CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Famous Jewelers Throughout Time

 

David Webb Leopard Brooch

 

 

Many of today’s most revered and famous jewelry designers first began fashioning exquisite designs during the 19th century and early 20th century, with many of their signature designs dating back to their earliest days. As a result, antique fine jewelry pieces are now prized treasures, unmatched in style.

 

It was these famous jewelers from centuries past who shaped how we adorn ourselves in modern times. Whether they are known for innovating classic designs, defining statement jewelry style or for utilizing some of the world’s most magnificent stones, these jewelers will continue to be world-renowned and highly respected for centuries to come.

 

Uncover their stories below and learn how these jewelers, most of whom hail from humble beginnings, earned their fame.

 


Tiffany & Co.

 

Diamond Bracelet by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.

 

 

What is known worldwide today as Tiffany & Co. began as Tiffany & Young in 1837 in none other than New York City. When it first launched, Tiffany & Young was known for fine stationery. However, its popularity swelled when Charles Lewis Tiffany brought exquisite diamonds over from Paris in 1848, a time during which French nobles were eager to sell their precious gems while the Revolution raged. Later, Abraham Lincoln purchased Tiffany & Co. jewels for his wife, who wore them to his inaugural ball, establishing the brand as a jeweler to famous icons. While stationery is still a part of its current catalog, Tiffany & Co. is renowned for its timeless fine designer jewelry and diamond engagement rings.

 


An Iconic Brand

Tiffany’s flagship store is home to one of the most iconic diamonds in the world, a 128.54-carat fancy yellow diamond called the “Tiffany Diamond.” In addition to sourcing and owning one of the world’s most coveted diamonds, the “Tiffany Setting” is another one of the jeweler’s hallmark styles. First created in 1886, the Tiffany Setting is a six-prong solitaire setting that exquisitely shows off a brilliant round diamond. However, what may be most recognizable to the general public is not Tiffany & Co.'s namesake diamond or setting but its signature color. A “Tiffany Blue” box tied up in a silky white ribbon epitomized fine jewelry during the 20th century and still does to this day.
 


Turquoise and Diamond Earrings by Tiffany & Co.
 
Hollywood took notice of the iconic Tiffany & Co. as well. Movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sleepless in Seattle and Sweet Home Alabama featured Tiffany & Co., displaying the New York City store in all its luxury, continuing to contribute to the jeweler's legacy.
 

Cartier

Louis-François Cartier could have only dreamed of the incredible influence his eponymous brand, Cartier, would bestow upon jewelry design craftsmanship and society as a whole when he opened shop in 1847 in Paris. The founder lived by the motto, “Never imitate, always innovate,” which attracted high-end clientele from its inception. Cartier’s early use of platinum paired with diamonds made his jewelry designs quite sought after. His initial success, however, came from the quality and character of his watches.

 


Diamond Dove of Peace Bracelet by Cartier

 

 

Synonymous with Luxury

Throughout the history of Cartier, this iconic brand has been recognized for its luxurious designs. Wristwatches such as the Santos and Tank watch were and still are hallmarks of Cartier, but it is the jeweler's symbolic jewelry designs that opened the doors to opulence. An assortment of colorful gemstones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds made up the eye-catching Tutti Frutti collection. The unique mixture of fine jewels and precious metal used in these necklaces and bracelets is what made this collection particularly memorable. The innovative Trinity Ring was another first of its kind. Cartier mixed yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold to create the iconic trifecta. Other notable Cartier creations include the coveted Love bracelets and its signature symbol—the panther. You can also spot a Cartier piece by its exemplary red box, rimmed in a delicate gold jewelry design.

 


Panthere Diamond, Onyx and Emerald Drop Earrings by Cartier

 

 


Boucheron

Dating back to 1858, this Parisian jeweler is known for daring and unusual designs that awarded him a great deal of recognition and reward. Boucheron was the first jeweler to open a shop on the elegant Place Vendôme and the first to merge bronze, ivory and gold. Inspired by his family of drapers, founder Frédéric Boucheron incorporated fluidity into his jewelry style that was very unlike his colleagues. Boucheron was also known for his unparalleled skill of engraving diamonds, a practice that is still uncommon today.

 


Art Deco Emerald and Diamond Necklace by Boucheron

 

 

Boucheron’s Daring Style


In his day and age, clasps were the only way to secure a necklace, making it necessary for a woman to have help to wear one. Boucheron changed this when he created the first claspless version in 1879: an elegant Question Mark necklace dripping in diamonds. This achievement was only outdone by a 159-carat sapphire necklace made for Marie Louise Mackay years later. These significant innovations caught the royal family’s attention, so, in 1921, Boucheron created the Queen Mother Elizabeth’s favorite Diadem, later worn by the Duchess of Cornwall.
 

