Those that rise to astronomical, dazzling, uber social status within the course of their life especially if their origins were of humble means, typically come armed with out-of-the box thinking, an extraordinary push that propels them forward, and resourcefulness. Seaman Schepps was no exception. Schepps was a prized midcentury American jeweler particularly popular among the American elite and New York aristocracy. He was said to haunt used jewelry stores on 47th Street in Manhattan and pick up odds and ends, like broken bracelets from some Russian émigré countess down on her luck and fashion them together into singular creations. His inspirations came from everything, a butterfly, a bouquet of flowers, but it was mostly raw materials that excited him. He was known to be able to see magic in the commonplace. Turbo shells were transformed into fanciful earrings encircled with gold wire and capped with colorful stones, becoming one of his most renowned designs. Sandalwood and ebony morphed into stunning wood-and-gold link bracelets; a chunk of rock crystal became a knockout ring. Clients would bring him their old-fashioned jewelry to remake into pieces with more pizzazz.
After Schepps’s death in 1972 at the ripe old age of 91, his daughter Patricia Vaill continued to make jewelry until 1992 when she sold the business. Now located on Park Avenue (with branches in Palm Beach and Nantucket), the company references its vast archives—more than 5,000 renderings and 650 molds—to reissue and update Schepps’s designs as well as to create original pieces in his style. His jewelry is highly distinctive and not easily confused with the work of another.
Schepp’s vintage pieces are brisk sellers. Recently, Sotheby’s sold a circa-1950 black-opal-and-diamond necklace and bracelet for $47,500 and a suite of turquoise jewelry from 1950 for $26,250. Less precious stones are used than say Verdura, so a Schepp’s piece can be worn everyday or on those occasions when something delightfully conspicuous will do.
“You still stand watch, O human star, burning without a flicker, perfect flame, bright and resourceful spirit. Each of your rays a great idea – O torch which passes from hand to hand, from age to age, world without end.“