The mid-twentieth century was the era of the artist-jeweler, who responded to a growing international affluent clientele with an increased desire for individual expression. The venerable firm of Tiffany & Co. in New York could not ignore the changes taking place in jewelry and metalwork design, both in the United States and abroad. In response, the firm recruited one of the preeminent jewelry designers of the twentieth century as creative director, the Alsatian-born Jean Schlumberger. Forced to flee France during World War II, he eventually settled in New York establishing a successful jewelry business. In 1955, Schlumberger became the first designer at Tiffany’s to have his name “branded” and to be given an exclusive sales salon at the flagship store in New York.
Sea creatures often feature in Schlumberger’s distinctly three-dimensional designs, attesting to the artist’s life-long love of nature. The Museum’s Seabird Clip, created in 1967, is the first example of this design, which is still in production today. The crested head of the sharp-beaked bird conjoins to a serpentine neck or body with scattered gold scales. Its gold and platinum surface is also embellished with 436 rose-cut diamonds, while a single ruby serves as a fiery eye. In this early version of the design, the black beak is enameled on platinum, a metal base later replaced by yellow gold. The forceful motion of the wild, fantastic bird contrasts with the spiked collar around its neck and the precious materials from which it is created. Schlumberger’s timeless design for the clip has retained its exotic allure.