Pat Saling and a passion for the Jewels of Suzanne Belperron
One of the star jewels shown to journalists at the press lunch in Hong Kong in March was a spectacular cuff bangle by the French designer, Suzanne Belperron, whose name has become a buzz word in the world of “vintage” jewellery. The bangle, made around 1936, in platinum, diamonds and calibre-cut sapphires, centred on a large single stone diamond, was lent by GemGenève exhibitor Pat Saling, a New York-based dealer in antique and 20th century jewellery. The bangle is a superb example of Belperron’s inimitable style – she used to say “My style is my signature”. Designed as a loop or twisting spiral, a Belperron signature, it shows the designer’s effortless blend of powerful graphic lines and curvaceous sensuality that so captured the bold, strong femininity of the 1930s and 40s. It shows the new volumes that Belperron introduced to Art Deco design, and exudes an understated glamour that strikes a chord today. Perhaps most of all it is an exceptional showpiece of Belperron’s sense of timeless, enduring modernity: the bangle looks as dynamically contemporary and relevant today as it surely did when it was first created.
Pat Saling spent 20 years working alongside the late and legendary Fred Leighton in New York. Today, she acknowledges how much she learnt from him, about antique and period jewellery ranging from 19th century to the 1950s. She says, “I had the huge privilege of working with him, and now I have the luxury of his vast repertoire of jewels running through my head. Murray (his real name) had a vision for antique jewellery, and he put Art Deco jewellery on the map.”
Pat’s “personal love” she says is the jewellery of Suzanne Belperron. She first discovered Belperron’s work in 1981, long before the current surge of popularity, at a time when Belperron was virtually forgotten and almost unknown. She began selling Belperron pieces to a handful of collectors and over some 35 years she has watched as this avant-garde, audacious French designer has become a cult figure in 20th century jewellery history, her jewels madly sought after by connoisseurs. “Belperron was not a typical jeweller, not a trend-follower. She was more of a jewellery sculptor. She designed jewels to fit and suit women, perfectly attuned to a woman’s body”. She adds that the jewels are always meticulously made and supremely comfortable to wear. She loves Belperron’s adventurous use of lapidary work, the carved agate and quartz bangles, the chalcedony beads and brooches designed as carved stylised leaves, the sheen she was able to bring to these jewels. Belperron’s jewels were worn by the great mid-century women of style, Daisy Fellowes, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, the Duchess of Windsor. Pat Saling says, “These were not jewels for shrinking violets, they were, and are still today, bold, sensual masterpieces of contemporary design.”