“My father is a very modest man, never seeking any glory or fame or accolades,” Carole Chervin said during an interview at Carvin French, the fine jewelry atelier in New York co-founded by her father, André Chervin.
For nearly 70 years, Mr. Chervin and his team of artisans have executed thousands of designs for an elite roster of luxury jewelry houses, including Tiffany & Company, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. The archives of the fine jewelry company Verdura are brimming with the fruits of the atelier’s labors, as are the pages of innumerable Tiffany Blue Books.
The master jeweler himself, now 96, has always been discreet about this work, preferring to maintain a certain anonymity. For example, according to Ms. Chervin, now the company’s vice president, Carvin French created the Harry Winston pink diamond ring that Ben Affleck presented to Jennifer Lopez in 2002, the first time they got engaged — yet the business was not mentioned in major news coverage.
But somehow Ms. Chervin has recently been able to coax her father into the spotlight: On Sept. 8, “Enchanting Imagination: The Objets d’Art of André Chervin and Carvin French Jewelers” is scheduled to open at the New-York Historical Society (N.Y.H.S.) — and to display the breadth of his talents in a very public way. (Through Jan. 28.)
While a few examples of jewelry that Carvin French made for Tiffany, Bulgari and Verdura will be shown, most of the 75 items on display will be objets d’art featuring silver, gold, gemstones and precious woods. Mr. Chervin considered the objects, created between 1957 and 2013, as creative outlets, Ms. Chervin said, and turned to them only during lulls in the atelier’s busy schedule.
He worked in concert with his team of lapidaries, gem setters, and specialists in wood carving, enameling, eggshell mosaic and other decorative arts on the pieces, sometimes taking five, 10, or even 25 years to complete one, Ms. Chervin said.
As she was familiar with the historical society’s celebrated collection of Tiffany stained-glass lamps, Ms. Chervin thought its museum would be ideal to showcase her father’s objects.
There actually are several boudoir lamps in the selection: One features a shade with a mosaic of ruby slabs; another, titled “My Heavy Heart,” centers a 732-carat heart-shape citrine on a wheelbarrow of 18-karat gold.
“He’s sensitive about animals, flowers and fruit,” Ms. Chervin said, referring to a coral-and-nephrite sculpture that shows a strawberry bush bursting from a smoky quartz base. “And that just oozes out of everything. He gets such joy out of studying the incredible geometry and color combinations. I’ve seen him counting the seeds on a strawberry. He loves carving the peel of an orange in a perfect spiral.”
Debra Schmidt Bach, the society’s curator of decorative arts and special exhibitions, who curated the Carvin French show, said the pieces included “are fascinating art objects, but they are also great documents of Mr. Chervin’s training in Paris, his fascination with the material that he worked with, and each object has a story to tell.” (The catalog, co-authored by Dr. Bach and Jeannine Falino, is to be published and distributed globally this fall by the British publisher D Giles Limited.)
Few have seen all of these objects; in fact, many of them were stored in boxes at the atelier and the family home until Ms. Chervin began showing them to the society. Dr. Bach said that N.Y.H.S. was interested because “we like to showcase immigrant artist stories and how they’ve impacted New York.”
Mr. Chervin was born in Paris in 1927 to a Jewish family; as a young teenager, he spent World War II in Vichy France, the southern part of the country. After the war, he completed his training at the Haute École de Joaillerie in Paris and, in 1951, emigrated to the United States, where he immediately found work in New York, because French-trained jewelers were in demand.
In 1954, he and Serge Carponcy, a fellow jeweler, pooled a total of $2,000 to found Carvin French (its name is a combination of theirs).
And now, how is Mr. Chervin feeling as the exhibition approaches? And what does he want to be his legacy?
“I am humbled,” he wrote in an email after declining an interview. “This exhibition comes as an exciting surprise. My legacy is inseparable from the legacy of the many extraordinarily talented jewelers, lapidaries and artisans that I have had the great fortune to employ or work with, who continue to do excellent work all over the world.”
Ms. Chervin’s take: “He’s going to be blushing the whole time.”