Van Cleef & Arpels

Floral Diamond and Gold Brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels

 
Paris' Place Vendôme became home to another famous jeweler in 1906: Van Cleef & Arpels. Van Cleef & Arpels resulted from a beautiful marriage between Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a dealer in precious stones, and husband Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a stonecutter, after they wed in 1895. The family affair expanded when Alfred's sister and Estelle's brothers joined the business. They shared the desire to use high-quality hand-craftsmanship and emphasize fine, cut stones — a decision that swathed the brand in luxury from the beginning.
 

A Family Flush with Talent


Van Cleef & Arpels Squirrel Bracelet
 
A background in the diamond and gemstone business served Van Cleef & Arpels well. One of its chief achievements is The Mystery Set. Patented in 1933, The Mystery Set is a method of setting precious stones so that the metal becomes invisible. In addition to this incredible innovation, the brand’s style is evident in lobed cross designs and animal and floral motifs, including a stunning peony clip and a rose bracelet, both fashioned from colored gemstones and diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels wasn’t only known for jewelry; one of its first famed designs was the Minaudière, a precious beauty compact. This was followed by creating the Cadenas watch, which appeared more as a bracelet than a watch with a discreet dial to read the time.
 
Contributing to their already esteemed reputation, the famous jewelry designer was popular among leading ladies. The Duchess of Windsor and Jackie O fancied Van Cleef & Arpels pieces, and Grace Kelly was given a pearl and diamond jewelry ensemble, designed by the jeweler, from her husband-to-be Prince Rainier III of Monaco at their wedding.
 

Buccellati

The Buccellati legacy began long before the eponymous brand began. Contardo Buccellati worked as a goldsmith in Milan in the mid-eighteenth century, where Mario Buccellati would later found Buccellati in 1919. The lineage maintains the family legacy, serving as head designers for the brand still today. The Buccellati family is also credited with the founding of the Italian Gemological Institute, further establishing its influence in Italian history and jewelry craftsmanship.
 



Buccellati Diamond Necklace

 

One-of-a-Kind Metalwork

Buccellati jewelry is most renowned for goldwork and intricate engraving techniques reminiscent of Renaissance jewelry. While the jeweler’s metallic pieces are most notable, they also used unique colorful gemstones. These features make Buccellati's works easily recognizable. Buccellati also made a name for itself with fine jeweled compacts and silver flatware.
 

Harry Winston

 

Colombian Emerald and Diamond Earrings by Harry Winston

 

 

Harry Winston was established in New York in 1932 by the brand's namesake. However, that wasn’t Harry Winston's beginning in the jewelry business. The young Harry Winston worked in his father’s small jewelry shop before setting off on his own and opening The Premier Diamond Company in 1920. Later to be declared “The King of Diamonds,” Harry was a gem expert at a young age, discovering a precious emerald in a tray of costume jewelry at a pawn shop which he sold for a small fortune at the age of 12. Little did he know he would one day become one of the most famed jewelers of all time.

 


The King of Diamonds


Golconda Diamond Ring by Harry Winston
 
As “The King of Diamonds,” it is no surprise that Harry Winston worked with some of the rarest diamonds of the world. One of the rarest stones Harry Winston ever accrued was the 45.42-carat heart-shaped deep blue Hope Diamond, which he later donated to The Smithsonian Museum. Other notable diamonds touched by the jeweler include the 69.42-carat pear-shaped Taylor-Burton diamond and the rough 726-carat stone called the Jonker diamond, which he would have cut into twelve smaller, but still quite large, stones.
 
After working with countless celebrities and royals over the years, Harry Winston is now a household name. The Harry Winston vintage jewelry brand is still known for its incredible gemstones and its minimal, platinum settings with exquisitely cut diamonds.
 

David Webb

David Webb is the most recent famous jeweler to join the ranks of his predecessors, but his place is well earned. The founder and namesake of the brand established it in 1948 in New York, where all of the jewelry is still crafted in-house. Webb was inspired by his love of culture, architecture, and ancient gold. These inspirations led him to fashion truly unique, bold designs beloved by many throughout the retro jewelry era of the 60s and 70s and into the modern era.
 

Dramatic Influence

Webb’s style can only be described as iconic. His unique designs for which he is best known include enameled animal bracelets and other crystal and animal jewelry pieces. Some of his most notable animalistic designs depict frogs and zebras. In addition to his use of animal motifs, David Webb also is known for his bold use of color and dramatic designs for necklaces, brooches, and the like. His style attracted Jackie Kennedy, who commissioned the designer to create the Gifts of State in 1962, and Elizabeth Taylor, who showed off her Webb antique pieces in her films.

 


David Webb Colombian Emerald Ring

 

 

As styles have evolved throughout the jewelry eras, so have these jewelers, which is why they remain popular today. The modern-day creative directors continue to create designs that exude the uniqueness upon which their brands were founded. The antique jewelry and vintage jewelry designs from each jeweler still in circulation encapsulate their identities and carry an immense history—they will never go out of style.

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