Mademoiselle Berlioz and Monsieur Leroy established their jewellery business during the early 1920’s in Paris.
Their boutique at number 19 rue de la Paix, which leads down from the world famous Place Vendome, quickly became a draw for discerning clients looking for something a little different. They developed a reputation for original and beautifully crafted jewels and they were widely praised for their use of interesting richly coloured gem materials and hardstones. These typically included vibrant lapis lazuli, beautiful jades, black onyx and bright turquoise mixed with organic materials such as red coral and pearls, frequently used in bold and striking combinations. If and when diamonds were used, they seem to have been employed simply as accents rather than as the main focus of their jewellery.
The Oriental styles, colours and motifs that become increasingly popular during the 1920’s and into the 30’s clearly provided much inspiration for Berlioz Leroy. Adverts for, and descriptions of, their jewellery in contemporary magazines and newspapers speak of the artistic merit of the pieces, the influence of Eastern art and the focus on colour and striking design. The French newspaper Figaro wrote in 1923 that “they create the rarest jewels in Paris, the most artistic”. And in another article, described how their jewellery married Chinese pink and red coral with green jade plaques from the Far East which were engraved with delightful drawings and made into necklaces, pendants and bracelets. The celebrated French actress Jeanne Rolly owned several such pieces by Berlioz Leroy including coral and jade necklaces and earrings, which she described as “strong artistic jewelry”. A stunning full page illustrated advert in French Vogue 1922 shows an elegant woman bedecked in Oriental inspired jewels of coral, onyx, jade and pearls. The magazine would go on to feature Berlioz Leroy jewellery in fashion photoshoots and editorials throughout the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.
They also designed classic Art Deco-style jewels in strong geometric shapes and patterns such as a bracelet of rectangular calibrated topazes with a geometric criss-cross pattern in contrasting black onyx and a bold turquoise and onyx penannular brooch and matching pin. In 1928 Madame Munoz was photographed for French Vogue wearing a striking suite of jewels in topaz and onyx including long drop earrings, a wide strap bracelet and bold cocktail ring.
As well as jewellery they also designed accessories such as compacts, cigarette cases and lighters, everything in fact that the glamorous and increasingly emancipated 1920’s woman would need for a night out. By the 1930’s they had boutiques at 7 rue des Capucines and also in the famous La Croisette in Cannes as well as the fashionable seaside resort of La Baule on the west coast. Their adverts at this time describe not only jewellery but also vanity cases, ‘bibelots’ (trinkets) and ‘sacs du soir’. A 1939 Vogue article discusses their range of new hair ornaments including a beautiful selection of pins topped with a variety of different coloured gems as well as tiny carved Chinese figures in coral or turquoise. These are photographed alongside a stylish pair of jewel encrusted hair combs with the suggestion that these combs are used to hold the hair high on the head in a style which can then be decorated with the pins. Later jewellery shows further stylistic developments and includes pretty dainty enamel floral pins (either for the lapel or hair) as well as bolder more abstract pieces such as a large flower brooch centred on a baroque pearl with platinum petals edged in tiny diamonds.
Whilst Berlioz Leroy spanned several decades of the early-mid 20th Century and produced a wide range of bold and adventurous designs, it is their Art Deco jewels for which they are best known and these pieces which are most sought after.