Jean Despres Jeweler, Maker, and Designer of the Machine Age

Melissa Gabardi

A definitive celebration of the work of this noted Art Deco designer.


Jean Després (1889–1980) was an Art Deco designer who captured the streamlined, modern aesthetic of the age of the machine and transformed it into objects of great beauty.

As a young man, Després became acquainted with avant-garde artists in Paris, including Modigliani, de Chirico, and Braque, and, after the outbreak of war in 1914, he worked on the industrial design of airplanes. He later transferred this experience and inspiration to his family’s jewelry business, where he became known for his innovative geometric patterns. He also created a wide range of tableware and decorative objects in gold, silver, and pewter, whose bold, industrial looks were uncompromisingly modern, yet always graceful and refined.

Many drawings and designs are reproduced here for the first time, and original photographs are complemented by a number of new photographs taken especially for the book. Després has always been the jeweler of choice for informed collectors and insiders: Josephine Baker was an early admirer, and Andy Warhol’s personal collection was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1988. This splendidly illustrated survey of his work will delight new admirers and connoisseurs alike.


The 234 high-quality color illustrations are interspersed with another 100 black-and-white images of Després in his studio and some of the original images from catalogs and exhibitions… This will be appealing to artists and collectors equally for the visual material, while the text will be valuable for historians of art and design.

— Library Journal

Lavishly illustrated…. Boasts a number of original photographs

— France

Anyone with an interest in jewelry history will appreciate this book.

— The Jewelry Appraise


Melissa Gabardi


Melissa Gabardi is a historian of the decorative arts and a specialist in twentieth-century jewelry. She lives in Milan.