Born in Paris in 1927, immigrated to the world city in 1951, founder three years later with another young French jeweler, Serge Carponcy, of the Carvin French workshop, the nonagenarian retired from business remains unknown to the general public in France.
But in New York, André Chervin and Carvin French are revered by major international clients, luxury jewelers and jewelers Tiffany and Co., Van Cleef and Arpels, Cartier, Bulgari, Verdura and Asprey.
This secular Jewish French craftsman, trained after the war at the Haute école de joaillerie de Paris, managed in New York, from the 1950s until his retirement in the 2010s, to rise to the rank of master of jewelry art and creator of decorative jewels.
But the man has always been "secretive, humble and modest", fleeing worldliness and "publicity", says of him to AFP his daughter Carole Chervin who took over the reins of Carvin French with his cousin Sylvain Chervin, who joined 40 years ago the New York branch of the family.
New York success story
These Americans of French origin insisted, during the lifetime of their ancestor, to present fifty unique objects in a small exceptional exhibition at the New York Historical Society ("Enchanting Imagination: The Objets d'Art of André Chervin and Carvin French", from September 8 to March 17, 2024).
This 1957 photograph provided on September 11, 2023 by the New York jewelry workshop Carvin French, shows artisan jewelers Serge Carponcy (seated in the back left) and André Chervin (standing). Mr. Chervin, 95, is posing his jewelry and decorative art objects for the first time in New York until March 2024 © Handout / Carvin French Jewelers / AFP
Despite his New York success story, the old man was "difficult to convince" to unveil his works, admits his daughter.
Refusing interviews, André Chervin, who turns 96 in November, said in a statement that "this collection represented the work of a lifetime".
In fact, it sometimes took him five, ten, 25 years to create "these art objects".
Above all, he writes, "I was able to choose for myself what to make, when and exactly how I wanted them. I was freed from constraints (...) when manufacturing for a customer's order. These are my own expressions. It's my art, pure and simple. This is my true freedom."
Wonders of the decorative arts
In addition to diamond, sapphire, emerald, gold or silver brooches, bracelets, rings, ornaments and earrings ordered by Tiffany, Verdura or Bulgari, Carvin French has brought out of his small workshop, still in operation, wonders of the decorative arts.
Thus, a boudoir lamp, miniature night light ("My Heavy Heart"), composed of a citrine heart mounted on an 18-carat gold wheelbarrow overflowing with colored diamond flowers. And a bedside lamp, ("Ruby of the Frogs") covered with a mini mosaic lampshade of 128 cut and carved rubies.
We contemplate a "Bouquet of strawberries" in coral with nephrite leaves and a "Bird guarding its nest" composed of more than 700 "straws" in 18 carat yellow gold with enamel eggs on a silver tree branch and the bird carved in onyx with a coral beak.
This photo from 2014, provided on September 11, 2023 by the Chervin family and the Carvin French workshop, shows jeweler André Chervin, 95 years old today, exhibiting his decorative art works in New York until March 2024 © Handout / Carvin French Jewelers / AFP
These objects, for the first time from the Chervin family in New York, show that "André has a very close, very touching relationship with nature of which he is a great admirer," explains to AFP the curator of the exhibition, Debra Schmidt Bach.
"United Nations" of jewelry
But the artist, who piloted Carvin French for 60 years, considered himself above all the "conductor of incredible talents and craftsmen with extraordinary know-how" from France and Europe, says the expert.
A work by French jewelry artist André Chervin, 95, who has spent his entire career in New York by creating his workshop for the biggest jewelry © distributors Ed JONES / AFP
The key to his father's "success", according to Carole Chervin, is to be found in "post-World War II New York, which has become a burgeoning cosmopolitan center."
Of course "many jewelers were in Paris" but New York "attracted an extraordinary wave of jewelers, lapidaries, artisans from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and South America (...) real United Nations of talents" of jewelry, she marvels.
What future for Carvin French, which has only a handful of employees, in a luxury sector in full transformation? "The purchase of the business, it is possible but not" topical, sweeps Sylvain Chervin.
© 2023 AFP