THE CLAUDETTE COLBERT STARFISH: A RUBY AND AMETHYST STARFISH BROOCH DESIGNED BY JULIETTE MOUTARD FOR RENÉ BOIVIN, PARIS, 1937
SOLD: Acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A brooch in the form of a starfish with collet-set cabochon rubies amid a ground of pavé-set amethysts, the arms fully articulated; mounted in 18-karat yellow gold; with French assay marks
- 71 cabochon rubies
- Signed R. Boivin, Paris, with maker’s mark for Charles Profilet
- Measurements: 4 × 4 1/4 inches
- Certificate of authenticity from Francoise Cailles and Jean Norbert Salit, dated February 25, 2018, stating that the ruby and amethyst starfish brooch “is a work of René Boivin, 1937, drawing by Juliette Moutard.” Further stating the provenance is Claudette Colbert.
- Claudette Colbert
- cf. Cailles, Françoise. René Boivin: Jeweller. Paris: Editions de l’amateau, 1994, p. 275.
- cf. Vogue. Paris: February 1937.
- cf. Vogue. New York: March 1, 1937.
- cf. Vogue. New York: September 1, 1939.
- cf. Vogue. New York: March 15, 1945, p. 112.
René Boivin founded his company in the 1890s. After his death in 1917, his wife, Jeanne Boivin—the sister of fashion designer Paul Poiret—presided over the firm. Assisted by her daughter Germaine and designers Suzanne Belperron and Juliette Moutard, Jeanne oversaw production of some of the most inspired jewelry of the twentieth century. The house is known for pieces with a strong, sculptural style as well as designs based on nature. After Jeanne’s death in 1959, Germaine Boivin and Juliette Moutard ran the company until it was sold in the 1970s.
Jeanne Boivin looked to the natural world for inspiration, and particularly to the sea. In 1926, she created a wave bangle, the first in a series of oceanic jewelry designs. Juliette Moutard, who joined the Boivin in 1933, designed this starfish brooch. In her book René Boivin: Jeweller, Françoise Cailles wrote, “everything about the starfish brooch was new: its realism, its large dimensions, its yellow gold mount, clearly visible, its camaïeu [monochrome] decoration—a bed of faceted amethysts surmounted by a large cabochon ruby—and its mobility. Each arm was entirely articulated so that the jewel could reproduce the crawling movement of a living starfish.”
The starfish is one of Boivin’s iconic pieces. The house made only a few such brooches in the 1930s, combining the ruby and amethyst palette. Fully articulated, the movement of this brooch mimics the movement of a starfish with incredible detail. This brooch was made for Claudette Colbert in 1937 when she was at the height of her fame as a Hollywood star following her Academy Award win for “It Happened One Night.” The top actress of the 1930s and 1940s, Colbert was always impeccably made up and dressed in tailored fashions with beautiful accessories. She had exceptional taste and purchased this jewel, the first starfish brooch. Millicent Rogers, a well-known socialite and Standard Oil heiress, purchased another example in 1939. Style icons Colbert and Rogers frequently appeared in fashion magazines and on the international best-dressed list.
The starfish appeared in Vogue magazine four times between 1937 and 1945. This is a singular occurrence in a magazine known for being on the cutting edge of fashion and speaks to the beauty and wit of this jewel. This brooch was designed, made, and owned by legends of high style and design. It is as eye-catching today as it was when it first appeared in Vogue. Particularly desirable to collectors, this is the first model of this incredible design and was owned by a Hollywood legend.
An article on Claudette Colbert in Modern Screen, August 1939, mentioned “a large pin looking like a garnet starfish at her throat,” that was undoubtedly her Boivin starfish.
Millicent Rogers wearing her ruby and amethyst starfish brooch designed by Juliette Moutard for René Boivin pictured in Vogue, March 15, 1945.