Science and arts meet in the new High Jewelery collection by Van Cleef & Arpels, “Sous les étoiles, a celestial dream”
L’High Jewelery is perhaps the spearhead of savoir faire that reminds us that the creation of the beautiful and well done it’s not just a dream. As Franco Cologni writes in his In praise of the hand dedicated to Van Cleef & Arpels, this maison, “born from love and poetry, love and poetry always return “. Now, the observation point is not Mother Nature: the collection, presented during the week of Haute Couture, it’s a story that starts from literary works and goes to the furthest boundaries of science.
The name Van Cleef & Arpels not only expresses prestige or wealth, and unique mastery in making High Jewelery pieces. It is not a mere status symbol. The maison aspires to something higher, because it has the ability to tell stories through its jewels. In addition to the artistic prestige, the quality of execution and the precious stones set, we find the value added of culture. The result is an interpretative richness suspended between the distinctive aesthetics of the maison and the creative freedom that here, in the collection Sous les étoiles, a heavenly dream, takes shape between dancing planets and stars. It is the fascination of the unknown, the mystery of Man and his relationship with the Universe.
Between culture and poetry, love and refinement, we interviewed on the occasion of the Haute Couture in Paris Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, who told us a preview of the new High Jewelery collection.
It is curious how in this particular moment we are experiencing, Van Cleef & Arpels looks to Heaven, to the infinite and to the mystery that it conceals. Are these pieces a reflection on the relationship between man and nature?
Nature has been an important source of inspiration for jewelry, decorative arts and probably any form of representation from the very beginning. It is to nature that designers, artists, women and men in general look to when looking for beauty and inspiration. Certainly for a maison like Van Cleef & Arpels, which has a great tradition in High Jewelery and in the decorative arts, it has always been a major source of inspiration. Nature as we find it in fields and forests with flowers and plant forms. The fauna with its diversity and variety of animals: birds, butterflies but also animals of the African fauna such as lions. Over the course of the twentieth century we have looked more to the Earth, also finding inspiration under the surface of the sea and oceans. We have created some creations and collections of High Jewelery inspired by the underwater world, both real and fantasy. Of course, another source of inspiration is the sky and the universe, when you look up and try to find beauty among the stars. This source of inspiration can be found in Van Cleef & Arpels creations either on a permanent basis or depending on the collection, period, theme or story we want to tell. For example ten years ago, we created an entire collection inspired by Jules Verne’s vision that represents another way of observing nature. The collection was divided into four chapters: the first inspired by Five weeks in the balloon explored the jungle and the forest, one was about the Earth itself as told in Journey to the Center of the Earth , therefore what we can find under the earth’s surface, caves and crystals; the third, inspired by Twenty thousand leagues under the sea, explored the seas and oceans, finally the fourth chapter inspired by From the Earth to the Moon it was an opportunity to explore the shapes and colors of the constellations, planets, stars and the universe. Ten years later, we decided to take a cue from that inspiration again. This time not with a single chapter within a collection, but with a collection entirely dedicated to the representation of the universe.
Plate VII, Worlds illuminated by multiple suns – Popular Astronomy
© Flammarion Collection
Is the collection an invitation to go back to looking at the sky and be more reflective?
Probably, but it was not wanted. When we thought of this collection, three or four years ago, we had no idea that we would have lived this very strange year characterized by the pandemic, but it is true that looking up and observing infinity is even more important and relevant in a period in which the movements are limited and where you have to stay at home. It is probably one of the rare getaways that we can enjoy and that we can indulge in all year round. I think it is even more important in this period because it represents that need for escape and poetry that we all feel the need for. Looking up is probably a good way to escape the sometimes demanding and frustrating everyday life that we have been facing in recent months.
The sky has always aroused considerable interest in man: told in stories, investigated by science or shown in art. How has this theme been made, between planets and stars, in High Jewelery?
The way in which we wanted to represent the theme is typical of Van Cleef & Arpels’ approach to creating a collection of High Jewelery. We draw inspiration, not only from the history of the Maison, but also from artistic disciplines such as literature, poetry and, of course, the representations of visual art.
