Paul-Emile Brandt (1883 – 1952) Known among aficionados and collectors simply as, “Brandt,” Paul-Emile Brandt was born in Chaux-Fonds, Switzerland. He is often confused with his namesake, Louis Brandt (heir to the Omega watch manufacture.)
Paul Brandt moved to Paris at a young age where his studies with Chaplain and Allard gave him a solid foundation in several disciplines including jewelry design, painting, sculpture, engraving, and enameling. This background helped him to eventually become a well-known jewelry designer, opening his business early in 20th century.
His early pieces are in the Art Nouveau style using bold Art Deco designs, characterized by geometric patterns and primary colors on a metal base. His creations are often in a monochromatic palette with white gold and diamonds offset with onyx or black enamel. For his cigarette cases, decorated in lacquer, he adopted the circle as the dominant motif.
One of his most impressive cigarette cases has a metal rectangular body that are entirely coated with , two sides of red and black paint accented with silver and eggshell inlay sheets. It is part of a set that includes a lighter with similar decoration though not signed. Brandt is also known for his pins and tie watches in ivory and gold.
By 1921, Brandt began to experiment with engraving precious stones. In 1925, he participated in the International Exhibition and exhibited his Art Deco style that he identified as, “jewellery of great design, and great construction.”
Beginning that year, he also became interested in lacquer work that he later exhibited in 1927 at the Salon des Artistes Decorators and at the Autumn Salon. These pieces included his minaudière; powder compacts of inlaid lacquer eggshells and were noted by art critics of the time.
Throughout the 1920’s, Brandt’s participation in fairs intensified. He produced brooches pave set with brilliant, calibre-emeralds in a very distinctive art deco style.
Brandt felt that it important to have a distinctive plan for displaying his jewelry. He hired architect Eric Bagge to design and construct the window for his Salon. The design echoed the simple geometric forms of Brandt’s jewelry.
Like Jean Després and Raymond Templier, Brandt began experimenting with the effect of light and juxtaposed plaques of lapis lazuli or lacquer with transparent materials like rock crystal or diamonds. He also used delicate round pearls as a contrast to the regular lapis forms. His cocktail watches are richly bejeweled but strictly geometric.
In the 1930’s, Brandt began creating rings, pendants and bracelets that combined geometric figures with sections of work in relief.
One of his most extraordinary creations is the “Venus and Cupid” brooch. Made in platinum with diamonds and blue sapphires and a cameo depicting carved moonstone of what has been identified as Venus and Cupid. This piece was sold at a Christie’s auction in Geneva in 1998 and sold again at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2004 for $58,800.
In 1936, Brandt exhibited at the Salons for the last time. He then turned his attention toward more industrial pursuits. He opened a tin factory with fifteen to twenty workers in rue de Tlemcen and helped in the war effort from 1939 and 1945
After World War II, Brandt stopped making jewelry altogether to concentrate on his tin ware enterprise. Among the notable pieces produced in Brandt’s factory was a design for a bronze desk lamp that appears to give a nod to his earlier jewelry creations. Its simple, elegant shape displays Brandt’s interest in industrial designs of the 1930s and introduces a new esthetic focused on form and material.
Paul-Emile Brandt died in Paris in 1952 and his factory closed in 1953.