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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Jellyfish, 1967, 18 karat gold, platinum, moonstones, diamonds, and sapphires - Platinum Petals, ca. 1952, 18 karat gold, white and yellow diamonds, and platinum - Blue Shell, 1957, 18 karat gold, platinum, diamonds, and sapphires, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.- When independent, jet-setting women of the 1960s and ‘70s wanted to sparkle a little brighter, they frequently turned to renowned French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger. Best known for his work for Tiffany & Co., Schlumberger was a master at using the beauty of the natural world as inspiration for creating unique, brightly colored works of jeweled art that were both elegant and whimsical. 

After premiering at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2017, Jewels of the Imagination: Radiant Masterworks by Jean Schlumberger from the Mellon Collection is making its first appearance outside Virginia at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

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 Unknown, Portrait of Jean Schlumberger, ca. 1970, photograph, © Tiffany and Company 2018

The exhibition highlights 135 spectacular pieces from the personal collection of philanthropist and art collector Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. 

The glittering jewelry designs of Schlumberger were the epitome of mid-century elegance. Drawing inspiration from the natural world and such exotic locales as Bali, India and Thailand, Schlumberger’s lively, experimental designs graced the necks, wrists and lapels of style icons of the era like Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Diana Vreeland, Elizabeth Taylor and of course, Bunny Mellon.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987), Diana Vreeland “Trophée de Vaillance” Clip, 1941, Diamonds, enamel, amethyst, ruby, platinum, 14k gold, © Tiffany and Company 2018

Mrs. Mellon’s love of gardening inspired many of Schlumberger’s botanical jewelry pieces, such as Flower Pot (Pot de fleurs), 1960, an ornate flowering plant emerging from a tiny terracotta pot, encrusted with emeralds and diamonds, with an amethyst flower bursting with gold petals. Another famous piece, Jellyfish, 1967, is a brooch that floats mysteriously on the wearer’s lapel, with a body of moonstones, and dynamic tentacles made of diamonds and sapphires appearing to move through flowing lines.  

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Flower Pot, 1960. Amethyst, emeralds, diamonds, black garnet ore, 18-, 20- and 22-karat gold, and terracotta, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Jellyfish, 1967, 18 karat gold, platinum, moonstones, diamonds, and sapphires, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

A special friendship between the artist and Mrs. Mellon inspired many of Schlumberger’s pieces. Her love of gardening, combined with his creative takes on color, movement and shape, resulted in whimsical creations that are unmistakably Schlumberger. More than 30 years after Schlumberger’s death in 1987, Tiffany & Co. still carries many of his designs. 

Mrs. Mellon’s extensive collection of Schlumberger pieces is the largest, most comprehensive public collection of his work in the world. It was donated to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts between 1985 and 2015. Jewels of the Imagination will be on view at the MFA from Dec. 15, 2018 to March 31, 2019, giving visitors an opportunity to view everything from jewelry to cigarette cases to salt cellars.  

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Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon photographed in the Mellon Galleries at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Robert Shelley VMFA photo archives.

Companion exhibition: Drawn to Beauty 
A companion exhibition, Drawn to Beauty: The Art and Atelier of Jean Schlumberger, was created by curators at the MFA to explore Schlumberger’s process as an artist and designer, while offering insight into his relationships with the jet set. The exhibition, which features sketches, photographs, objets d’art and personal items belonging to the artist, also includes jewelry from the Tiffany & Co. archives and from private collections. The MFA has also created a catalog for Drawn to Beauty, which features a number of pieces that are being exhibited for the first time. 

The two exhibitions are on view in the Hazel Hough Galleries, which has been transformed into a space reflecting the natural elements from which Schlumberger drew his inspiration.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Leaves necklace, 1956. Turquoise, diamonds, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Pisces brooch, ca. 1965. Diamonds, emeralds, paillonné enamel, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Cucumber box, 1962–63. Peridots and 18-karat gold, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Claw ring, late twentieth century. Tortoiseshell and 18-karat gold, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Platinum Petals brooch, c. 1952. White and yellow diamonds, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Acorns crossover ring, early 1960s. Cultured pearls and 18-karat gold, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Late 1950s necklace. Cultured pearls, 18-karat two-color gold, ruby, and diamonds, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Hummingbird brooch, 1962–63. Diamonds, pink diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, ruby, black enamel, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Flowers and Leaves necklace, ca. 1958. Diamonds, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Jasmine (Breath of Spring) necklace, 1966, set with diamonds and 16 coloured sapphires, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Cornflower brooch, c. 1957. Sapphires, diamonds, 18-karat gold, and platinum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Shells bracelet, 1958. Platinum, 18-karat gold, diamond, sapphire, and emerald, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Butterflies bracelet, 1956, set with diamonds and coloured stones, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Torsades bracelets, c. 1958. Diamonds, 18-karat gold, seed pearls, gold beads, and coral beads, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Assorted rings, 1907–1987, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853), Dot Losange Bangles, 1960, Gold and paillonné enamel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine ArtsPhoto: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853)Bees ring20th-century, set with an impressive yellow diamond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853)Pectoral Cross, 1960, set with emeralds, sapphires, aquamarines and diamonds, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.

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Jean Schlumberger (French, 1907–1987) for Tiffany & Co., manufacturer (American, founded 1853)Bird on a Rock brooch, 19675, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton.