People have enjoyed fine jewelry since jewelry was invented. Some, not content to simply admire, have made a point to express their love of the art in ways that makes others notice. There are many people who have made a name for themselves in the field, as collectors, artists, innovators or a combination thereof. Some have been so influential that their work is still felt decades after their deaths.
No matter how they expressed their admiration for the craft, they did so with a common thread. For them, jewelry was and still is a medium through which they expressed their thoughts, their creativity, their appreciation of the good in life. Jewelry was how they left a mark on the world, explaining who they were and why they did what they did.
Marjorie Merriweather Post
Was a wealthy philanthropist known for her taste in jewelry. Her collection was the product of decades emphasizing avant-garde designs and patronizing noted jewelry houses such as Harry Winston and Cartier. In addition to purchasing modern pieces, especially Art Deco items, she also had a number of historical jewels, including a diadem and necklace owned by the Napoleonic dynasty.
After her death in 1973, much of her collection went to charitable causes. A 1982 Christie’s auction of 38 of her pieces was used to fund educational programs at a museum she helped to establish. Other jewels of hers that were once owned by royalty or hold other significance were donated to the Smithsonian Institute. Still more items of hers travel the world, featuring in exhibits promoting the arts.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor said that the three greatest loves of her life were Mike Todd, Richard Burton and jewelry. Her statement was highlighted by a life in the public eye which took note of her every purchase, and her 2002 book “My Love Affair with Jewelry.” Some of her most famous diamonds were even named in her honor.
Though Ms. Taylor started buying jewelry when she was about thirteen, it wasn’t until she was married to Mike Todd that her collection started in earnest. Her husbands, Richard Burton especially, loved to buy her gifts, including a pearl owned by queens. The 2012 auction of her possessions broke multiple records in jewelry sales, and helped to fund her medical charities.
The Duchess of Windsor, made sure that every aspect of her appearance was stylish, including her accessories. Not only did she receive gifts from her husband engraved with their initial W.E., she also commissioned jewelry of unique design, such as a pave diamond flamingo with a multicolored gemstone tail.
The Duchess had a particular fondness for jewels fashioned to resemble animals. Besides her flamingo, she owned a number of panther styled items, such as a brooch spotted with sapphires and an onyx and diamond bracelet cat with emerald eyes. Her menagerie also featured plume imagery and tigers.
The Duke of Windsor was quite protective of his wife’s image, insisting that after her death, all her jewelry should be dismantled so others wouldn’t shine as she did. His request wasn’t fulfilled. Many of her pieces were sold intact, with at least one brooch purchased by her friend and other noted collector, Elizabeth Taylor.
Barbara Woolworth Hutton was an heiress who spent many years collecting fine jewelry. She had a particular soft spot for jadeite and rubies, owning a number of rings, necklaces and other items that combined the two. In addition to acquiring high end pieces, she made a point of studying the artistry that goes into creating beautiful stones and settings, allowing her to gain a deeper appreciation of her collection.
Her death revealed little money in her estate, but a large amount of jewels and gemstones. Along with her jade rings and bracelets was a pearl necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, the 40 carat Pasha Diamond mounted on a ring, and creations by Fabergé. Though parts of her collection have since been auctioned, the rest have stayed out of the public eye, adding a layer of intrigue to her glittering trove.
Was a 17th century merchant known for the jewels he bought on his travels. He made six excursions to Persia and India, enabling him to observe and document a number of treasures. Later in his life, his patron King Louis XIV commissioned Tavernier to write a travelogue of his experiences, which in turn helped to preserve the memory of several famous jewels.
The stone Tavernier is most closely associated with is his namesake, the Tavernier Blue. This 115 carat blue diamond was sold to Louis XIV, and cut into the French Blue crown jewel before it was further cut into the Hope Diamond. He also sketched and wrote in detail about the Great Mogul Diamond, an enormous rose cut stone of Indian origin that vanished in 1747. With the help of Tavernier’s accounts, people of today can know more about earlier stones.
Was a scientist whose influence is still felt within the gemological world. Though he attended college, he was largely self-taught, garnering a collection of over four thousand stones while still an adolescent. As an adult, he worked for Tiffany and Company, becoming vice president at age twenty three.
When Kunz wasn’t at the Tiffany offices, he was serving as a curator for the American Museum of Natural History, acting as an agent for the US Geological Survey, assembling collections for international exhibitions, and participating in countless cultural and scientific organizations. Between his many duties, he managed to find the time and energy to found the Museum of the Peaceful Arts and write reams of texts, many of which are still in print. George Kunz’s other major legacy is his the discovery of a gemstone named in his honor, Kunzite.
