“Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems” Exhibition to Open Apr 23


From “Cartier: Style and History” at the Grand Palais in Paris to “The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950‑1990” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, jewelry exhibitions dedicated to a brand typically focus on the brand’s history, highlighting its know-how and craftsmanship in a mainly chronological approach.

“Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems,” to open at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore late this month, is taking a different tack by putting the spotlight on the raw materials used by the Maison’s artisans as well as on the final innovative designs, showcasing the intersection between the art of jewelry making and the science of mineralogy.

“The exhibition blends art, crafts, history, and geoscience in a highly distinctive manner to take visitors on a dramatic journey that begins with the origin of minerals within the heart of the Earth, and culminates with the extraordinary craftsmanship that transfigures these gems into works of art,” explains Honor Harger, executive director of the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, which is co-curating the exhibition.

Visitors will follow two complementary routes, one exploring the scientific processes involved in the formation of minerals, along which they will see the 250 mineral samples on loan from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, the second is a more conventional walk-through of the Maison’s own archive collection with more than 400 creations on display.

“It’s a very special and different exhibition, because of this mineralogical journey, and it has a very educational angle,” says Jean Bienaymé, international marketing and communication director for Van Cleef & Arpels.

According to Catherine Cariou, heritage director at Van Cleef & Arpels, the exhibition will be organized around seven themes, many of which have come to define the jeweler’s creations over the last century — abstractions, ballerinas and fairies, couture, influences, nature, precious objects, and icons.

Visitors can expect to see some of the jewelry house’s most famous creations, such as examples of the Zip Necklace, a technical feat commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor in 1938 that enables a necklace to be transformed into a bracelet thanks to a working bejeweled zipper; a flower clip, c. 1967, which is set with 15.77-carats worth of cushion-cut oval Burmese rubies and was previously owned by the legendary soprano Maria Callas; the Spirit of Beauty fairy clip, c. 1944, which once belonged to heiress Barbara Hutton; and the striking “Walska Briolette Diamond” brooch, a bird in flight holding a briolette-cut yellow diamond of 96.62 carats, a stunning stone that once belonged to socialite Ganna Walska in the 1920s, and which was reset in 1972 as the current phoenix brooch. The piece can be transformed with the wings becoming earrings, while the diamond can be detached to be worn as a pendant.

But Cariou says there will also be some surprises including one jewel that once belonged to the Duchess of Windsor and which was bought back by the Maison at a recent US vintage jewelry fair. “It’s really a stroke of luck because I didn’t know whom it had belonged to when I bought it. It was only later when I looked into the archives that I realized, so it’s quite an exciting find,” she tells Blouin Lifestyle.

Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems opens April 23.

first published on blouinartinfo.com