Discover Schepps

America's Court Jeweler

The Man, The Heritage

schepps_store_bg2Seaman Schepps
1881-1972
The Man, The Heritage

Seaman Schepps was born in 1881 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Legend has it that the Seaman’s Bank for Savings, visible from his mother’s hospital window, was the inspiration for his name.

As a young boy, Seaman Schepps worked various odd jobs. He later became a traveling salesman, making his way cross country to Los Angeles where in 1904 he opened his first shop and soon married. In 1914, he relocated to San Francisco and opened “The Virginia Studios” a store named for his first daughter, Virginia Jane. After his younger daughter Patricia was born, the family returned to Los Angeles where he again opened for business.

The Schepps family returned east in 1921. Seaman Schepps opened on 6th Avenue around the corner from the Algonquin Hotel in the heart of New York City. Many of his clients were patrons of the arts and theatre and stars of the stage and screen. Due to the stock market crash in 1929, Schepps lost everything including his newly built shop at 1066 6th Avenue. The shock of this loss led Seaman Schepps to a turning point. In re-thinking his business strategy he decided to develop exclusive designs mixing unique ideas, bold colors and sharp textures. In 1934, he opened his doors on Madison Avenue and was well on his way to being known as the most innovative American jeweler of his time.

While on a trip around the world, Mr. Schepps was so enamored with Hong Kong that he delayed the rest of his tour to stay for three months. There he discovered unlimited resources which could be adapted to extraordinary jewelry creations. From rough branch coral to lawn ornaments to elegantly carved ivory chess pieces, Schepps was inspired by everything that crossed his path.

In the late 40s, the powerful, novel designs of Seaman Schepps came into their own. America, with a new sense of wealth and style, craved the splendid, sensational sophistication that became synonymous with the Schepps name. Broad shoulder pads were the distinctive mark of the times, and haute couture begged for bold new designs to display the extravagance of the era. The huge luscious pieces Schepps created were the natural complement.

With a visionary sense of distinction, Schepps blended the unexpected — marrying diamonds, precious metals and man-made materials, choosing his media brilliantly to create a splendid palette of tone and hue. Through this unparalleled experimentation, Schepps pioneered a unique style of jewelry whose sense of splendor offered a new perspective to the world of fine jewelry.

Often clients wanted a one-of-a-kind bauble and commissioned Schepps to incorporate their old jewelry into a fresh new design. Frequently this led to landmark decisions that helped distinguish Schepps as an extraordinary talent. For example, a well known client brought him a necklace of beautiful turbo shells from the Indian Ocean, to be fashioned into earrings. Schepps immediately envisioned them with cabochon turquoise and coral set on the points and mounted with gold wire. In delighting his client, Schepps created one of the most popular trends in twentieth century jewelry.

His client list included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Duchess of Windsor, and members of the Du Pont, Mellon and Rockefeller families. By serving these most powerful and influential individuals, Schepps became known as “America’s Court Jeweler”.

When Seaman Schepps passed on in 1972, he left behind a legacy of truly innovative design concepts. Since his death, the appreciation of his work has grown, elevating it to a new plateau. Many renowned art collectors, notably Andy Warhol, Joan Quinn and Holly Soloman, have become aficionados of Schepps’ work, collecting it as works of art. The rebirth of Seaman Schepps, on 58th Street and Park Avenue in New York City, ensures that the splendor and singular style of this jewelry and art will continue to be appreciated by the collectors and clients, old and new, of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Our History

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The Seaman Schepps store on Madison Avenue, 1935

An immigrant’s son, who grew up in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side, Seaman Schepps rose to prominence in the 1930s with jewelry designs that challenged the status quo and defined a new style for the American woman. With his chunky brooches, “barbaric” bracelets and “bubble” earrings, Schepps pioneered a unique style of jewelry whose sense of splendor offered a new perspective to the world of fine jewelry.

Witty, over-the-top and flattering, Schepps’ jewelry embodied style and originality and was featured on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Look and other magazines. It appealed to a myriad of clients from Katherine Hepburn to Andy Warhol to the Duchess of Windsor and greatly influenced his contemporaries. Today, some 50 years after his death, he continues to inspire modern jewelers.

Through the 1930s, and into the 40s and 50s, new clients flocked to him at his store on Madison Avenue. Often clients wanted a one-of-a-kind bauble and commissioned Schepps to incorporate their old jewelry into a fresh new design. Frequently this led to landmark decisions that helped distinguish Schepps as an extraordinary talent. His client list included Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Duchess of Windsor, and members of the Du Pont, Mellon and Rockefeller families. By serving these most powerful and influential individuals, Schepps became known as “America’s Court Jeweler”.

 

Our Legacy

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Seaman Schepps designing jewelry at his desk

After Schepps’ death in 1972, Patricia Schepps Vaill continued to make jewelry in her father’s style, often using elements from pieces he had designed. Vaill developed a new look in jewelry aimed at appealing to a younger clientele.

After twenty years at the helm of her father’s company, Vaill retired and passed the baton to Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenhajm who have continued to produce jewelry in the unique Schepps style. Over the last 16 years, Bauer and Hopenhajm have added new pieces to the classic collection and opened new shops in Palm Beach and Nantucket, bringing Schepps’ characteristic whimsy to a new generation of admirers.

Today’s designs draw on the Schepps archives which contain over 5,000 detailed jewelry renderings and 650 molds. The pieces created in the workshop continue to be made with cutting-edge methods and inventive and unusual materials. The flagship store on Park Avenue at Fifty-eighth Street continues to attract socialites, movie stars, royalty and trend-setters who are drawn to Schepps’ innovative use of exotic materials.

The Present

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The Seaman Schepps installation at the Museum of Art & Design in New York, by Massimo and Lella Vignelli

After twenty years at the helm of her father’s company, Patricia Vaill retired and passed the baton to Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenhajm who have continued to produce jewelry in the unique Schepps style. Over the last 16 years, Bauer and Hopenhajm have added new pieces to the classic collection and opened new shops in Palm Beach and Nantucket, bringing Schepps’ imaginative designs to a new generation of admirers.

Today’s designs draw on the Schepps archives which contain over 5,000 detailed jewelry renderings and 650 molds. The pieces created in the workshop continue to be made with cutting-edge methods and inventive, unusual materials. Stemming from the tradition of wit and whimsy, Seaman Schepps’ new collections seek to inspire and captivate a new audience with an uncompromising quest for an innovative aesthetic. Classic pieces are rendered in new materials and signature materials are used for bold new styles.

Recently the subject of museum exhibitions in the United States and Europe celebrating the storied legacy, Seaman Schepps is poised to mark its place in the 21st Century as one of the world’s greatest jewelers.