Was a renowned 20th century jewelry designer. Though he didn’t have a formal art education, Schlumberger caught the eye of couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, who assigned him to design her house’s signature pieces, eventually commissioning him to make costume jewelry. After leaving her couture house, he left for New York and started his own jewelry salon before joining Tiffany and company.
Schlumberger’s designs were heavily influenced by the sea and the animals who dwelled within. Shells, starfish and jellyfish frequently appeared in his creations. Along with his love of oceanic jewelry, he incorporated other elements into his work such as the diamond ribbon necklace Audrey Hepburn wore to promote the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” His other accomplishments included a white diamond and yellow gold bird perched upon the 128 carat Tiffany Yellow diamond, the “Bird on the Rock” mount.
In 1995, the Louvre held a retrospective of Jean Schlumberger’s career, titled “A Diamond in the City.”
The second daughter of Pablo Picasso, Paloma Picasso grew up in an artistic household, with a love of drawing and resistance to follow in her parents’ footsteps. As a child, she was fascinated by jewelry, buying beads and forming her own creations with an eye towards bold styles. Encouraged by a friend, she went to school to study jewelry design.
Ms. Picasso lists her Spanish heritage, French upbringing and multilingual background as a large influence in her work, allowing her to experience different aesthetics. She also has a love of architecture that shapes her designs, as well as a fondness for round forms and hearts. Cabochons and a wealth of subtly placed hearts are among her recurring motifs. Samples of her artistry are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the Field Museum of Natural History.
Is an Italy-born designer who reached fame abroad. As a young woman in the 1960s, Ms. Peretti moved to Barcelona, Spain to pursue a modeling career, where she worked for Salvidor Dali and joined his social circle. These friendships and her subsequent travels gave her a love of sculpture, metallic pieces, East Asian art, and increased her appreciation for the natural world. Eventually she settled in New York, making the acquaintance of style icons and artists like Diana Vreeland and Andy Warhol.
Brimming with these influences, Elsa Peretti made waves in 1974 with her premier jewelry line for Tiffany and Company. Her first collection drew the attention of Newsweek magazine, who turned her jewels into a cover story. Many of Ms. Peretti’s subsequent creations are made with simplicity in mind, along with her belief that beautiful jewelry should be worn every day, not limited to special occasions.
Was an artist and designer who dabbled in many fields, including jewelry. Early in his career, he worked for MGM Studios, creating sets and costumes during Hollywood’s Golden Age. From there, he tried his hand at interior design, crafting furniture and establishing attractive spaces for private homes, night clubs and public areas.
The aesthetics Duquette used for the movies and the glamor filled places in Los Angeles transferred well into his jewelry designs. When he created a piece, he would often go for bright colors, a plethora of stones, and little used motifs. Examples include a brooch with a carved coral face topped with a pearl tiara in between a set of coral butterfly wings, a necklace of turquoise, agate and shark’s teeth, and another of medallion sized blister pearls. Duquette’s belief in investing as much style and effort as possible into a work of art has been commemorated in many museum exhibitions, including those at the Louvre and the Gemological Institute of America.
Is a diamond vendor with wide influence. He has served in a number of gemstone related non-profit organizations and was one of the first proponents of the Kimberley Process, a system that prevents the sale of conflict diamonds. Along with his altruistic endeavors, he’s a chairman for the Rapaport Group, which publishes the Rapaport Diamond Report.
In 1978, Martin Rapaport introduced a weekly publication that established a guideline for the value of a diamond based on its carat weight, cut, color and clarity. Though the listed rates are suggestions rather than rules, many vendors worldwide use it as a basis to price their jewels. Since the report’s inception, Martin Rapaport’s services have grown to cover values in two currencies, real time price data, and 24-hour coverage. They are available online, for the convenience of subscribers worldwide.
The work of Marcel Tolkowsky has left a long ranging impact on the jewelry industry. A part of a long line of diamond cutters, Tolkowsky followed his family’s legacy while taking the additional step of studying engineering. As part of the process of earning his PhD at the University of London, he published “Diamond Design,” a book that outlined the shapes, facets and proportions that bring out the best brilliance and fire within a diamond. Today’s most popular diamond cut, the Round Brilliant, is born from his efforts.
