who was interested in buying a ring. The cost of the ring was out of the woman’s price range so Madame Belperron had to turn her away. Later both Belperron and Herz were arrested on grounds of concealing a Jewish business. Suzanne knew if the Gestapo found her list of clients and suppliers, they could all be at risk of being jailed or worse. So on the walk to Gestapo Headquarters Belperron swallowed pages from her address book to conceal the names. That is dedication. It is also a sad tale on really knowing who you do business with and the importance of strong relationships.
Belperron necklace owned by Duchess of Windsor, auctioned at Sotheby’s

Business and Pleasure-

  • Madame Belperron was released but Herz was sent to an internment camp. He did not survive but letters that they wrote to each other tells of the respectt and love they shared. There are phrases from their letters shared in this book one particularly tender letter to Belperron by Herz states,”Tres chere amie, this is the big departure, I leave in good health and with full confidence that I will see you again. Otherwise goodbye, all my love, I have no regrets.” They were more than friends they were lovers, while they were married to other people. Herz’s wife also died in a camp. Before leaving Herz signed all of his business to Suzanne with the hope, he would come back.
Belperron cuff owned by Duchess of Windsor, auctioned at Sotheby’s

A New Beginning

  • Herz’s son Jean survived and returned to find the world had changed he recalls, he “had returned home to a wife who wanted a divorce, an infant son who didn’t recognize him and a mistress who had taken another lover.” The business his father own was in someone else’s possession and he was left with very little funds after all was settled. Belperron had other plans for the business. Belperron found Jean and offered the business back to him with no conditions. Once the legal matters were straightened out, Jean was able to keep his father’s business. He was so touched by Suzanne’s gift that they became co-owners addressing the business as Jean Herz-Suzanne Belperron SARL.
Clips from the book courtesy of Amazon

These are only a few of the fascinating stories in this book. Again, I highly recommend reading it! I hope you enjoyed this post. Please sign up for my email list to keep up to date with Data in the Rough!

Pearl bracelet by Belperron, auctioned at Sotheby’s

4 Auctions, 2 Days: My Journey to see a Duchess, a Southern Belle, a Clown and a Woman whose Style is Her Signature

It’s no secret by now when I say that I love jewelry! One aspect of jewelry I really love is the history and craftsmanship that even the smallest piece can have. These qualities can be found in modern jewelry or vintage jewelry. Going into a store and appreciating the work and design is a pastime of mine. Unfortunately, a little guilt can come when going in too often and not buying. A great alternative for me is attending auction previews.  I’ve been to several in New York and Boston over the years. This December was no exception.  The auction houses that I attend were having their previews around the same time so I made a day trip to see three auction houses in New York City and one in Boston over the first weekend in December. Yes I went to 4 auction previews in 2 days! Each had a some amazing must see pieces that I’ll share below, as well as some history with them.

Day 1:

Sotheby’s Auction House (New York City)

I started my day at Sotheby’s Auction House. This was the first auction house I had been to when I first came to NYC. I bought a bus ticket to see Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry displayed and up for auction. So when I heard Sotheby’s was selling another set of her jewelry I knew this was a must see.  The set below is more than jewelry owned by a celebrity, the designer Suzanne Belperron has an amazing story as well. Ms. Belperron was a jewelry designer in the early 20th century. A rare profession for a woman to hold and to be so successful her jewelry came with the highest in quality of design. Her designs were so strong and unique she did not sign most of her work. She claimed, “My style is my signature.” So finding identifiable work of hers is rare and in 1987 the Duchess of Windsor a buyer of Belperron’s jewelry could only identify 5 of 16 pieces as that of the artist. This set below is one of the pieces sold almost 30 years ago and up for auction again.




This jewelry above is made with chalcedony, sapphires, diamonds and white gold. The cuffs sold as a set for $526,000, in line with the $400,000-$600,000 estimate. The necklace estimated to sell between $350,000-$550,000 earned the sum of $430,000.  There were other items as well.

Below Left- a pair of topaz and diamond earring by JAR that sold for $358,000

Below Middle-a necklace designed by Van Cleef & Arpels owned by Queen Nazil of Egypt sold for about $4.3 million

Below Right- another auction preview for watches this gold and enamel watch from 1810 sold for $30,000



Christie’s Auction House (New York City)

Next stop was another famous auction house Christie’s. Below is jewelry owned by Carroll Petrie. Raised in South Carolina, Mrs. Petrie gained a passion for art and culture. She moved to New York City where she became a model and married a man that was in New York High Society. She gained many beautiful pieces of jewelry and was involved in  Philanthropy which put her in contact with celebrities such as Joan Rivers, President Reagan and wife Nancy, among others. Both necklaces below are designed by Jean Schlumberger. The first one sold far above the estimate of $200,000-$300,000 going for $905,000! The necklace below that had the same estimate and sold for $725,000! These pieces were amazing to see in person. The sparkle and vibrancy of the gems was breath taking!





The gold headband above was also owned by Mrs. Petrie. This fun piece was estimated at $5,000-$7,000 and sold below the estimate for $4,375. Not as pricey as the ones above but a another piece to this woman’s fabulous life!


Bonham’s Auction House (New York City)

My final stop in NYC was at a smaller auction house, Bonham’s. The featured item for this auction was a gold clown with a black opal center, covered with diamonds, ruby an sapphires. It was a unique piece and not too big. This brooch made by Cartier in 1975 sold for $37,500.(below far left)

There were other incredible pieces to see. Next to the clown belown is a picture of a stunning Trianon designed cultured pearl, sapphire, diamond and shell brooch. I love shell jewelry and found this to be so beautiful! This was withdrawn from the auction. The photo next to the shell on the right, is a coral, emerald, pearl brooch by Tony Duquette. The bid was with drawn and did not sell. The final photo on the right is a bit blurry but in person was so full of fire and brilliance I had to add this 3.8 carat ruby ring surround by 3.3 carats of diamonds. Sadly this too did not sell. For this rings case the trend is large stone gems and 3.8 is not a large stone, but I would have gladly taken it! So 3 houses down one left for the next day as I journey back to Boston.



Day 2:

Skinner Auction House (Boston)


20151206_122718Even with being a little tired the next day I regained my energy to see another Suzanne Belperron piece. This diamond and platinum brooch is another example of Suzanne Belperron’s fine and unique work. This piece was made in 1940 and was estimated to sell between $20,000-$30,000. As seems the trend with my picks this did not sell. Hopefully sometime this work of art will find a good home. I did find other fun items for you to enjoy below!

I tried to get better details but the lighting was not as great as I hoped for but you can imagine the entrance this piece would make on someone! This 18kt white gold and diamond necklace by Stefan Hafner(below the two photos to the right), is beyond fantasy! Holding it was like holding a diamond net, the movement and fluidity of the piece was what made this piece so fun to see! It was estimated to sell for $25,000-$35,000 and earned the sum of $27,060!




I have really taken an interest in these carved figures that invoke a time long before the modern world. This brooch to the left above is no exception! This small 14kt gold and multi-gemstone brooch of a fortune teller was only selling for an estimate $400-$600, and went for $492. A really amazing deal in my opinion!

So that was my journey to see all these pieces and more. I learned about history, design and appreciated the little details that can get lost when only looking for the expensive items. If you went to see these auctions let me know what else you liked and please subscribe to my email list for more updates! Thank you for reading my article!