It’s unusual to think of a jewelry designer as revolutionary–generally the great jewelers, like Benvenuto Cellini or Peter Carl Fabergé, have reflected rather than challenged the taste of their times. Working for one patron or a small circle of clients, they created art that was influenced by the fashion of their day, and perpetuated the notion of jewelry as a symbol of wealth.
Seaman Schepps, the man sometimes called “America’s court jeweler,” was different. An immigrant’s son from New York’s Lower East Side, he rose to prominence in the 1930s by creating designs that defied all previous ideas of what jewelry should look like. From a shop on New York’s Madison Avenue, which Schepps opened in 1926, he made an almost immediate sensation with his chunky brooches, “barbaric” bracelets, and cabochon “bubble” earrings and brooches.
Despite the Depression, he was soon able to move up to a much larger and grander Madison Avenue shop–a duplex with twin winding staircases and a black-and-white tile floor out of a Fred Astaire movie located across the street from what was then the old Ritz Carlton hotel.
Witty–even outrageous–and wildly flattering, Schepps’ jewelry stood for style and originality more than wealth: featured on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Look, and other magazines, it appealed to an enormous range of clients, from the Duchess of Windsor to Andy Warhol. His influence reached beyond his contemporaries and clients. Designer peers acknowledged his mastery; and today–more than twenty years after Seaman Schepps’ death–his work has inspired a legion of new collectors who seek out vintage Schepps pieces at auction and at estate jewelers the world over.
Throughout the 1930s, and into the 40s and 50s, new clients flocked to him. His landmark shop on Park Avenue at Fifth-eight Street continues to attract socialites, movie stars, royalty, and trend-setters who are drawn to Schepps’ innovative use of exotic materials.
This is the official blog of Seaman Schepps New York, where we muse on this historic brand–its heritage, its legacy, and its present.
To view our collections, please visit our website at www.seamanschepps.com