Suzanne Belperron is one of jewelry’s most famous collectors, but she also lived a life worthy of historical fiction—and author M.J. Rose says she couldn’t resist taking on the challenge of writing about it.
Rose’s latest book. The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams, tells the fictionalized story of Belperron’s life, especially during World War II. Rose says she diid research and interviews with Belperron’s family and jewelry historians, allowing her to mix fact and fiction to devise the best story possible for the book, which comes out Feb. 7.
For Rose, her fascination with Belperron started in 2009 while on a research trip in Paris. That is where she saw two vintage gold and diamond cuff bracelets in Lydia Courteille’s jewelry shop window. Rose learned the bracelets’ creator was Belperron (1900–1983), who Rose describes as “an enigmatic and fiercely independent woman, far ahead of her time,” who challenged classical jewelry design.
Jewelry is a topic Rose has returned to time and again because it is as exciting and dramatic as Belperron herself, the author says.
“I am in awe of the jewelers of yesterday and today who are able to take these gifts of nature and use them to create miniature sculptures that we wear. I owe a huge debt to every one of them who takes the time to make something lovely,” Rose says.
“As talismans, keepsakes, souvenirs of places, people, or relationships, or just gifts we give ourselves, what jewelers create takes on a life of its own, and I don’t think enough people stop and think about the people who make these treasures.”
Rose considers all four of her jewelry-focused novels a “thank-you to the artists who have come before us and are among us now,” she says. “I hope these books make the jewelers who read them feel seen and valued.”
Rose tells JCK more about her inspirations and her new book in this interview.
What might appeal to jewelers in this story?
I took a decade-long deep dive into Suzanne Belperron’s life, and the book is full of gems about what inspired her, how she worked, and how she felt about her clients, jewelry, craftsmanship, and gemstones themselves.
Madame Belperron said that the stones literally “winked” at her. What a vivid description. She had an affinity with all kinds of stones, not only relying on the precious gems. Her work with topaz, chalcedony, chrysoprase, turquoise, citrine, and others shook up the jewelry world when she started using them in the 1930s.
The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams is a novel, and I have fictionalized parts of her life since there is so little information available. But there’s so much that is based on truth that I think jewelers will find much that resonates with them.
How did those bracelets you saw in Paris years ago give life to this story?
The bracelets literally shouted out to me because they were so bold and beautiful at the same time. The glow of the gold and the brilliance of the diamonds and the art deco design all gave the bracelets such a life of their own, as if they were just sitting in the window dancing and waiting for me to notice them.
What was your most surprising find in your research?
Part of what Suzanne Belperron actually did for the Resistance. It’s not published anywhere, and I got the information directly from her great-niece.
Why do you write with jewelry as a theme?
What I find so fascinating and endlessly curious about jewelry is that each piece takes on the patina of not only its maker but each of its owners. Passed down from generation to generation or sold, pawned or stolen, there are endless tales that every ring, pair of earrings, necklace, brooch could tell if only they could speak. I decided I wanted to be their voice, and I hope in each of my books the stories I tell do the pieces justice.
Seeing Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work with black opals was the first step to what later became my novel Tiffany Blues. I realized in a very visceral way how much his love of nature informed the jewelry created under his auspices, and that led me to learning about his summer home, Laurelton Hall, which is where that book takes place.
Seeing a 1920 photograph of a diamond and sapphire Romanov tiara that had been missing for over a hundred years inspired another novel. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would have taken it apart for the value of its stones, but eventually decided that must have been what happened or it would have surfaced by now—and there was the plot to The Last Tiara.
Top: M.J. Rose, whose new novel, The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams, about jewelry designer Suzanne Belperron, is out Feb. 7. The author hopes jewelers will enjoy her historical fiction about Belperron, which is based on research and family interviews. (Photo courtesy of M.J. Rose)
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