Just a few days before its closing, we visited the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts’ exhibition – ” Van Cleef and Arpels – The Art of Fine Jewlery”. The exhibition has opened on September 20th 2012 and I missed visiting it once, because I landed in Paris on the only day the museum was closed (generally speaking, most Parisian museums are closed on Tuesdays, this one is closed on Mondays). So, it was with an extra tinge of joy that I stepped into the large starlit hallway bathed in toned-down blueish lights that exhibit some 400 pieces of vintage and contemporary jewelry pieces of this otherwise timeless jewelry maker.
Photographing was not permitted, but the House of Van Cleef and Arpels put some of their most spectacular pieces on display and it even offered a sneak peek into their trademark stone-setting technique – the mystery setting. This stunning piece, the Chrysanthemum Clip, created in 1937, is entirely crafted using this at the time newly-invented and quite spectacular technique. As there are no visible claws that hold the stones into place, the petals seem to be rustling and moving about as the precious gems glitter and reflect the light. See the Chrysanthemum Clip clip here.
The tiny rails onto which the stones are slipped form a lacy network underneath the layer of precious stones. In small rooms adjacent to the main hall where all the vintage jewelry was displayed, mystery-setting jewelry pieces were entrapped in large transparent tubes, so that they could indeed be admired from every angle. And the invisible side is just as bit as flawless and jaw-dropping as the visible one.
Another one of the trademarks of the House of Van Cleef and Arpels is the two-in-one principle. A simple concept that reveals an intricate creative process that requires an absolute mastery of the most thorough and minute jewelry making techniques and that allows for the most extravagant pieces of jewelry to be deconstructed and transformed into clips, brooches, rings and bracelets. See the example of the famous zipper necklaces turning into a bracelet, by clicking here.
The tiara of Princess Charlene is another one of the “deconstructable” pieces of jewelry, as with a few movements it turns in a much more practical piece of jewelry – a necklace. As the CEO of Van Cleef and Arpels explains, its diamonds and three-toned sapphires are set to represent the waves and the spume of the sea. And just as with the Chrysanthemum clip, the light reflected by he tiara puts the stones into motion and one truly has the impression that the diamond- and sapphire-charged ringlets that dance around Charlene’s neck roll about as the waves of the ocean. See here how it was crafted.
No need to say more, I guess. You must have understood that this was one spectacular exhibition, that is every bit as interesting to see by jewelry-whores like myself, or by those who simply admire finely crafted pieces of art. Of course, it’s quite mean to tease you with this, as the exhibition has ended yesterday and it was also quite out of your reach for many of you, what with it taking place in Paris. But the House of Van Cleef and Arpels has presented more or less the same exhibition in 2011 in New York, so there is cause to believe that with all the success they have encountered they will probably set up a new exhibition soon enough. They also have a number of ongoing projects in different corners of the world, so check their website for any news that might permit you to see some of their jewelry pieces up close. To access website, click here.
Up until then, here are a few videos presenting some of the jewelry pieces that were on display in Paris:
Find out about Van Cleef and Arpels’ “Timeless Beauty” project here
To read the New York Times review of the exhibition, click here
Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it.
Cheers and have a good evening!