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In Praise of Hands, the art of fine jewellery at Van Cleef & Arpels

Book In Praise of Hands at Van Cleef & Arpels

In Praise of Hands, book by Franco Cologni edited by Marsilio Editori

This week I had the opportunity to make a beautiful discovery. An enchanting journey with the power to suspend time… Like an early Christmas gift, for a high jewellery lover such as myself! A journey into the heart of high jewellery, plunging into the secrets of the prestigious Maison Van Cleef & Arpels, In Praise of Hands, these hands which have known how to craft unique pieces for over a hundred years.

Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

©Bérengère Treussard

Inside a cosy secret building begins this unforgettable experience with Céline Richard, editor of Précieux Webzine, her excellent article on this same topic can be found here.

Bérengère Treussard and Céline Richard- Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

With Céline Richard (right), editor of Précieux Webzine

For the book launching of “In Praise of Hands”, Van Cleef & Arpels made it possible for us to revive the experience of Mr. Franco Cologni in the workshop of the Maison.

Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

A necklace in the setting process. ©Bérengère Treussard

Indeed, the recently renovated workshop brings together all the skills necessary for the realisation of a jewellery piece. Designers, model makers, jewellers, setters and polishers all entrusted their secrets to us as they did to Mr. Franco Cologni, who then wrote a striking portrait of each know-how while highlighting the talent and virtuosity of the Hands of Gold™.

Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

Gold spinning workshop… ©Bérengère Treussard

Polishing - Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

Polishing: each piece passes three times between the hands of the polishers. Polishing with linen or cotton thread. ©Bérengère Treussard

Setting - Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

Setting: the piece is fixed on wax… ©Bérengère Treussard

Setting - Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

And then crafted. ©Bérengère Treussard

This book reviews each artcraft required to create a piece of High Jewellery and it also offers the opportunity to discover in more detail the technique of the Mystery Set™, one of the signatures of the Maison, as well as crafts little known to the general public such as the sculptor-engraver who gives life to the famous precious boxes of the Maison.

Mystery set - Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

The amount of gold necessary to create this flower. ©Bérengère Treussard

Mistery set - Workshop Van Cleef and Arpels © Bérengère Treussard

Mystery Set™. There are only 9 gem cutters who master the art of mystery setting,  it requires 14 years of learning. Each stone, once cut, looses between 50 and 70% of its weight. ©Bérengère Treussard

Franco Cologni‘s book is illustrated by very beautiful black and white photographs by  Francesco Cito, picturing the work of the Golden Hands, and remarkable colour images of old and contemporary pieces, by Patrick Gries.

The book is also available in a digital version. Quite unique in the field of jewellery, this ebook can be found on the iBookstore in French (Eloge de la Main) and in English (In Praise of Hands) and will offer the reader an interactive reading experience: videos, slides, zooms and additional articles linked to the subject.

To download the ebook:

French version

English version

Price: 14,99€ | 20,99 USD | 12,99 GBP | 17,00 CHF

Who is Mr. Franco Cologni?

Franco Cologni

Above all, a passionate observer! But more than that, a great gentleman. A graduate of the University of Milan, where he later worked as a professor, he is the author of several books and articles, in particular about luxury goods, jewellery and watchmaking. In 2002, he joined the Board of Directors of Compagnie Financière Richemont, of which he is now the Non-Executive Director. He is also a member of the Appointments Committee. His career at Maison Cartier began in 1969 and led him to the positions of Managing Director and then President of Cartier International. Mr. Cologni has also played an important role with the Richemont Group’s Watch brands. He chaired the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie from 2005 to 2010 and is now President of the Cultural Council. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (Paris). He founded the Richemont Creative Academy (Milan), which welcomes students in Master of Arts in Design. He is also President and Founder of the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte (Milan), a non-profit institution. Among other distinctions, he was made Commander of the « Ordre des Arts et des Lettres ».

Here I am in presence of this truly great man during the autograph session last week at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique located Place Vendôme.

Franco Cologni & Bérengère Treussard

If you enjoyed this foretaste of the journey in the heart of Van Cleef & Arpels workshops, I suggest you discover this magnificent work of art. It’s still time to order it for Christmas here or there!

You may also go on this extraordinary journey “for real” by taking the curriculum offered by L’École Van Cleef & Arpels (the « school ») with its module Accessing Van Cleef & Arpels Creation which offers a visit of the workshop. The School also invites you to attend conferences and trainings throughout the year!

Lucky us! It’s almost Christmas!

I’m already tempted by a course to learn the art of setting…

Let’s do it! Make a wish!

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