The designer Gilbert Albert was born in 1930 in Geneva and studied at the l’Ecole des Arts Industriels. From early childhood his father instilled in him a love and appreciation of the natural world. He encouraged his exploration of nature alongside the study of entomological works and this early education would inform much of Albert’s later work.
In 1955 he began working for Patek Philippe as designer and head of the workshop. He designed many unusual and original watches during his seven years with the firm for which he won the Diamonds International Award three times. His most famous collection is probably ‘Ricochet’ which was influenced by his appreciation of modern art and featured distinctive asymmetrical and angular faces. The visually arresting designs remain highly sought after and collectible today.
He went on to work with Omega before setting up his own atelier and turning his attention primarily to jewellery design. His goal was simply to follow the advice of his college tutor who had told him “if you want to succeed, do what others will not do.” He revelled in using unusual and unexpected materials such as fossils, minerals and scarab shells which he incorporated into designs for necklaces, bracelets and rings. He was the first designer to set meteorites into fine jewellery as well as the striking fulgurites which are created when lightening strikes the desert and turns the sand into tubular or branching glass forms. He contrasted the roughly hued nature of these raw materials with either highly polished or heavily textured gold and perhaps a sprinkling of more traditional gemstones such as rubies or diamonds. He drew much inspiration from natural forms, shapes and textures which influenced his designs and choice of materials from the classic to the innovative and avant-garde.
Albert was a keen painter and also a sculptor which is apparent in the bold three dimensional forms of his creations. His original design sketches are beautiful artworks in themselves and his creativity and attention to detail are reflected in the meticulous craftsmanship that he insisted on for his jewels. His work has been widely exhibited across the world from Paris and New York to Dubai and Johannesburg and he was the first living artist to be invited to show his pieces at the Kremlin in Moscow since 1917. Between 1958 and 1988, Albert won the DeBeers Diamonds International Awards an unprecedented ten times, three for Patek Philippe, two for Omega and five times under his own name.
The firm was sold to the 32Group in October 2010.