overview

Jean Schlumberger, one of the most famous jewelry designers of the 20th century, owned and lived in this small wooden house on the Upper East Side for two decades with his partner, photographer Luc Bouchage.

This was during the period that Schlumberger was the lead designer for Tiffany & Co., from 1956 to 1976.

Header Photo
Credit: Historic Districts Council, n.d.

History

Jean Michel Schlumberger (1907-1987), an internationally prominent jewelry designer, was born in Mulhouse, (then) Germany (now France), into a wealthy textile manufacturing family. In his 20s, he worked for couturier Lucien Lelong, then for Braun, an art publishing firm in Paris. He became involved in artist circles including the Surrealists, meeting Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Man Ray. Schlumberger began his design career in the 1930s making fashion jewelry, then was hired in 1937 to make buttons for dress designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who also commissioned him to design costume jewelry.

Serving in the French Army until 1939, he met photographer Lucien Philippe “Luc” Bouchage (1922- 2007), who became his life partner. Born in Menton, France, Bouchage later became a book designer. The couple moved to New York, and Schlumberger designed high-end fashions for Chez Ninon, and opened a jewelry salon at 743 Fifth Avenue (demolished) with Nicolas Bongard, a childhood friend. In 1942, Bongard and Schlumberger joined the Free French Forces in an effort to liberate France from Nazi occupation during World War II. Returning to New York, they re-opened their salon around 1946 at 21 East 63rd Street.

Walter Hoving, president of Tiffany & Co., solicited Schlumberger to design for the firm and to become a Tiffany vice president. Tiffany’s first designer working under his own name, Schlumberger maintained a salon at Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue from 1956 until he retired in 1976. Bongard was responsible for overseeing the craftsmen who carried out Schlumberger’s designs.

During the entire period that he worked for Tiffany, Schlumberger owned the dwelling at 160 East 92nd Street, where he lived with Bouchage. A rare surviving remnant of the early years of the village of Yorkville, it is one of the oldest of the few intact 19th-century wooden houses which remain in Manhattan north of Greenwich Village.

Schlumberger’s jewelry was quite elegant and expensive, and, inspired by nature, the sea, animals, architecture, and travel, was considered original and fanciful. He was quoted as saying that “I try to make everything look as if it were growing, uneven, at random, organic, in motion. I want to capture the irregularity of the universe.” He built a clientele that consisted of famous society women, royalty, and actresses. Schlumberger was the first jewelry designer to be given a Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award, in 1958. His jewelry is still sold by Tiffany, and is among the most revered by jewelry collectors.

After 1976, Schlumberger and Bouchage moved to Paris, and also spent time at their estate in Guadeloupe.

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (April 2024).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Albro Howell (attributed)
  • Year Built: 1852-53

Sources

  1. Carol Lawson, “J. Schlumberger Dies in Paris at 80,” The New York Times, September 1, 1987, B6.

  2. Clare Phillips, Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837-1987 (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2006) [source of quote, p. 109]

  3. Guy Trebay, “Tiffany’s Prince of Whimsy Takes a Posthumous Bow,” The New York Times, May 8, 2001, B11.

  4. Jay Shockley, 160 East 92nd Street House Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1988).

  5. “Jean Schlumberger,” Tiffany & Co., bit.ly/4bamk25.

  6. “Jean Schlumberger’s Jewels of the Imagination of the Museum of Fine Arts St, Pete,” St. Petersburg Paradise News, January 2, 2019.

  7. Pierre Groppo, “Story: The incredible destiny of Jean Schlumberger, the favorite jeweler of New York socialites,” Vanity Fair, June 17, 2021, bit.ly/4b6NgQg.

  8. Ryan Williams-Jent, “MFA highlights Tiffany & Co. designer Jean Schlumberger’s masterworks, relationships in comparison exhibitions,” February 27, 2019, bit.ly/3W5AQUr.

  9. Vivienne Becker, “The legacy of Tiffany & Co, designer Jean Schlumberger,” Something About Trocks, bit.ly/44aovAc.

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