For years, men’s jewelry was low-key: slim silver bands and understated but slightly weighty chains from New Top. Then it was florid, and even goofy: pearly and beaded necklaces popularized by the denizens of Dimes Square (including GQ’s own Samuel Hine and Jon Tietz) and eventually the likes of Pete Davidson. Now there can only be one way to go: enormously chunky.
In particular: the enormously chunky stylings of Jean Schlumberger, who designed bulky, unabashedly opulent pieces for Tiffany’s beginning in the 1960s through his death in the late 1980s. (He also designed things like baubled ostrich clips, harlequin brooches, and pine cone chokers for the couturier Elsa Schiaparelli.) He loved anthropomorphic and representational forms: pavé diamond birds with ruby eyes, diamond bees clutching an enormous yellow honeypot-like gem, a gold and peridot seahorse. His pieces could approach the grotesque, with undulating, tentacle-like forms ending with priceless gems. Even his simplest rings were outrageous: bands studded with tiny colored jewels or wrapped with gold or silver ropes. Schlumberger, in essence, combines the humor of Beepy Bella with the decadence demanded by the much-touted roaring 2020s.
The revolution has already commenced. Earlier this week, The RealReal noted in its 2021 consignment report that the value of Schlumberger jewels has increased 36% percent last year; in the second half of 2021, demand for the pieces was up 85% compared to the first half. While “classic investment pieces” continue to be popular, says Steffi Lee, the site’s fine jewelry and watches manager, “over the past few months we’ve seen significant demand for over-the-top, bold jewelry like chunky gold necklaces, ornate rings, and vibrant, colorful stones.”
In part, Schlumberger might have Jay-Z to thank. In the About Love campaign released by Tiffany’s last year, Jay Z wears a handful of Schlumberger’s best-known designs for the jewelry house: the Apollo brooch and the Bird on a Rock brooch, which features the aforementioned diamond bird—with ruby eyes, perched on an enormous yellow stone—as well as a corresponding pair of cufflinks. And it’s easy to imagine men gravitating towards those giant rings, blistering with gems. Already, men are shopping the Schlumberger-influenced works of the New York-based jewelry brand Prounis, which also nestles impressive stones into weighty gold bands. It may be only a matter of time before we see a jewelry hound like Lil Uzi Vert sporting a neck-full of colored sapphires dolloped with diamond daffodils.
Aside from those two brooches, however, the Schlumberger-Tiffany craze so far remains mostly on the secondary market. (There are some eighty Schlumberger pieces still regularly produced by Tiffany, including three impressive engagement ring styles.) Town & Country predicted a revival for his unabashedly wild designs last year, but Tiffany has yet to take full advantage of this particular fascination with something like a capsule of his more outlandish designs, or a men’s jewelry campaign.
Cannily, The RealReal noted in its report that prices for Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso pieces created for Tiffany are up as well, writing “Actually, still your mother’s Tiffany”—a rebuke to the slogan introduced by the jewelry house last year, which was intended reposition the brand as millennial-friendly under new owners LVMH.
Vintage pieces, of course, are hot across every segment of the market, with shoppers eager for forgotten collaborations and erstwhile diffusion lines from the 1990s and 2000s. But Tiffany, whose image remake is being overseen by Bernard Arnault’s son Alexandre, seems more eager to move in a contemporary rather than nostalgic direction, and recently released a collaboration with Supreme. Could a Jay Z-fronted campaign, featuring the artist stacked with ropey bands and multicolored bird bracelets, be far off? Chunky-ring fingers crossed!