Updated: Apr 28, 2021
Welcome to the second week of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. We imagine you’re getting to know the accomplishments of notable women in all spheres of life.
Today we will be featuring a woman who has shaped the jewelry industry, inspiring us to experiment and craft pieces that will help our customers express the most important parts of who they are.
Suzzanne Belperron (née, Vuillerme: b. 1900-1983). The French born jeweler was ahead of her time, particularly when it came to the kind of work that women were expected to do. Belperron’s story begins during WWII when in an attempt to protect Parisian gemstone dealer, Bernand Herz from the Gestapo, she swallowed all the pages from Herz address book.
This would later result in Herz offering Belperron a key position within the Maison Bernard Herz, where her designs were recognized and her taste highly regarded. As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for women during this time to make their way through the professional world. Prior to the war, Belperron excelled as a graduate of The School of Fine Arts in Besançon where she won first-place prize for her pendant-watch in 1919. The piece caught the eye of French jewelry house Boivin, and soon thereafter she began working for the maison. It was there that Belperron experimented with different gemstones, such as rock crystal, smoky topaz, and chalcedony.
While her time there was invaluable, she became disillusioned when others took credit for her work.
As such, she honed her craft until the fateful time during WWII when she saved Herz. And in 1932, to show his appreciation for both her sacrifice and talent, Bernard Herz extended an offer for Belperron to come to work at his company. It was there that her name was attributed to all her designs, causing her popularity to grow throughout the 1930s. Her originality made her a central figure in the artistic world, with her creations appearing alongside Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels.
Her work was also featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Herz continued to be harassed by the Nazis, and in 1940 when the Statute on Jews legislation was passed, Belperron took full control of the Maison Bernard Herz to ensure the company’s survival. Although she struggled to acquire materials to make jewelry, she continued to do her best, and was even offered jobs with American jewelry companies if she chose to leave Paris.
She never did.
Herz eventually was arrested by the Gestapo and transferred to the Drancy internment camp. He would entrust the company and the interests of his children to Belperron. Herz’s son, Jean would later partner with Belperron to manage the company successfully for the next 30 years.
Belperron was an innovator of design and technique, honing every skill and resource she could to bring beauty to the world during such a tumultuous time. She is credited with creating pieces for high-fashion and royalty. Following her death in 1987, her jewelry continued to accrue value.
Those most loyal to her vision continued to hold onto their collections.
In 2012, Belperron’s personal jewelry collection was sold for three times higher than originally estimated.
We honor all women on this day and everyday, thank you to all women who continue to work towards their dreams.