The Lenfant family is recognized for the master craftsman who produced exceptional jewelry for the finest houses in the twentieth century. Georges began as a Cartier work master before registering his own mark in 1909. His son Jacques joined him as a child in 1915 and became one of the most highly sought-after manufacturers from the 1950s to 1970s. He was particularly known for innovative gold jewelry, creating complicated and bold chains for the neck and wrist for the finest maisons, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Sandoz, and Tiffany & Co., to name a few. The company closed in the 1990s, and Jacques wrote a book titled Le livre de la chaîne detailing his unparalleled knowledge of making gold chains.
Around the world, the 1950s were marked by economic expansion and social change. After the deprivation of the years during World War II, economies around the world grew by leaps and bounds. While infrastructure in Europe was being rebuilt, there was a new interest in mass media and pop culture. In 1947, Christian Dior launched his debut fashion collection, immediately dubbed the “New Look,” featuring full skirts, tight waists, and rounded shoulders. The designs appealed to glamorous women like Grace Kelley, Millicent Rogers, and the Duchess of Windsor. The new fashions exaggerated the silhouette and called for bold oversized jewelry as a complement. In 1956, Vogue featured an oversized gold link bracelet on the cover, perfectly balancing the effortlessly chic outfit. This is the type of chain that would have been meticulously made by the Lenfant studio.
Jacques Lenfant became known for his superb goldwork in the 1950s. He created necklaces and bracelets, each more complex than the last, that played with movement and texture. This bracelet is one of the most unusual, composed of textured “paillette” links that are held together with contrasting links of polished gold. The construction feels like a wonderful puzzle and gives the impression of a stack of bracelets worn together.
Lenfant created variations of round link bracelets throughout his career and in his book Le livre de la chaîne he says they are inspired by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the watchmaker, who always wore round link chains to hold his watches, and they are also a a reference to the round moving cogs that make up a watch movement and the round cases. Lenfant said, “Everyone knows that Henri Ford, from the beginning of the model T to its fantastic success, accepted requests from his clients for any color under one condition, that it be black. I have the feeling that Abraham-Louis Breguet would have put up with any shape, as long as it were round!” This unusual bracelet by Lenfant is a wearable display of the artist’s fluidity and innovation.