Jean Eugene Gilbert Després was born in Avallon, in Burgundy. In 1890, his parents opened a small jewelry shop which was moved to 20, Place Vauban, Avallon, in 1898. This was the address where the renowned Maison Despres was to be founded. Nonetheless, the actual story began in 1920, when Despres as a teenager moved to Paris for an apprenticeship with his father’s friend, a silversmith. When he wasn’t working, he attended design and drawing classes in art schools. There Despres became acquainted with top-ranking avant-garde artists of the last century who had yet to acquire fame.
During World War I, Despres served in the French air force as a mechanic and draughtsman; work that influenced his jewelry style for the remainder of his life. Jean Despres proceeded to display a few of his creations in his parents’ shop windows. He took part in a number of exhibitions of Decorative Art, until 1930. His creations were looked upon as being both surprising and scandalous resulting in his becoming one of the world’s leading goldsmiths and jewelers.
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In this age of Art Deco, Jean Despres’ jewelry collections are considered to be sensational. The jewelry is fashioned with fine, geometric patterns; having acquired inspiration from Daghliev’s Russian ballets as well as the African and Japanese arts of Daghliev. The jewelry pieces are absolutely fantastic.
A closer look at Despres
Jean Despres was against conventional ideas with a preference for hammered silver (the jeweler’s hallmark) and platinum in white gold. This was indeed a revolutionary idea as previous ornaments had normally consisted of ribbons, bows, flowers, and other natural motifs. Ornaments depicting huge lines and unorthodox themes were lovingly fashioned to form superb artwork. Semi-precious stones like onyx, amethyst, etc, were then added creating brilliant jewelry pieces.
The craftsman adored cubism; taking inspiration from mechanical parts to fashion his jewelry. This was the reason for the emergence of “motor jewelry” with expressive names like the motor ring, cam bracelet, connecting rod, etc. Jewelry collectors to this day search for the Jean Despres vintage creations of the 20s and 30s with their fascinating machine age design. Even though the pieces seemed rather masculine, they appealed strongly to the personality of the independent woman of the Jazz Age.
Jean Despres’ jewelry has never ceased to astound artists and goldsmithing fans. Despres jewelry is often sold to us; enhancing our collection of the brand’s vintage jewelry. We make an effort to offer you these wonderful ornaments at fair prices.
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