“My father is a very modest man, never seeking glory, fame or accolades,” Carole Chervin said in an interview with Carvin French, the fine jewelry workshop 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 creations for an elite list of luxury jewelry houses, including Tiffany & Company, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. The archives of fine jewelry company Verdura are teeming with the fruits of the workshop’s labor, as are the pages of countless Tiffany Blue Books.
The master jeweler himself, now 95 years old, has always been discreet about this work, preferring to keep a certain anonymity.
But somehow, Ms. Chervin, now the company’s vice-president, recently managed to lure her father into the spotlight: On September 8, “Enchanting Imagination: The Art Objects of ‘Andre Chervin and French Jewelers Carvin’ is to open at the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) – and show the extent of his talents in a very public way. (Until January 28.)
While a few examples of jewelry made by Carvin French for Tiffany, Bulgari and Verdura will be on display, most of the 75 pieces on display will be works of art in silver, gold, precious stones and precious woods. Mr. Chervin viewed the objects, created between 1957 and 2013, as creative outlets, Ms. Chervin said, and only turned to them during lulls in the studio’s busy schedule.
He worked together with his team of lapidaries, stone setters and specialists in woodcarving, enameling, eggshell mosaic and other decorative arts on the pieces, sometimes taking five, 10 or even 25 years to complete one, Ms. Chervin said.
Familiar with the historical society’s famous collection of Tiffany stained glass, Ms. Chervin thought his museum would be ideal for showcasing her father’s artifacts.
There are actually several boudoir lamps in the selection: one features a shade with a mosaic of ruby tiles; another, titled “My Heavy Heart,” centers a 732-carat heart-shaped citrine on an 18-karat gold barrow.
“He is sensitive to animals, flowers and fruits,” Ms. Chervin said, referring to a coral and nephrite sculpture that shows a strawberry bush bursting from a smoky quartz base. “And that oozes out of everything. He derives such joy from studying the incredible combinations of geometry and color. I saw him count the seeds of a strawberry. He loves carving the peel of an orange into a perfect spiral.
Debra Schmidt Bach, the society’s curator of decorative arts and special exhibitions, which curated the French Carvin exhibition, said the pieces included “are fascinating works of art, but they are also excellent documents on the Mr. Chervin’s training in Paris, his fascination with the material he worked with, and each object has a story to tell.(The catalog, co-written by Dr. Bach and Jeannine Falino, is to be published and distributed in the worldwide this fall by UK publisher D Giles Limited.)
Few have seen all of these objects; in fact, many of them were stored in boxes at the workshop and at the family home until Madame Chervin began showing them to society. Dr. Bach said NYHS was interested because “we like to present stories of immigrant artists and their impact on New York.”
Mr. Chervin was born in Paris in 1927 into 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, as jewelers trained in France were sought after.
In 1954, he and Serge Carponcy, a fellow jeweler, pooled a total of $2,000 to found Carvin French (his name is a combination of theirs).
And now, how does Mr. Chervin feel 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 is an exciting surprise. My legacy is inseparable from the legacy of the many extraordinarily talented jewelers, lapidaries and craftsmen that I have had the great good fortune to employ or work with, who continue to do excellent work all over the world.
The opinion of Mrs. Chervin: “He will blush all the time.”