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Van Cleef & Arpels dazzles at the ArtScience Museum

April 25, 2016

Luxglove visited the latest show at the ArtScience Museum, The Art & Science of Gems, in Singapore and we were completely blown away. The comprehensive showcase of Van Cleef & Arpel's collection further cements its place in the history books as one of THE most important creators of fine jewellery. It is both an incredibly inspiring and educational show which we highly recommend. Here are some of the highlights!

Peony clip, 1937 
Platinum, gold, Mystery Set rubies, diamonds In the former collection of Her Royal Highness Princess Faiza of Egypt 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

Above, the famous “Peony flower” is one of the highlights of Van Cleef & Arpels’ 1930s artistry. It epitomizes the style of the Maison in two ways: for its floral theme, which has been central since its foundation, and for its Mystery Set technique, which has been Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature since its invention in 1933. This Peony clip is composed of 640 square Burmese rubies in Mystery Set. The heart is made up of six oval facetted rubies, while the foliage is composed of 43 baguette-cut and 196 round diamonds. The rubies weigh a total of 100 carats and the diamonds a total of 30 carats.  Featured in a gouache drawing from around 1937, it was originally created as a double clip depicting an opening and a closing flower. They could be worn together or separately.  HRH Princess Faiza of Egypt (the daughter of King Fouad and Queen Nazli) commissioned it from Van Cleef & Arpels through Mahmoud Fakhry Pacha, the foreign minister and ambassador of the Egyptian legation in Paris. 

Bird clip and pendant, 1971-1972 
Gold, emeralds, sapphire, yellow and white diamonds and a 96.62-carat briolette-cut yellow diamond formerly owned by the famous Polish opera singer Ganna Walska 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

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. 

This remarkable diamond first appeared at a Sotheby’s auction in 1971. One year later it adorned the cover of a Van Cleef & Arpels’ catalogue, flying over the Place Vendôme in the beak of a bird. Its new owner had asked the Maison to combine this exceptional stone with a bird of yellow gold, emeralds, and sapphires in celebration of the birth of her son in 1972. Ganna Walska’s yellow diamond became the precious bundle carried through the skies by this magical bird. 

In keeping with Van Cleef & Arpels’ tradition of transformability, the bird can also metamorphose into a pair of winged earrings and a brooch, while the yellow diamond can be detached from the clip and worn alone as a pendant. 

Zip necklace transformable into a bracelet, 1954 
Platinum, gold, rubies, diamonds 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

One of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most avant-garde creations is the Zip necklace. The zip fastener was first used for aviator jackets and sailors’ uniforms, before being appropriated by high society in the 1930s. It was then that the Duchess of Windsor suggested to Renée Puissant, the Maison’s Artistic Director, that a piece of jewellery could be inspired by this marvel of technology. Eventually created in 1950, it can be worn open as a necklace. The tassel fringe at its centre may also be slid upwards, transforming the zipper into a bracelet. 

Highly characteristic of the couture theme dear to Van Cleef & Arpels, the Zip necklace epitomises the Maison’s interest for transformable objects and flexibility.

Zip necklace transformed into a bracelet, 1954 
Platinum, gold, rubies, diamonds 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels
Art Deco bracelet, 1925 
Platinum, diamonds 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

In the 1920s and 1930s, Van Cleef & Arpels was at the forefront of Art Deco jewellery. At that time, women asserted their newly-found emancipation with radical changes in fashion. They bobbed their hair, painted their lips, bared their arms, bound their chests and wore short drop-waisted dresses in the new “flapper” style. The boyish silhouette “à la garçonne” was echoed in elongated long necklaces, long dangling earrings, diamond watches and bracelets, dress clips and cocktail rings. The Art Deco style saw vertical lines, strong symmetry and abstract shapes. This articulated Art Deco bracelet from 1925 illustrates this style. It is set in platinum with square, round and marquise-cut diamonds. Elegant ladies often paired their bracelets and worn them on the wrist or at the top of the arm, according to Indian fashion.

Egyptian inspiration bracelet, 1924 
Platinum, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, onyx, diamonds 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

This Egyptian bracelet from the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection was created in 1924. Jewellery inspired by the art of Ancient Egypt was at the height of fashion in the 1920s. Van Cleef & Arpels created that kind of pieces between 1922 and 1925. They reflect the extraordinary interest in the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Lord Carnarvon in 1922. Most of these jewels are clips or bracelets, such as this pierced and articulated multicolored gem band. It is decorated with scenes of offerings, hieroglyphic motifs such as scarabs, sphinx, amphora, taurus, ostrich feathers, lotus flowers and bees. It is set with buff-top emeralds, sapphires, rubies and paved diamonds, and calibrated onyx stones. These Egyptian jewels are very rare, and are highly sought after by connoisseurs and collectors.

Wild rose Minaudière, 1938 
Gold, Mystery Set rubies 
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection 
Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels

From the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, this 1938 Mystery Set Wild rose Minaudière precious case is mounted in gold and is decorated with a wild rose clasp that can be worn as a clip. It opens to reveal a powder compact, two ruby boxes with Mystery Set, a lipstick with a watch in its top, a dance card, a lighter and a comb.  The Minaudière case, an exclusive Van Cleef & Arpels creation dating from 1933, has become one of the Maison’s emblematic pieces. Ingenious and multifunctional, it provided compartments for an elegant lady’s various items, all enclosed within a luxurious surround.

Exhibition Display - Designed by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku.
One of the stunning exhibition rooms.


All images and information provided by Van Cleef & Arpels, unless otherwise stated.

Luxglove 2016



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