Guy Barton is looking for bold gold jewelry with the initials GL for Georges Lenfant. “It is a hidden mark that indicates superb, unique quality,” said Mr Barton, director of vintage jewelery dealer Hancocks London, founded in 1849.
As a man who has handled examples of fine jewelry from every period, Mr. Barton said that no other goldsmith could match the craftsmanship and creativity of this mid-20th century maker. “You can tell right away when you hold a piece of Lenfant,” he said. “It is tactile and flexible; It has artistic finish, texture and speed.
The Lenfant name is well known by vintage dealers and knowledgeable collectors, but it’s possible that some people who own Lenfant pieces don’t realize it. That’s because for decades Georges Lenfant and his son Jacques collaborated on designs with nearly every important jewelry house, from Cartier to Van Cleef & Arpels. Lenfant’s hallmark, a diamond-shaped stamp with the initials, appeared on jewelry with the names of famous houses and was also stamped on the gold bracelets of Rolex, Hermès and Vacheron Constantin watches.
However, more recently, Lenfants is finally getting recognition beyond the inner circles of jewelry. With the renewed interest in statement gold jewelry, people are discovering their striking designs,” said Russell Zelenetz, partner at Madison Avenue jewelry retailer Stephen Russell. “Customers are attracted to jewelry because of its look and feel. The way Lenfant did the finesse, the hand weaving and the finishing of the gold, it was genius.”
Mr. Zelenetz has been collecting and selling Lenfant pieces ever since he and Stephan Fuhrmann founded the business 39 years ago. Its current offering includes many pieces from the 1960s, such as an oversized 18-karat gold Hermès chain d’Ancre link bracelet stamped with the initials of Georges Lenfant and a delicate 18-karat gold Hermès chain d’Ancre link bracelet designed by Jacques Lenfant. Gold mesh buckle bracelet.
The business began as Duparc & Lenfant in 1899, and Georges Lenfant registered his initials as his maker’s mark in 1909. His workshop was near Paris Place Vendôme, already the heart of the world’s luxury jewelery houses. In 1915, Jacques, who was then 11 years old, joined the business while continuing his studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and later apprenticing with jewelers in Germany, Austria and England. (Eventually some of his designs were stamped Jacques Lenfant in place of Georges Lenfant.)
Over the years, Lenfants created a wide variety of pieces from diamond rings to adorable bejeweled brooches in animal shapes. But after World War II, when women wanted statement jewelry that reflected their new independent spirit, Jacques Lenfant pushed the boundaries of metalworking to create innovative pieces in gold – which he described in his book “Le Said “harmony of sound, shape and texture”. Livre de la Chene” was published in 1996, a year after his death.
“His gold jewelry,” Mr. Barton said, “was the backbone of the bold Gold Movement of mid-century.”
“Lenfant’s chains are beautiful and seamless, and they last perfectly,” said Lorraine Titelli, a Los Angeles-based jeweler trained in antique metalsmithing who spends three to five days making a gold chain for her Lorraine Nicole collection. .
“When you get hold of a handmade chain,” she said, “it feels different, moves differently and has a weight you can’t get with casting.”
Jacques Lenfant pulled the gold into thin wires, which were then woven into flexible lengths, so even a large mesh bracelet appeared to hug the wearer’s wrist. His finishing techniques included etching the gold to produce luster, polishing it to a high shine, and sanding it to a matte effect.
“Goldsmithing is a highly skilled craft,” said Mr. Zelenetz. “Jacques Lenfant pushed the boundaries of what was possible. He was creating unique styles that had not been seen before. Even their clasps were unique and seamlessly integrated into the design.
After the death of Jacques Lanfant in 1995, the company ceased production of Lanfant jewelry and the workshop was sold.
But Anthony Barzile Freund, editorial director for online home and design retailer 1stDibs, said Lenfant is ready for rediscovery. “It is very much an insider thing at the moment, but I think that will change because we are in an era where people want attractive gold jewellery,” he added.
A recent Lenfant search on the 1stDibs website turned up more than 50 pieces of jewelry and watches, ranging from 1970s gold zodiac pendants by Van Cleef & Arpels and Lenfant ($16,500) to Jacques Lenfant’s 1950s Way for Georges Lenfant ($16,500). gold link bracelet ($38,000). , Sellers set prices on 1stDibs, with pieces by Lenfant ranging from $16,000 to $18,000.
Mr. Barton said Lenfant jewelry represents good value, as a piece will be less expensive than, for example, a gold vintage bracelet signed by Cartier.
“At the moment, I don’t think Lenfants are getting the recognition they deserve,” Mr Barton said. But he believes it will not last long.