Magnificent Jewels season really has arrived! Last week, we chatted about a gorgeous pink diamond up for sale in November at Christie’s, and today, we’ve got a closer look at a gorgeous midcentury bauble made by an iconic designer heading to the auction room at Sotheby’s.
This spectacular midcentury brooch features a 92-carat pink sapphire surrounded by an abstract floral frame made of gold set with diamonds and blue sapphires. It was designed by Jean Schlumberger, the incredible mind behind so many iconic 20th-century Tiffany creations.
Here’s a closer look at the jewel. Schlumberger, noted for his collaborations with famous beauties in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, was one of only a handful of Tiffany designers who was permitted to sign his work. His jewels were worn and loved by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Babe Paley, the Duchess of Windsor, Jayne Wrightsman, and Bunny Mellon.
On their jewelry-focused Instagram account, Sotheby’s shared a little insight into his process: “In the 1950s, ordering jewellery was just like ordering couture gowns: Schlumberger sometimes required up to five fittings for one piece.” The auction house has previously summed up his work neatly: “Schlumberger’s fantastical brand of creativity flourished in the non-conformist spirit of the 1960s and ‘70s, his designs embraced by women wanting something slightly unorthodox while remaining well within the realm of good taste.”
Among the most famous of Schlumberger’s Tiffany creations was his Bird on a Rock Brooch, the setting he created for the famous Tiffany Yellow Diamond.
Another of my favorite Schlumberger creations is the remarkable Jasmine Necklace that he made for Bunny Mellon. That necklace features several multicolored sapphires. It’s displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, part of a spectacular gallery packed with jewels from the Mellon-Schlumberger collaboration. (I visited the gallery last year, and I can highly recommend it!)
The pink sapphire brooch that will be sold in a few weeks was made for another famous face of the ’50s and ’60s: Fiona Campbell-Walter, the New Zealand-born model who was a favorite subject of Cecil Beaton. She appeared on the cover of Life and in the pages of Vogue and modeled for the likes of Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli (for whom Schlumberger had worked in the 1930s).
In 1956, at the height of her career, Fiona married Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the famous art collector and industrialist, in Switzerland. She retired from modeling and had two children, one of whom is Baroness Francesca von Thyssen-Bornemisza, the former wife of Karl von Habsburg, the current head of the House of Habsburg.
With Fiona’s connections to the fashion world and Heini’s spectacular wealth and collector’s instincts, it’s no surprise that she gravitated toward jewelry made by the likes of Schlumberger. The baron and baroness are pictured here in the United Kingdom in 1964. They were divorced the following year and Fiona relocated to London full time. (She later embarked on a secret romance with the much-younger Alexander Onassis, Aristotle’s son.)
The brooch wasn’t the only fantastic jewel that Schlumberger made for Fiona Thyssen. He also crafted the famous Plumes Necklace (pictured above) for her in 1960. She briefly came out of retirement to pose wearing the necklace for photographer Henry Clarke for Vogue. This particular Plumes Necklace was sold at Sotheby’s in 2018.
Fiona Thyssen’s sapphire and diamond Schlumberger brooch is currently on tour ahead of its auction in Geneva on November 9. The jewel is currently being displayed in London, and it will make stops in New York, Singapore, and Taipei before heading back to Switzerland for the sale.