Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 14 • August 5-11, 2010
now in our 40th season

Timeless Design Is Always in Vogue

There’s a shop on Main Street where clients can enjoy the style and art of classic design in an ambiance of elegance and comfort.  Seaman Schepps, at 47 Main Street is very much a part of the island experience.  Though Seaman Schepps has been offering it’s legendary jewelry by its namesake artisan for just 14 years on the island, the long and distinguished history of the renowned designer and his designs make it a perfect fit for Nantucket.

Shelton Ellis is the face of Seaman Schepps on Nantucket.  His genteel manner and quiet wit is very much a part of the experience that clients enjoy.  He is as comfortable sharing his knowledge of the history and craftsmanship of the jewelry as he is in expertly guiding clients to pieces that perfectly fit their needs and their desires.

Designer Seaman Schepps opened his first shop in Los Angeles in 1904, and during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, he was known as “America’s Court Jeweler.”  His bold designs adorned Katherine Hepburn, the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and members of the DuPont, Mellon, and Roosevelt families.  Andy Warhol was an avid collector.  With his sense of art and whimsy and his use of rich color and of a variety of natural and then exotic materials such as seashells, rock crystals, sandalwood, coral, ivory, jade, and rare woods, he redefined what jewelry should look like and in so doing created a whole new style.

Schepps designs were noteworthy for the haphazard placement of gemstones and his eclectic color combinations.  He favored irregularly cut, en-cabochon, or carved gemstones.  Diamonds were typically ignored in favor of softly colored gemstones: light blue sapphires and emeralds, hazy yellow topazes and citrines, pale pink quartz.  Hard stones like jade, turquoise, and lapis were also incorporated into his pieces.  Visual appeal was most important. 

 After the designer’s death in 1972, his daughter Patricia Vaill continued making jewelry, and since her retirement in 1992, Jay Bauer and Anthony Hopenhajm have continued to produce jewelry in the unique Schepp’s style. 

After more than a century, the designs of Seaman Schepps are still popular.  He is best remembered for his signature pearlized turbo shells set with precious or semiprecious cabochon stones.  At 47 Main Street, Shelton Ellis is pleased to explain the process involved in turning the natural shells into exquisite adornments.  His description of the creative process helps to instill a respect for the designs and an understanding of why their popularity has endured. 

Alongside the Turbo Shells are many distinctive Schepps designs.  The Rio Bracelets alternate cabochon and faceted, precious and semi-stones.  Each one unique, with the pavé diamond clasp the only unifying element.  “Customers come back in,” explained Ellis, “and tell me that they wear their Rio Bracelets everywhere...even with blue jeans!”  The Baroque Necklaces are also as versatile as they are beautiful—they combine and come apart to transform into bracelets and necklaces of different lengths, one piece can become several.  The timeless design of the Mousetrap Bracelet is another enduring favorite.

The shop also has a stunning collection of Seaman Schepp cufflinks for men: carved peridot or citrine with sapphire centers, carved iolite with peridot, and many other designs.

In the shop, the wide range of Seaman Schepps classics share space with some of the company’s newer designs that carry an imprint of Trianon to distinguish them from the Seaman Schepps originals.  These include the popular Nantucket Sand Charms and Pendants that Shelton Ellis created shortly after arriving on Nantucket.  The Trianon Collection has wide variety and price point, with the Shell Charms starting at just $295. 

In the years they have been on Nantucket, Seaman Schepps has become a part of the island community.  This year is the 12th that they have been an underwriter of the Nantucket Historical Association’s August Antiques Show and the sponsor and host of the Antiques Show Dinner.  They also support a number of other local organizations including Egan Maritime, the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, and the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club.

Now in their second century, Seaman Schepps’ innovative jewelry designs are being discovered by a new generation.  Stop by 47 Main Street and you’ll soon see what makes these exquisite designs endure.

47 Main Street, Nantucket  •  508-325-5806  •


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