When it came to observing the sky what really inspired us was, in addition to the sparkle of the stars and the explosion of colors of a supernova, the opportunity to go back in time and, in particular, to examine how the universe it has been interpreted and represented in the past in literature and art.
Among the texts that inspired us there are some very ancient ones such as that of Luciano di Samosata, a Greek philosopher of the 2nd century, but also of Giovanni Kepler who at the beginning of the 17th century wrote a beautiful novel entitled The dream, in which he tells the adventures of the young Duracoto, and in particular his journey to the Moon, from whose surface he observes the universe, the Earth and the sun. It is a very beautiful and poetic text that Kepler had written with popular intentions in order to promote his scientific vision in a world that rejected the Copernican heliocentric system. Since Kepler as a scientist could not support his view that the Earth was not at the center of the universe, he did so then through literature with a science fiction tale. A marriage between science and art which is what we look at when we look for inspiration. Similarly, a few centuries later, Jules Verne’s work is inspired by images and scientific discoveries, to transport us to worlds of fantasy and imagination. There is also another book that inspired us and is quite famous in France, and I believe also in Europe, which is called Popular Astronomy by Camille Flammarion. Published at the end of the nineteenth century, it is an essay that collects the knowledge of the time on the stars, the sky, the constellations and the movement of the planets but described in an easily understandable way to all. The text is also beautifully illustrated with engravings and images, which are emblematic of that period. These representations are a very strong source of visual inspiration characteristic of a period in which science and fantasy, science and art were intertwined and there was a poetic element in the scientific approach. In addition to this period, which goes from the 17th to the 19th century, what inspired us are the images of recent discoveries by NASA and the European Space Agency photographed by the new telescopes that are used to observe the phenomena of space. These new technologies have shown that the universe is not, as you usually imagine it, black or dark blue dotted with luminous dots but on the contrary it is full of colors with explosions of red, purple, blue, yellow and all kinds of constellations, every type of star has its own unique combination of colors and patterns. In a certain sense, we can associate all these historical representations of the sky between mythology and astrology with the contemporary vision that is provided to us by current science through highly evocative images.
How did you make the colors of the Universe in the collection? Which stones were selected?
In this lies our mastery. In jewels the color is interpreted with the stones associated with the motifs and designs that take inspiration both from ancient history, which I mentioned earlier, and from the modern scientific observation of the universe. We take into consideration the mythology of the planets, the astrological representation of the sky, especially for figurative creations such as animals, female figures and galaxies that are associated with a specific planet, a specific constellation, a specific zodiac sign. These designs, these lines, these motifs have been combined with vibrant colors from the most recent imagination. In this case we have represented all these shades with sapphires is rubies, but also with emeralds, garnets, aquamarines, tourmalines, ornamental stones very often combined together to create a sense of multiplicity and variety of colors that somehow reflects, once again, what we can see in the extraordinary images of the universe taken in these years. And that’s exactly what we tried to transpose into the collection.
Finally the comet, a rare and enchanting event that catalyzes the gaze of humanity. What is the meaning you gave by choosing it for the collection?
We have several creations inspired by the celestial phenomenon of the comet. Probably because what we want to represent in jewels, especially at Van Cleef & Arpels, is the idea of lightness, the idea of movement. And the sky is always in motion.
Comets and shooting stars convey the idea of movement in the sky as butterflies or birds of paradise do in nature. It really is a small miracle. Something that appears in the sky, crosses the night and then disappears. It is always a very fascinating moment and trying to capture that moment in a jewel is a very exciting challenge. This is why we use, among others, the Serti Mystérieux setting technique which gives an interesting effect of movement to the creations. In the Ison manchette bracelet, which represents the comet of the same name, the Serti Mystérieux of rubies – but it can also be made with sapphires or emeralds – delineates surprising vanishing lines that represent acceleration and speed, the movement of the comet and shooting stars .
Shooting stars inspired us because it is the moment in life when you look at the sky, close your eyes and express the wish to be lucky and at Van Cleef & Arpels we believe in luck.