The jewellery designer Jean Schlumberger once said: "When a new client comes in I must determine her taste, her way of life, her likes and dislikes, her superstitions...... You see, I must know the physical environment in which my jewel will live." According to Frederick Vreeland, son of the former editor of "Harper's Bazaar" and editor-in-chief of "Vogue", Diana Vreeland, one of the most colourful and famous characters of 20th Century fashion, the present Schlumberger jewel was his mother's favourite object. She viewed it as a lucky charm, a sort of talisman. It was the only piece she would wear for chic evenings. When she had dinner parties at her home in Westchester, New York, where Schlumberger was a frequent visitor during the war years, she used it as a centrepiece on the table. Otherwise, she would have it perched on her bedside stand. She even incorporated it into a 1941 fashion shoot in which a model was clad as a modern day Joan of Arc.
Schlumberger was one of the most renowned jewellers in America from the moment he opened his New York boutique in 1940 until his death in 1987. Even now, his much coveted designs are sold by Tiffany & Co.. He was born in Mulhouse, France in 1907. After brief stints in a Berlin bank and the Parisian publishing and perfume industries, he realized that his greatest gift lay in the field of jewellery. His penchant for nature-inspired pieces manifested itself at an early stage. During his stay in Paris, he would often visit its well-known flea markets where he would buy 18th and 19th Century Meissen porcelain flowers which would have originally ornamented chandeliers. He incorporated them into gold brooches, applying semi-precious stones to their petals. These were offered to his closest friends. Eventually, his creations caught the eye of Elsa Schiaparelli, the celebrated Surrealist-linked fashion designer. Hence, from 1937 to 1939, the Frenchman produced a whole menagerie of quirky, at times humorous, and extremely imaginative "bijoux de fantaisie" for the couturière. His flying fish earrings and cupid pins, in particular, became fashion necessities in both America and France.
After his foray into costume jewellery, Schlumberger decided to open shop in New York. In 1940, he entered into business with the man who was to become his lifelong associate, Nicholas Bongard. Vreeland's intuition for fashion trends made her one of their first clients. His simultaneously audacious and witty creations appealed to her flamboyant personality and consistently extravagant ideas about fashion. She came to the novice designer with a dream which she described in her introduction to the 1976 two-volume publication by Franco Maria Ricci "Bijoux de Jean Schlumberger": "In Alsace, near where he (Schlumberger) was born is the beautiful town of Nancy....My dream was a trophy of gallantry. Johnny made me a pin after the escutcheon of gallantry I'd seen so many times in Nancy. I love that pin. I stand it on its prongs beside my bed. I've always had it with me as it means so much to me. It has all the symbols of gallantry and war and protecting the beautiful women of the world."
Much of Schlumberger's oeuvre is marked by its three-dimensional quality. This jewel is no exception. As mentioned above, it was inspired by a statue which is perched atop a facade of the Hotel de Ville at Place Stanislas in Nancy. It is referred to in French as a "trophé" or monument to the chivalry, honour and gallantry of men in the wars of the past. Hence, the brooch has come to be referred to as a "Trophy" as well.
Also very typical of Schlumberger's style is the bold mixture of colours: the red of the rubies blending with the purple of the amethysts and blue of the enamel. All of which are juxtaposed with the brightness of the diamonds and the complementary hue of the gold.
The brooch is impressive in size, another characteristic of his oeuvre, which necessitated an equally powerful presence to wear it. It is extraordinary, an adjective that no one would have denied the larger-than-life Vreeland. A paragon of Schlumberger's craft, many would argue that he never surpassed it.