Where to go to appreciate the art of jewelry in Paris? The Galerie des Bijoux of the the Union centrale des Arts décoratifs (MAD) is definitely a must see exhibition site with its approximately 1,200 pieces covering a panorama of the history of jewelry from the Middle Ages to the present day. Rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches are presented in a chronological periods, in parallel with a technical vision of the know-how. Today, the Galerie des Bijoux is enriched with new pieces, especially contemporary ones, with the support of the Van Cleef & Arpels School and the Van Cleef & Arpels house – distinct entities – all determined to make the gallery’s treasures collected over 150 years ago better known.
To remedy to too rarely visited gallery, probably left in the shadow of the large temporary exhibitions, the Union centrale des Arts décoratifs is publishing Flore, an ambitious editorial project, thanks to the support of Van Cleef & Arpels. The challenge was to publish a beautiful book as cheaply as possible for the public, with quality macro photos worthy of faithfully conveying the art of the infinitely small, the texture of materials and precious stones. This has been achieved: the book with great photographs by Jean-Marie del Moral is available at an affordable price (19.50€).
It is through the themes of flora and nature, inexhaustible subjects, treated by Patrick Mauriès and Evelyne Possémé, the authors, that we explore how artists and jewellers succeed in reinterpreting these themes by playing with materials, techniques, colors and shapes. The rendering of the art of enamel is particularly breathtaking! The book was presented to us before we visited the Van Cleef & Arpels School, whose objective, for almost five years now, has been to “transmit, unveil and share with the widest audience the secret world of jewelry”. What about school today?
The Van Cleef & Arpels School
This undeniable success has led the Van Cleef & Arpels School to pursue its vocation of transmitting the art of jewellery abroad, meeting students in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. To support its development, the school has set up a scientific council composed of ten members, imminent personalities from the worlds of culture, science and research. David Caméo, Director General of the Union centrale des Arts décoratifs (UCAD), François Farge, eminent professor of mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and Stanford University, Michèle Bimbenet-Priva, one of the great curators at the Louvre Museum, are among them…” I am absolutely convinced that I need to have experts of the highest level who can guarantee the relevance of the content for the transmission of knowledge and the progress of research. “, says Marie Vallanet-Delhom, President of Van Cleef & Arpels School. In addition to experts in art history, gemology and know-how, the work with these research experts forces the school to always move towards more advanced content that resonates with research and the contemporary world, the president explains. The aim is to provide students with the most accurate information possible and to banish approximations from any content that the school develops.
In the beautiful setting nestled in the historic jewelry district of Paris, students find themselves in the heart of Place Vendôme, in the 18th century private mansion, a testimony to French Art. 750 m2 on two floors within the Hôtel de Ségur, named Hôtel Van Cleef & Arpels des Métiers, host calibrated courses for the general public. It offers an immersion experience in the world of jewelry workshops with courses delivered, among others, by the jewelers of Van Cleef & Arpels, straight from the Parisian jeweler’s workshops, located on the upper floors!
Participants benefit from ideal conditions to learn: two trainers for each two or four hour module, composed of twelve people and two trainers! Teenagers and children are not forgotten with workshops created for them, free of charge, during school holidays. Be careful and get there well in advance for registrations!
Two new courses per year are provided. Sometimes it is the students’ requests that motivate them, such as the one entitled History of Talisman Jewelry, to discover the symbolism of the stones, and the virtues associated with them, from the great Moguls to Napoleon I, from Catherine de Médicis to Elizabeth Taylor, from Indian mandalas to Chinese rebuses, via arabesques and Arab calligraphy. This is an invitation to travel for a few hours, thanks to the world of jewellery! Also coming soon: two new courses on the enamel technique and gouache for Christmas…
In the “reconstituted” jewelry workshops, it is explained, “not real jewelry, but real gestures” that need to be learned are presented. Motivated, jewelers are recruited on a voluntary basis. It is a great pleasure for them to leave the workshop and share their expertise with students in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. And to make them good teachers, training will be provided to each of the future trainers. It takes a year of preparation for a course. Those on art history or gemology are taught by external trainers. On the content of the courses, “There are no unspoken words”, says the school president, who was also asked about the traceability of materials and stones. “We explain to the students what a certificate looks like and especially what it means, because otherwise it is not clear. To date, “ethical concerns” are not the subject of a dedicated course, but are addressed in the courses, particularly on diamonds, and on the occasion of students’ questions.
The school for the public has no equal, and is intriguing. To the endless question of the relationship between the school and the jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels, the answer is crystal clear: the house supports the school, but has no connection with the pedagogical content which remains “very ecumenical”, it is explained. All jewelry houses are mentioned during the courses. The person in charge of the Chaumet Museum is also a member of the scientific committee. And even if French jewelry houses were initially reluctant to send participants to refine certain skills, foreign brands immediately welcomed the ambitious educational project that has become a “reference” in terms of transmission for them. Jewelry brands send their trainees to class “without any problems”. “It takes time,” it is said, to make the school, its purpose and how it works known. “We keep things very separate between Van Cleef and the school. “We’re not here to give you the Van Cleef & Arpels card at the end!”
Finally, if you are not interested in a course yet, but would like to discover the Van Cleef & Arpels School, you can always attend a “Conversation” evening, namely a conference between connoisseurs and enthusiasts that is followed by a cocktail. Each talk is dedicated to a specific theme each time, such as this evening with the beautiful jewellery house Mellerio. A fine example of an ecumenical spirit!
site of the Van Cleef & Arpels School