Analyze the results of any jewelry auction in the past five years, and it is clear which 20th-century designers are most sought after by today’s collectors. Original works by pioneering designers such as Jean Schlumberger, Suzanne Belperron, and René Boivin routinely fetch top dollar at auction—an impressive feat for individual artists who spent their careers competing with the industry’s historic powerhouses like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. What distinguished these highly desired 20th-century designers from the large international jewelry houses was their freedom to experiment with design, to challenge tradition, and to break boundaries in every direction.
Suzanne Belperron, arguably one of the most important jewelry designers of the 20th century, best represents such a trailblazing figure. Her work during the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s broke the rules for what defined fine jewelry then, mixing semiprecious stones like chalcedony and rock crystal with the most precious gems in organically inspired compositions to create a fresh, bold, and ultimately modern aesthetic. Today, Belperron’s unique designs sell for unprecedented prices at auction and in the vintage jewelry market.
Like Belperron and other similarly independent predecessors, today’s leading designers are each impressing their own identities in the annals of jewelry history. The following group of 21st-century designers comprise the future collectibles of our generation. Each produces a limited number of impeccably made and largely one-of-a-kind pieces composed of incredibly rare stones—or even unusual materials—in distinct settings often of unconventional elements. Though a few maintain a single boutique, most operate from a private showroom and market themselves by word-of-mouth, annual private viewings, or exhibiting at prestigious art fairs around the world. Between the limited production, high quality of craftsmanship, originality in design, and singular nature of materials, each piece created by these designers is prized not for the sum of their parts but for the inestimable future value inherent within them.