Here comes the 6th Encounter, with a jewellery Maison you are all acquainted to.Two years from now, I had devoted a fairly complete article about Van Cleef & Arpels at the occasion of its magnificent exhibition at the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, I named it The art of jewellery, a must-see exhibition. Another one followed a year later Voyage in the land of the hands of gold related to the workshop visit and to the release of the brilliant book « Eloge de la main » («Praise the hand » in English) by Franco Cologni.
When Van Cleef & Arpels gave me the opportunity to choose a piece from the new high jewellery collection “Peau d’Âne” – presented in June with much ceremony at the Chambord Château, then in September at the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires – I didn’t have the slightest hesitation. I too wished to be transported into magic. And eventually, capturing this magnificent and dreamlike necklace named « Robe couleur du Temps » in white gold composed of 12 majestic aquamarines illuminated by pear-shaped sapphires, diamonds and Paraiba tourmalines, made me revive the magic of the fairy tale.
The Peau d’Âne collection was dreamed up when the jewellery Maison Van Cleef & Arpels participated in the film restoration of « Peau d’Âne » by Jacques Demy (1970). It was a pleasure for me to watch the film once again, and that is when I imagined an enchanted and enchanting scene featuring ivy and rose which are very present in the movie. I also wanted to add an ethereal mood to pay better hommage to both jewel and film, in the mood of the famous photographer of the time, David Hamilton.
The fairy tale is about love stories, like the one that founded Van Cleef and Arpels: that one of Esther Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. And also, the stories that linked the jewellery Maison to its clients. Famous iconic couples have chosen Van Cleef and Arpels to seal their union: the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson with a famous « Jarretière » bracelet ; Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly with a wedding set made of pearls and diamonds ; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with her wedding rings ; the very memorable Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, amongst many others…
The jewellery Maison Van Cleef was founded in 1896 and opened its first boutique in 1906 at 22 Place Vendôme, one of the first jeweller to settle on that location which was to become so illustrious in the future.
In 1926, Esther and Alfred’s daughter, Renée Rachel Puissant, takes on the artistic direction of the jewellery Maison with the drawing talent of René Sim Lacaze, and later on in 1938 she finds herself at the head of the entire company (when her father passes away) until her own death in Vichy in 1942. The company is then confiscated and sold to the Leséleuc family. The shares will be returned to the Arpels after the war and by chance the workshop managed to keep safe all the drawings and archives despite the period of unrest.
Van Cleef & Arpels rhymes with innovation and invention. Great consideration must be given to the jeweller’s innovative spirit, rewarded in 1925 with the Grand Prize for the Roses bracelet created specially for the International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts which established the pre-eminence of French style and luxury.
A successful deployment in the U.S. in the late 1930s, the development of a more access line in 1954 and the will to preserve and enrich its Heritage through fabulous exhibitions in France and worldwide, make of the jewellery Maison a great leader of French know-how.
Van Cleef was bought in 1999 by Swiss group Richemont after continuing its international development, notably in Japan.
Nowadays, the Maison presents enchanting and oneiric high jewellery collections with a direct link to its past, as well as exquisite pieces combining innovation and transformability. This year the focus was on « Peau d’Âne by Van Cleef and Arpels » but last year it was « Pierres de caractère – Variations » . In 2012, « Palais de la Chance », a dazzling presentation at the Paris Palais de Tokyo Museum. Before that, « Voyages extraordinaires » and the « Bals de légende ». More than just collections, they represent authentic fairy tales and legends, made for dreams to never end and for women to dream always a little longer.
The jewellery collections also have become iconic, such as Alhambra (1968), Between the Finger rings, Perlée… They all still appear in the newly on line interactive catalogue: http://catalog-jewelry-watches.vancleefarpels.com/
As for the recent news of the jewellery Maison, notably on December 1st, 2014, an exceptional representation of Hearts & Arrows was held at the Olympia Theatre of the Gusman Center in Miami, a unique creation by dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied. This creation was born from the collaboration that began in 2013 between the Choreographer and Van Cleef & Arpels.
This second edition of the choreographic trilogy Gems, with the founder of the L.A Dance Project company, highlights the jeweller’s attachment to dance and creativity. Like in the first version, he staged his vision of precious stones, assisted by scenographer Liam Gillick, with music composed by Philipp Glass. I would have loved to be there. If I may, I’d like to ask a question to Mr. Nicolas Bos, Creative and Marketing Director: when will we have a performance in France at the Palais de Chaillot or at Versailles?
Furthermore, Van Cleef & Arpels has created in 2011 L’Ecole Van Cleef and Arpels, (« The School of Jewelry Arts ») to introduce you to jewellery and watchmaking. Courses and conferences are open to anyone who is interested and eager to discover and learn the secrets of this difficult art, to know more about art history or gemmology.
Thank you to the Maison Van Cleef and Arpels for its trust and thank you to photographer Nicolas Mingalon for this magnificent photo, despite my whacky ideas.
For all enquiry please contact the boutique:
22 place Vendôme, 75001 Paris