Gilbert Albert died in 2019 in Geneva. During his lifetime, Albert designed some of the most striking timepieces of the last century. After training at Geneva’s l’ecole des Arts Industriels from the early age of 15, Albert joined the great Swiss watchmakers, Patek Philippe. He swiftly rose to head the workshop.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Gilbert Albert
De Beers Diamond Award
Albert also worked for Omega, another prestigious Swiss watchmaker for several years before opening his own company. In 1962 Albert founded his own workshop. His first shop was opened in his native Geneva in 1973 on Rue de la Corraterie. Ten years later opened several stores in Zurich, and later in New York, Paris and Moscow.
In 2011, after his 80th birthday, Albert sold the business to Majid Pishyar. Unfortunately Mr Pishyar’s finances were not stable. Teetering on bankruptcy he looted stock from Albert‘s Zurich store before fleeing to New York. Due to the mismanagement of the business under Mr Pishyar who failed to pay the shop’s leases and wages of staff Gilbert Albert SA declared bankruptcy in 2014. Despite the tragic demise of Albert‘s company, his ingenious designs survive, as does his legacy to the jewellery industry.
Over the course of his career Albert won the De Beers Diamond Award ten times: Three times for his work with Patek Philippe, twice for Omega and five times for his own independent pieces. Albert summarised the key to his success succinctly: “If you want to succeed, do what others will not do.”
Avant Garde Approach
Gilbert Albert was a revolutionary within the jewellery industry. His avant-garde approach, treating gold as sculpture. He often layered individual various shapes and forms upon one another to build a whole, like a cubist painting.
Underpinning his work was an appreciation for nature. His designs, however abstract, ultimately revolved around the natural world. Albert carried his childhood fascination with nature throughout his adult career.
Organic forms such as crustaceans were recreated in heavily textured goldwork into which were embedded cabochon cut gemstones. His Perle demi-parure set with various shaped cultured pearls, purple coral, and opals as well as cabochon sapphires and emeralds is a prime example of Albert‘s primordial aesthetic.
Albert admitted: “In the enchanted world of jewellery, every pieces must be original in its execution”. As the Perle demi-parure demonstrates, Albert‘s designs are highly unusual and individual, but remain sort after. In 2016, the Perle demi-parure sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for 45,000 CHF.
The beauty of asymmetry were embraced by Albert. His iconic Ricochet pocket watch created at Patek Philippe has become a signature of the firm.
Dinosaurs and Lava
Albert was also enthusiastic in his mixing of materials. He was unafraid to combine precious metals of different colours with gemstones and less orthodox objects in jewellery: from Fossilised dinosaur bones to hardened lava rocks. His imagination was not limited by the value of a mineral.