“My father is a very humble man, and he never seeks glory, fame or accolades,” Carol Chervin said during an interview at Carvin French, the New York fine jewelry atelier co-founded by her father, Andre Chervin.
For nearly 70 years, Mr. Chervin and his team of artisans have executed thousands of designs for an elite list of luxury jewelry houses, including Tiffany & Company, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier. The archives of fine jewelry company Verdura are filled with the fruits of the atelier’s work, as well as the pages of countless Tiffany Blue Books books.
The jeweler himself, now 95, has always been reticent about this business, preferring to keep a certain secret.
But somehow, Ms. Chervin, now the company’s vice president, recently managed to thrust her father into the spotlight: On September 8, “Enchanted Imagination: Art Objects by Andre Chervin and Carvin French Julez” is scheduled to open at the New York Historical Society (NYHS) — and to show the breadth of his talents in a very public way. (Until Jan. 28.)
While a few examples of jewelry made by Carvin French for Tiffany, Bulgari, and Verdura will be on display, most of the 75 items on display will be art pieces featuring silver, gold, precious stones, and precious woods. Mr. Chervin viewed the objects, which were created between 1957 and 2013, as creative outlets, Ms. Chervin said, turning to them only during lulls in his busy schedule.
Ms. Chervin said he worked in concert with his team of jewelers, gem-makers, woodcarvers, enamellers, eggshell mosaics and other decorative arts on the pieces, sometimes taking five, 10 or even 25 years to complete.
Since she was familiar with the famous historical collection of Tiffany stained-glass lamps, Mrs. Chervin thought her museum would be ideal for displaying her father’s items.
There are actually several boudoir lamps in the selection: one features a mosaic shade of sapphire panels; Another, titled “My Heavy Heart,” centers a heart-shaped 732-carat citrine on an 18k gold wheelbarrow.
“He’s sensitive to animals, flowers and fruits,” Chervin said, referring to a coral and nephrite sculpture showing a strawberry bush bursting from a smoky quartz base. “And that just gets out of it all. He gets such joy from studying the amazing geometry and color combinations. I’ve seen him count the seeds on strawberries. He loves carving the peel of oranges into a perfect spiral.”
The pieces included, said Debra Schmidt-Bach, curator of decorative arts and special exhibitions for the Society, which curated Carvin’s French Gallery, “are wonderful pieces of art, but they are also wonderful documents of Mr. Chervin’s training in Paris, his fascination with the materials with which he worked, and each object a story to tell.” (The catalog, co-authored by Dr. Bach and Janine Valeno, will be published and distributed globally this fall by UK publisher D Giles Limited.)
Few have seen all these things; Indeed, many of them were stored in chests in the workhouse and family home until Mrs. Chervin began showing them to the community. NYHS was interested, said Dr. Bach, because “we love to show the stories of immigrant artists and how they’ve impacted New York.”
Mr. Chervin was born in Paris in 1927 into a Jewish family. As a young teen, 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 a French-trained jeweler was in demand.
In 1954, he and Serge Carbonsi, a fellow jeweler, raised a total of $2,000 to found Carvin French (its name is a combination of their names).
Now, how is Mr. Chervin feeling as the fair approaches? And what does he want his legacy to be?
“I am humbled,” he wrote in an email after declining an interview. “This exhibition comes as a thrilling surprise. A legacy inseparable from that of the many extraordinarily talented jewelers and artisans I had the great fortune to employ or work with, and who continue to do excellent work all over the world.”
Mrs. Chervin’s opinion: “He’ll blush all the time.”