Miniature lamps encrusted with diamonds and rubies; animals and plants carved out of gold and emerald: reclusive French master jeweler Andre Chervin, who has supplied the world's most elite brands, is finally putting his own art on display in New York.
"This collection represents a lifetime of work," Chervin, 95, said in a statement to the New-York Historical Society.
"I was able to choose myself what to make, and when, and exactly how I wanted them. I was free from the constraints that naturally come when you are manufacturing for a customer's order."
Born in Paris in 1927 into Jewish family, he received his training at the prestigious Haute Ecole de Joaillerie in the French capital and emigrated to New York in 1951.
There, together with another aspiring French jeweler, Serge Carponcy, and with $2,000 in hand he founded the atelier Carvin French in the heart of Manhattan, which for decades has supplied jewelry to top names such as Tiffany and Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Bulgari.
Chervin shies away from public attention and does not grant interviews.
"This exhibition was never envisioned by my father. In fact, it was not easy for me to convince him that there even should be an exhibition," his daughter and vice president of the atelier Carole Chervin told AFP.
“He's a very private man, humble, modest. He did all of this work, as I said, as a passion... he wasn't seeking publicity.”
In addition to brooches, bracelets, rings and earrings in diamond, sapphire, emerald, ruby, gold and silver, the exhibit will feature wonders of decorative art produced by Chervin's small workshop, which still operates to this day.
Among them is a boudoir lamp, titled "My Heavy Heart," composed of a citrine heart mounted on an 18-carat gold wheelbarrow overflowing with colored diamond flowers, and a bedside lamp "The Frogs' Rubies," made of ruby slabs.
There is also a strawberry bush with fruits carved out of red coral with nephrite leaves.
These objects, taken for the first time from Chervin's home in New York, show that the artist "has a very close relationship and a very touching relationship with nature," said exhibit curator Debra Schmidt Bach. "He's a great admirer of nature."
Chervin has been at the helm of Carvin French for 60 years, and Schmidt Bach says among his strengths has always been finding and cultivating talented artisans, many of them from overseas.
"Andre says that he felt sometimes like he was a conductor, conducting an orchestra of incredible talents and artisans who had amazing skills," she added.
New York was another key factor to Chervin's success.
"The reason we were able to attract such a wonderful roster of jewelers, lapidaries and artisans is because it was in New York," said Carole Chervin.
“It was a veritable United Nations of talent as my father says.”