Established in 1904 by Seaman Schepps, who was born in 1881 to immigrant parents, this important jewelry house has been adorning some of America’s most famous women for decades. The hallmarks of Schepps’ bold designs were unusual materials, like shell or wood, combined with precious and semi-precious cabochon gems. Many of what he referred to as his Barbaric-style pieces are oversized with brightly colored gems in unusual shapes and colors set in 18k gold. Stones and other materials were often set in an apparently haphazard manner, giving the pieces a whimsical feel. This effect balanced well with fashions of the time, which in the 1940s and 50s were much more formal than what we are accustomed to today. His beautifully executed collections appealed to both European clients like Coco Chanel and the Duchess of Windsor as well as America’s elite families. Some of his most notable clients were Jackie Kennedy Onassis (who famously wore the Turbo shell earrings), Katharine Hepburn, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the Rockefeller and Mellon families. His designs were featured in both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines.
Though he passed away in 1972, work continued under the guidance of his daughter Patricia Schepps Vaill. She continued to create new pieces in keeping with her father’s unique style. Upon her retirement, Vaill passed the baton to Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenhajm. In recent years, new pieces have been added to the collection to reach a younger clientele and they have opened new retail shops in Palm Beach and Nantucket. The company is still based in New York in the diamond district, where all the pieces are produced. Each is marked with a unique number and the company’s shell stamp. Fortunately, there are over 5,000 renderings and 650 molds of Schepps’ unique designs to ensure the legacy of his innovation for decades to come.