Massive. Heavy. Barbaric. Those were the words used to describe the jewels—a pearl necklace held together by gigantic shell-shape clips, a platinum and diamond cuff, and a coordinating diamond-studded black enamel and platinum ring—worn by Madame Elsa Schiaparelli in the September 1933 Vogue. The pieces were designed by Suzanne Belperron, and this image ran in all three Vogue editions—Paris, London, and New York.
Schiaparelli clearly cherished these items; another image from that time shows her using the same shell clips as dress ornaments. Famously, Belperron, the only woman among 20th-century master jewelers, stubbornly never signed her pieces. She preferred her style to be her calling card—much to the dismay of her contemporaries and modern-day collectors.
“Though never a household name, she was revered by many who left their own indelible mark on style,” writes Ward Landrigan in Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron: My Style Is My Signature, which he coauthored with Patricia Corbett and Nico Landrigan. The recently published tome features this same striking photo of Schiaparelli—one of Belperron’s biggest fans.
Ear clips from the house’s current collection are based on Belperron’s original 1930s shell-clip design. (Photo: Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast Archive/Corbis)