Jean Vendome



This pioneer of the 1960s art jewellery movement, was born Ohan Tuhdarian, to parents of Armenian origin, his father a blacksmith, mother a weaver. In 1939, he moved with his family to the suburbs of Paris, and at age 13 he was apprenticed to his uncle’s jewellery workshop, learning the basics of his trade.  He opened his own workshop, aged just 18, leaving it in his sister’s hands when he left for military service. Stationed in Orléans he was given permission to take drawing lessons at the École des Beaux Arts, and also studied gemology,  developing a passion for sculpture and a deep affinity to natural gemstones and minerals. Back in his Paris atelier, after the War, he crafted jewels for Place Vendôme Maisons, and began showing his own creations at jewellery Fairs, like Bijhorca, where, having called his company Vendome he was forced to rename his business Jean Vendome.  In 1950, Jean Cocteau wandered into his boutique on the Boulevard Voltaire, with a nugget of gold which he wanted made into an item of jewellery. Jean Vendome crafted cufflinks using an innovative method of working gold to replicate the look of the original nugget and this technique became the basis of his first collection, Pépite. From this time, through the 1950s and 60s, he experimented ceaselessly, exploring forms, settings, themes and working with the raw minerals that enthralled him, with their formations, idiosyncrasies ad imperfections, and their secrets of the cosmos.  He believed minerals were sculptures in their own right. He went on to create one-of-a-kind art jewels, some architectural in form, others organic, always sculptural, inspired by art and nature, by skyscrapers or volcanoes, by polar land- and skyscapes, ice and stars, by kinetic art, the jewels of Rene Lalique, Henry Moore sculptures, and the Nouveau Réalistes.    In 1961, his work was included in the milestone exhibition, Modern Jewelry, at the Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, and from that time was often shown alongside work of artists, including Braque and Dali, as well as in the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, in 1967 and 1972,  and in Museums of Natural History, in Paris and Lyons. In 1970, he moved his boutique to the rue Saint Honoré, later moving his showroom and atelier next door.  His best-known designs include his architectural, open-fronted Tour (Tower) ring, the Ferret ring, an elongated, articulated triangular shape, the dynamic, abstract Signature ring of 1970, and the long, lariat Cravate necklace.  During his long career he designed and crafted nine swords for Academicians.  His favourite minerals included tourmaline, agates and rutilated quartz, as shown to perfection in the set of jewels in New Modernism.