Bernard Delettrez is something of a cypher. A very quiet, traveling man who prefers to let the jewelry he has designed for the past thirty years speak for itself. Yet the less he says, the more you want to know, especially when looking at the unique pieces which spill out from his soft black suede roll-up bags:
One-of-a-kind skulls carved in recycled pink coral from Indonesia or in ebony wood from Kenya, resting on intricate gold rings, infinitely refined chains, laced with keys and skeletons, bold crosses circling the wrist, butterfly earrings or scarabs dangling from fine gold rope rings. And the stones. Delettrez is always willing to go that extra mile by mixing a prize gem with something complex and new as long as it fascinates him.
Born in Casablanca to a Moroccan mother and a French father, Delettrez grew up loving the scent of henna and curcuma from the kitchen. His father was an prospecting oil in the Moroccan desert, but when Bernard was six, the family moved to Paris as a base and traveled extensively.
On his own in his early twenties in California, Delettrez was working as a screenwriter when spurred on by a fascination for emeralds, he enrolled at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, the world’s foremost authority on precious stones.
“I wanted to learn everything there is to know about stones. Not just to see them, but to feel and understand them”.
Surrounded by the sons and daughters of big names of the international gem market at GIA, he left Hollywood behind and after graduation impulsively followed a French man from Tahiti who had inherited an emerald mine in Brazil and wanted someone to take care of it. After a month the deal was canceled and Delettrez found himself without cash or connections in Rio. “But with nothing you could do anything in Brazil in the late Seventies”, he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Within two years, Delettrez owned a huge factory. He was cutting his beloved emeralds and went on designing for H. Stern in the Eighties.
“Emeralds are incredibly gorgeous and difficult to understand. There are thousands of variations”, says Delettrez. “Compared to them, diamonds are dumb”. From this field of green, Delettrez’s taste has expanded to include a multitude of stones in all their varieties, new discoveries and simple qualities, which he treats like no one else. In the Mid-Eighties, he was one of the first to work with rock crystal: “Nobody used it back then because it wasn’t considered precious enough. So people thought I was crazy, but it inspired me”.
In the nineties Delettrez changed course. By that time he was selling through his own shops, but he didn’t want to run a retail business anymore. So he got rid of the stores and set sail on a 32 meter yacht for an around the world vacation that lasted four years.
After returning to dry land at the turn of the Millennium, he settled in Rome and began selling to the world’s best specialist stores: Maxfield in Los Angeles, Lebanon’s Sylvie Saliba, Dover Street Market in London and Opening Ceremony in New York.
Further to designing the collections of his daughter Delfina Delettrez-Fendi since her label’s debut back in 2006, Bernard Delettrez decides in 2010 to focus on designing nothing else but his own jewelry, for his eclectic, free-spirited and faithful clientele. His taste for the avantgarde is the one constant in a pursuit that takes him from his palazzo and ateliers in Rome to his house in Kenya and around the world from Tanzania, Zambia, to Madagascar, on an eternal search for the rare and the beautiful.