Tony Duquette (1914-1999)
Tony Duquette was a Tony award winning set decorator, sculptor, jeweler, and interior designer. The studio he established remains open and is now operated by his longtime business partner, Hutton Wilkinson.
Son of a businessman, Dutton was educated at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. He was discovered by interior designer, Elsie de Wolfe, whose clients included American socialite Amy Vanderbilt and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She introduced Duquette to her other society clients who spoke highly of his talents to their well to do friends. His client list came to include: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, silent film actress Mary Pickford, Doris Duke, J. Paul Getty, Elizabeth Arden, Vincente Minnelli and Sharon Stone.
Duquette worked with movie studios (most notably MGM), but also worked for private clients. His designs for films and theatre included: Ziegfeld Follies, Kismet, Yolanda the Thief and Beauty and the Beast. His work on the 1961 Broadway production of Camelot garnered a Tony award for Best Costume Design.
During the 60’s and the 70’s, Duquette created pieces of environmental art including his exhibit “Our Lady Queen of Angels” in Los Angeles that featured poetry by author Ray Bradbury, read by Charlton Heston.
Duquette and his wife established the Anthony and Elizabeth Duquette Foundation for the Living Arts, intended to feature works of “artistic, scientific and educational value to the public” and to bring attention to Tony’s work.
Even as he ran his own design firm, Duquette found time to create jewelry for Tom Ford at Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, Balmain, and Badgley Mischka.
In 1998, a year before his death, Duquette was asked to launch a collection for the Bergdorf Goodman store in New York. The jewelry reflected his over the top, “granny-loving chic” that operated on a “more is more” aesthetic meaning the bigger, the better.
A piece he made for his wife, a large malachite disc fixed with an antique enamel and diamond over a clasp with carved amethyst bumblebees reflects his fun-loving motif. The bigger and bulkier a piece appeared, the more he loved it. Duquette also created jewelry decorated with tiger-eyes, wood, resin and seashells.
Duquette was also a “master of found objects” according to his friend and co-designer, Hutton Wilkinson. Tony would work with the real and the fake and would even pick items from garbage to “repurpose.”
After Tony’s death in 1999, Wilkinson continued to design and create pieces under Tony’s name. Pieces were usually tailored to an individual’s style and taste. Precious and semi-precious stones, set mainly in 18k gold, were produced in New York. Today, there are over 1500 pieces made using the “Tony Duquette” brand.
Hutton describes the line as “jewelry that can project, heal and enchant.” The jewelry line is available through Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores.