The Legacy of Jean Schlumberger

The Legacy of Jean Schlumberger

Jean Schlumberger was born into a family of successful textile merchants in Mulhouse, France, in 1907. He initially studied literature at the Sorbonne as his parents tried to discourage his artistic interest by refusing him to undertake formal training. In the late 1930s, his earliest jewellery designs caught the eye of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who recognized his talent and hired him to create unconventional buttons for her imaginative garments.

Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. citrine, ruby and diamond ‘Bird on a Rock’ brooch

This experience proved to be a turning point in Schlumberger’s career, leading him to join the jewellery department at Tiffany & Co. in New York City. At Tiffany, Schlumberger became famous for his whimsical designs, which were infused with his unique sense of beauty and charm. Schlumberger drew great inspiration from the natural world, and his “Bird on a Rock” brooch is one of his most distinguished creations. Produced from the 1960s, it is crafted from platinum or gold, adorned with diamonds, and features a bird perched atop a precious gemstone. The brooch is a true work of art, with every detail carefully considered to evoke a sense of splendour.

The American philanthropist Bunny Mellon was a close friend of Schlumberger and one of his greatest collectors. Her passion for his work was evident in her extensive collection of his creations, including the iconic Bird on a Rock brooch. Bunny Mellon was one of the first to recognize the significance of the brooch and purchased one of the earliest pieces in 1965. Her collection of Schlumberger’s jewellery was one of the most extensive in the world, and it included other notable pieces, such as the Melon necklace and the Sea Urchin brooch. Bunny Mellon’s appreciation for Schlumberger’s work has helped cement his legacy as one of the most influential jewellery designers of the 20th century.

Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. sapphire, emerald and diamond ‘Starfish’ brooch, circa 2015

The Bird on a Rock brooch remains to this day a highly coveted piece of jewellery that is often seen on the red carpet and at society events. In recent times, the brooch has been seen adorning some of the most prominent women and men in the entertainment industry. At this year’s Grammys, rapper and music mogul Jay-Z wore the brooch as part of his ensemble, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to his outfit. Similarly, at the Baftas, renowned Formula One driver and men’s fashion icon Lewis Hamilton wore the brooch as a statement accessory, complementing his dapper suit and tie.

The fact that the Bird on a Rock brooch is still being worn by some of the world’s highest profile celebrities today is a testament to its enduring popularity and timelessness. It speaks to the continued relevance of Schlumberger’s artistic vision and the brooch’s ability to transcend generations, cultures, and genders. With pieces on display in some of the world’s most prestigious museums, the legacy of Jean Schlumberger’s artistry will continue to inspire generations
to come.

LAUREN BOUSTRIDGE / Senior Jewels Specialist, Sydney

Banner: Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. citrine, ruby and diamond ‘Bird on a Rock’ brooch

March 2023