Lenfant, Jacques. Le livre de la chaîne. Paris: Editions Scriptar, 1996, p. 41.
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 Kelly, 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.
Beginning in the 1950s, Jacques Lenfant became known for his superb goldwork, with each necklace and bracelet more complex than the last. His work explored movement and texture and this bracelet is one of his most impressive with wonderful heft and exquisite movement. The “Vé” link, as Lenfant called it, is created from a single long oval link that is cut in half at an angle, one side flipped over, and then rewelded to create a v-shaped link, which he also called a “folded” link. The links are then connected at the center of the V, creating a supple spine-like movement. Impressively, with one end fixed in place, this bracelet can be turned completely over. The flexibility makes it wonderful to wear.
Lenfant looked at chains as a “harmony of sounds, shapes and textures” as he wrote in his book Le livre de la chaîne. He referred to the “rustle of rolling parts, which slide against each other [like] chain bells.” By considering the construction of chains from all the senses, Lenfant became a master of construction, as shown by this exquisite bracelet. A masterpiece of midcentury design, this bracelet would be an essential element of any collection.