Later in his life, Tolkowsky moved to the United States where he continued his work as a diamond designer along with selling the jewels. In addition to this work, he maintained memberships in various trade organizations, and acted as a chairman of the Diamond Dealers Club. His family continues to be active in the jewelry world, operating multiple companies as well as a certification laboratory.
Was an artist and jewelry designer active during the mid-20th century. Her career started 1919 with the Boivin jewelry house, where she quickly earned recognition for her curved pieces that stood in stark contrast to the then-popular Art Deco aesthetic. In the 1930s, she began working for Maison Bernard Herz, where she gained international attention for her unusual detail to color and blending of motifs. Her devotion to haute joaillerie culminated in her appointment in the Legion d’Honneur, the highest form of recognition in France.
Despite the acclaim and reams of press Belperron garnered, her name faded after her retirement, rendering her obscure for decades. The 1987 Sotheby’s auction catalogue of the Duchess of Windsor’s fine jewels included sixteen pieces by Belperron, reviving interest in the artist. 2007’s opening of her archives further fueled the public’s curiosity, culminating in further auctions, museum exhibits and texts dedicated to the designer.
Started painting at a young age before attending art school in Mumbai. At age 20, he started work with the jewelry firm Nanubhai, exposing him to high end designs of bright colors and floral imagery along with the Maharaja class that favored them. Sinde stayed at Nanubhai from 1937 to the early 1960s, when the Maharajas’ increasing interests in Western style jewelry lead him to Harry Winston.
Mr. Winston, desiring more delicate yet decorative look for his jewels, relied on Shinde for stylish mounts and designs never before seen by his clientele. While Shinde drew on his Indian heritage as a starting point for his sketches, he modified his designs to reflect the simple elegance favored by his new company. For four decades, he produced an abundance of paintings and drawings of jewelry ideas, over 100,000 of which remain in the Harry Winston Archives, ready to inspire designers of the future.
Is a designer who runs Mimi So Fine Jewelry. Her experience in the jewelry world started at the age of eight, when she began to help her parents run their three shops in New York City’s Chinatown. After graduating from art school, she managed one of her family’s stores before becoming one of the first women to open a store in New York City’s Diamond District.
Though Ms. So ran a brisk business in rings and bridal jewelry, demand for her product soared after her pieces were featured on the TV show Sex and the City. Since then, she has partnered with other luxury brands, including Richemont and DeBeers, while expanding her business both domestically and abroad.
Nicknamed “The Father of Modern Gemology,” Richard Liddicoat had a long and notable career. The child of an academic and grandson of two miners, he was encouraged to explore the land around his hometown and pursue higher education in the subjects he loved. After earning his master’s degree in mineralogy, he felt ready for adventure, jumping at the opportunity to move cross country to join the Gemological Institute of America’s faculty. Within a year of employment, he was promoted to Director of Education.
As part of his love of stones and teaching, Liddicoat wrote and edited numerous publications. Along with serving as editor in chief of GIA’s Gems and Gemology trade paper, he authored Handbook of Gem Identification and co-wrote the first editions of The Diamond Dictionary and the Jewelers’ Manual. In honor of his contributions to the field, an exceptionally striking form of tourmaline, liddicoatite, was named for him.
Her unusual introduction to the jewelry world is reflected in her designs. An avid maker of Chinese decorative knots, she began producing and selling knotted products to supplement her family’s income. The work yielded modest profits, leading her to blend the traditional art with modern jewelry techniques. She now runs a store with ten branches in China.
Along with knotting, Ms. Wang promotes her culture in other ways. Auspicious animals such as roosters make their way onto her jewelry, as do coins and carved jade. Each creations combines motifs in a way that promotes the wearer’s well-being.
As vital to her as her art, is making sure future generations keep in touch with their heritage. At every jewelry show she visits, Ms. Wang engages with students and encourages those who want to go into jewelry design. She also makes a point to teach others the art of knot making, helping others to make a career of the ancient craft.
London born George Fabian Lawrence, also known as Stoney Jack, helped to preserve many archeological discoveries. Working as a middleman, he preferred to spend time around building sites and other places laborers spent their time. He encouraged workers to come to him whenever they found interesting items, paying generously for their efforts.
Stoney Jack’s methods helped to keep much of the Cheapside Horde intact. Many laborers employed at the Cheapside work site came to Jack with the jewelry and other pieces they collected, nearly 12,000 in all. Stoney Jack’s connection to the London museum world allowed him to keep an important part of the city’s history intact.