I have always been an avid lover of jewellery, in particular diamonds and gems (then again, which girl isn’t?). Upon hearing that Van Cleef & Arpels are showcasing 450 pieces from their collection and 250 rare gems and minerals from the renowned Collection of the French National Museum of Natural History, I jumped on the opportunity to pay a visit. It definitely is a exhibition you do not want to miss.
“Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1906, at 22 Place Vendôme in Paris. Over the decades, the High Jewellery Maison established its reputation throughout the world. Its emblematic signatures – such as the Alhambra motif, the Zip necklace or the Mystery Set technique – its selection of Pierres de Caractère, exceptional gems that instill an emotion, and the savoir-faire of its Mains d’Or, the craftsmen of Van Cleef & Arpels’ workshops, have given birth to enchanting jewellery and watchmaking collections. Since 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has been combining virtuoso craftsmanship, technical prowess and refinement in its collections of High Jewelry, Jewelry and Timepieces, to evoke a timeless world of harmony and beauty.” – Van Cleef & Arpels.
Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art & Science of Gems explores the inter-relationship between the science of mineralogy and the art of the finest jewellery and gems. It is a journey from the origin of minerals to the extraordinary gems into works of art.
One of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most striking special orders is a flying bird carrying a briolette-cut yellow diamond of 96.62 carats. In the 1930s, this unique gem belonged to the opera singer and socialite Ganna Walska, who wore it as a pendant. In keeping with Van Cleef & Arpels’ tradition of transformability, the bird can also metamorphose into a pair of winged earrings and even a brooch, while the magnificent yellow diamond can be detached from the clip and worn alone as a pendant.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ use of Couture motifs and materials is a discrete homage to the city of its origins, Paris: the capital of fashion and elegance. Thanks to the craftsmanship of the Maison’s workshops, fabrics are transformed into jewellery, while ribbons and lace are embellished by gold weave and precious stones.
In parallel to the Van Cleef & Arpels creations, over 250 gems and minerals from the renowned Collection of the French National Museum of Natural History are unveiled. Seven major principles critical for the precious stones’ formation are displayed along the exhibition: Pressure, Temperature, Transport, Water, Oxygen, Life and Metamorphism.Since the creation of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago, meteorite impacts, tectonic shifts, volcanic activity, erosion and biology have modified our planet extensively. Thanks to this tremendous activity, unique crystals have formed.
A fascination for Far Eastern culture swept over Parisian jewellery in the 1920s. The Universal Exhibitions were opportunities for the public to discover ceramics, silks, bronzes and other wondrous pieces which fuelled Van Cleef & Arpels’ inspirations. The trend for exoticism was at its height in 1931, at the “Exposition coloniale internationale” in Paris that drew millions of visitors.
Since the 1910s, Van Cleef & Arpels have skilfully raised utilitarian objects to the rank of precious works of art. This talent was first exercised on tiny vanity cases. In the early 1930s, these nécessaires bags were further developed into a larger box in lacquer or yellow gold, named the Minaudière. It opens to reveal all the accessories an elegant lady might require: a powder case, a watch, a dance card, a cigarette holder, glasses, a pill box, a lipstick, a comb, a pencil, a lighter, etc.
Inaugurating an emblematic tradition at Van Cleef & Arpels, the Maison’s first ballerina clips were created in New York in the early 1940s. Born out of Louis Arpels’ passion for dance, these feminine figures rapidly won over collectors with the grace of their postures and the beauty of their costumes. The fairy clips, constantly portrayed in a variety of graceful postures, are dressed in equally dazzling bejeweled attire, sometimes complete with a magic wand.
The Maison has been cherished by the most beautiful women and has adorned them on legendary occasions. Some were Hollywood stars – such as Elizabeth Taylor – or celebrated divas like Maria Callas, not to mention Indian Maharajas and royal figures such as HSH Princess Grace of Monaco, HRH Princess Faiza of Egypt or the Duchess of Windsor. Radiant on the international scene, all these personalities have contributed over time to the Maison’s unique vision of elegance and splendour.
If you’d like to know about some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition, like the Love Bella Vida Facebook Page for exclusive content.
23 April – 14 May 2016
ArtScience Museum, 6 Bayfront Ave, Singapore (018974)
Prices: SGD $16 (Adults), SGD $9 (Child 2-12yrs), SGD $11.80 (Senior 65yrs above, Students with valid student pass)
Open Daily 10:00 – 18:00