Dusausoy (Est. 1840 – c. 1970/1980) The House of Dusausoy (Maison Dusausoy) was established in Paris in 1840 by Justin Dusausoy who opened it as a workshop and retail store at 41 Boulevard des Capucines. Justin was joined by his two sons, Pierre and Jean as the firm prospered. When Jean joined the firm, he had already learned how to draw and create pieces of jewelry. From the very beginning, Dusausoy sold both jewelry of its own design as well as antiques.
In 1889, the Dusausoy mark was registered by Madame Dusausoy and included the initials ‘PD’ and a symbol of two stars. By 1905, Dusausoy had also begun to deal in gemstones.
Dusausoy initially built its reputation around the purchase and sale of antique jewelry, precious metals, antiques, and precious stones. Justin quickly acquired the status of master-jeweler. He also began one of the House’s specialties: transforming old jewels into original creations of modern jewelry. What made the pieces special beyond their beautiful realizations, was the respect paid to setting and arranging the individual elements based on their origins.
In 1912, Justin registered his own mark, the initials ‘JD’ with a diamond shape. The firm offered valuation, modification, and improvement of antique pieces by re-mounting old stones. Justin was assisted by his son, Jean, who managed some business dealings and also designed pieces.
Jean Dusausoy’s mark had the initials ‘JD’ with a Croix de Guerre symbol in between. Jean’s brother, Pierre, also became a director of the Maison.
The firm’s creations were regularly presented in the prestigious Official of Couture and Fashion alongside designers such as Mauboussin, Boucheron, Mellerio plus Hermes, Carven, Nina Ricci, and Piguet Jacques Fath.
Dusausoy participated in many international exhibitions. These included, in 1922, an exhibit at the ‘Salons des Industries d’Art’ at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in the Louvre.
In their 1925 exhibition, they displayed some remarkable jewelry alongside names that included Fouquet, Van Cleef and Arpels, Aucoc, Chaumet and Marchak. Madelaine Chazel contributed to this collection that caught the eye of the exhibition’s chairman at the time, George Fouquet.
He was enthusiastic about Dusausoy, saying they were “one of the most interesting in the French section…showing beautiful stones…in combinations of lines ingeniously arranged.”
He further stated, “[The pieces are presented] in a thoroughly modern way [and] reflect a feeling and a very personal taste. Mr. Dusausoy [knows how to] showcase beautiful stones [with] combinations of trained parallel lines, ingeniously arranged … carrying at their center a sapphire or a brilliant jewel to complete a remarkable piece.”
This collection included the Stalactite’ bracelet. The firm also made a modern looking jardinière opal brooch for the exhibition. Its center contained an oval opal that was surrounded by geometric-petalled cabochon ruby-centered flowers.
One of the secrets of Justin Dusausoy’s work was the redemption of old jewelry. His penchant for buying, melting, disassembling, and remaking old pieces into new jewelry allowed him to keep passing the most beautiful elements into beautiful new work desired by both customers and, as history has shown, to Museums.
Between 1927 and 1928, the firm showcased their collection in Madrid, Athens, and Rotterdam. In 1929, Justin travelled to Cairo to judge the Exposition Francaise. While there, he exhibited a parure (set) comprised of a bracelet, pendant and ring that were made of onyx and platinum, and all in geometric compositions of curves, straight lines, wide flat areas of plates, and onyx discs.
The same year, the Musee Galliera held a jewelry exhibition and the Dusausoy brothers worked alongside Henri Vever at the Musee Galliera to create a retrospective jewelry exhibition called, “The Women’s Parures 100 Years Ago,” also known as, “The Adornment of Women 100 Years Ago.”
Among the pieces Dusausoy exhibited was a pendant of baguette and rose-cut diamond cascades with black onyx ‘shadows’ on a thin rigid chain. Some other pieces by the firm consisted of graduating natural peal brooches with cabochon emeralds held together by abstracted diamond pavé motifs.
Already masters of Art Nouveau designs, with, for example, a brooch that depicted a mechanical train and an exceptional ring with a sphere resting on circular steps and leaning against two staircases, the firm moved on to creating works in the Art Deco style that gained popularity during the 1920’s. It was an era that celebrated jazz and the emancipation of women. It is this style for which Maison Dusausoy is most famous.
Despite the financial crises of the late 20’s and early 30’s, this is the period that was most fruitful for Dusausoy. With remarkable inventiveness and ingenuity, the firm’s creations of that time are at the forefront of modernism.
Also during the 1930s, a new type of jewel was born: the clip, derived from the English word designating a garment fastening system that employed a spring and could be used in infinite ways. One Dusausoy example is four clips in white gold, platinum and diamonds that could form as many as 30 combinations such as a tiara, bracelet, or different brooch combinations. It emphasized geometric lines inspired by cubism. A set was eventually purchased by Andy Warhol and, in the 1980s, auctioned by Sotheby’s.
Art Deco designs made jewelry more accessible by substituting silver and platinum settings with cheaper metals. It also introduced less expensive precious stones including amethyst, topaz, and citrine used in volume so that the pieces could be admired from a distance. Materials employed in Art Deco also used nickel or chrome metal and stainless steel, palladium, aluminum, and lacquer. Bracelets and rings were carved from rock crystal and other precious stones.
After the naturalism of Art Nouveau, Art Deco showcased cleanly built geometric shapes based on scientific principles of reason and calculation. Rigorous compositions, precision of line, taste for light, and inter-penetration of surfaces all came into play and ornamental objects were treated as sculptures and works of art.
In 1937, Maison Dusausoy exhibited at Paris’ Exposition Internationale and, in 1939, had some pieces shown at the New York World’s Fair. During World War II, instead of creating jewelry, Dusausoy focused on their appraisals based on their knowledge of antiques and antique jewelry. No doubt, this was a result of the scarcity of precious metals needed to make new jewelry.
The firm also became known for the advertising posters and art that promoted its creations. Much of this advertising glorified the new, emancipated woman who was sporty, active, heavily made-up, and would smoke in public. Leaving the pastels of the Belle Epoque behind, the “new” woman dressed in bright, opulent colors inspired, in some instances, by exotic cultures.
For example, bandeaus were worn low on the forehead and a woman’s bare arms were adorned with bracelets that completed the androgynous look. Gem set wristwatches, cigarette cases and power compacts became pieces of jewelry decorated with inlaid hardstone, diamonds or enamel on lacquer. Abstract geometric compositions and vibrant colors matched the innovative use of colored gemstones carved as flowers and leaves in the Indian style and fused East and West, form and color, in a combination of art and luxury.
Abstract and industrial shapes became almost architectural in form and highlighted white expanses of platinum, diamond and rock crystal or allowed for just one color contrast such as ruby or sapphire. Sleek geometry gradually softened into more sculptural, three-dimensional shapes that suggested volume, movement and the curves of femininity.
In 1955, many jewelry creations by Maison Dusausoy were seen in the film, Rififi, directed by Jules Dassin.
While Maison Dusausoy created Art Deco jewelry of exceptionally high quality and stylish design, they were produced in such limited quantities that their pieces are now rarely seen and are highly collectible. The firm ceased operation in the decade between 1970 and 1980.
In its long history, the firm created jewelry, precious stones, horological and chronometric instruments, watches, clocks, boxes made of precious metals, and cases for watches and jewelry.