Our Paris trip was not just a vacation, I studied but not just historic interiors and gastronomic delights, I went to school: L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels. Many people who love design and color, also have a fascination for jewelry and gemstones. Apparel is not the only fashion with roots in Paris, jewelry, Haute Joaillerie began on those historic streets.
Jewelry has always been a magnet for attention. This form of wearable art or architecture in some cases, can say so much about the wearer as well as the creator. The purity of color in a spectacular natural gemstone is mesmerizing. I am equally captivated by what is and has been created on such a small scale by an artisan’s hands. Our trip to Paris was the perfect opportunity to learn from the best.
What better place to learn than at Place Vendome, the high jewelry capital of the universe? Pinch me! This was like VCA craft camp, but no making silly little cotton string bracelets here, just the good stuff.Since 1906 Van Cleef & Arpels has been creating exquisite jewelry. They are known for their precision in innovation such as the Zip Necklace, first created in 1938 for the Duchess Of Windsor*, or the perfection of their Mystery Set gemstones. Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry has adorned royalty, celebrities and other non-celebs who appreciate all things wonderful.
While I’ve studied about Van Cleef & Arpels via books and auction catalogs, know their work and a couple of years ago attended the exhibit in New York City at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, attending class was heaven on earth. Housed within the walls of an 18th century, mansion by American terminology, “hotel” in the words of the French, our class was intimate and intriguing. We covered the history of jewelry and adornment, the role jewelry has played throughout time, how jewelry has evolved and of course how jewelry is worn. Admittedly it was not easy to take my eyes off the well preserved historic interiors.
Fascinating Jewelry Facts
- The first piece of jewelry was known as the fibula, or brooch.
- Regardless of where in the world, all people had a form of jewelry.
- Wedding rings have been around since the 3rd or 4th century B.C.
- The diamond engagement ring did not come about until the 15th century, as a sign of the pre-contract.
For the grand finale of our class, the 15 foot gilt trimmed pocket doors slid aside to reveal a treasure trove of glittering jewelry from the Van Cleef & Arpel vaults. High style dress up with lots of zeros.Numerous trays were set out on the tables, this is just one of high/low jewelry pieces for us to play with. In case you wondered, the men in black suits and ear pieces entered the room at the same time. Good jewels require good security.
The purpose was for us to be expressive and wear jewelry beyond the conventional necklace, earrings, ring and bracelet. Scroll back to the first picture – there are 3 different jewel encrusted butterfly charms on just my ponytail.I won’t give it all away, if you visit Paris you must go. Book in advance, the L’Ecole classes are small and can book up quickly. While this might sound like pure fun, the learning was all serious. There are pre-requisites for many of the classes and big binders to house all your coursework and notes. The only things lacking were champagne and a checkbook.
Photos of myself and jewelry courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.
*Check out the Royal Jewelry Box for a review of some of the Duchess of Windsor’s prized jewels including some famous Van Cleef & Arpels creations.