JEWEL IN THE CROWN

With 25 years of jour­nal­ism to his name, in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned writer NI­CHOLAS FOULKES takes us on a jour­ney of his thoughts, as well as his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of clas­si­cal time­pieces, as we meet in Mar­rakech to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of Van Cleef &

#Legend - - SPARKLE -

FROM HIS FIRST piece of jewellery at the age of 10 to his first en­counter of Van Cleef & Ar­pels at 14, Ni­cholas Foulkes pays homage to his enduring re­la­tion­ship with the jewellery house. Hav­ing writ­ten for most na­tional news­pa­pers in Bri­tain, as well as Van­ity Fair and the Fi­nan­cial Times, Foulkes is a wellestab­lished au­thor with a love of style. Clas­sic yet cur­rent, he reveals some of his favourite pieces from the Al­ham­bra col­lec­tion as well as some time-honoured pieces he hopes to col­lect down the road.

For us watch afi­ciona­dos in Asia who think we know ev­ery­thing, there are things we have to learn about Van Cleef & Ar­pels. Can you tell us a few things that would sur­prise us?

Oh gosh, well, the only thing I can say that will sur­prise any­body is that I did de­velop a fond­ness for Pierre Ar­pels. He ap­peared as him­self in the movie Fan­tô­mas, which I al­ways rather liked. He in­vented one of the most el­e­gant watches, with the ar­tic­u­lated T-bar. He in­vented that at the end of the '40s and com­mer­cialised it at the begin­ning of the

'70s, and it was per­fect. He also did the first fra­grance by a jew­eller, called First – in '76, I think – and he opened La Bou­tique, which was again a revo­lu­tion when he opened it in the '50s. This was af­ford­able Van Cleef & Ar­pels. It was bril­liantly judged, ac­ces­si­ble, friendly and slightly chic. And peo­ple like Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace and Jac­que­line Su­sann loved it. For men, you could get bril­liant money clips, lighters and cuff­links. I've got two sets of old Van Cleef cuff­links. My wife got them for my birth­day and I just love that a great name makes such won­der­ful, small things.

Tell us about the evo­lu­tion of your re­la­tion­ship with the brand from the early days to your book Van Cleef & Ar­pels: Al­ham­bra?

Well my re­la­tion­ship with Van Cleef & Ar­pels prob­a­bly starts from when I was about 14, when I read a book called The Pi­rate by Harold Rob­bins, which is a piece of schlocky 1970s jet-set fic­tion. But it men­tioned Van Cleef & Ar­pels in there – and Van Cleef was the grand name in jewellery in those days, so I've al­ways been fas­ci­nated by this. And then when I was 40 – which, since then, I un­for­tu­nately have cel­e­brated an­other decade! – my wife bought me th­ese won­der­ful Van Cleef &

Ar­pels cuff­links. So I came to the house al­ready as an en­thu­si­ast. [Van Cleef & Ar­pels CEO] Nicolas Bos is a great guy and about 10 years ago, he asked me to write a book about cos­tume balls. It turned out to be the in­spi­ra­tion for a col­lec­tion of jewellery, so I have worked for

Van Cleef a cou­ple of times. This was a de­par­ture for me, be­cause it was some­thing that I was un­sure about do­ing to start with, but they ac­tu­ally knew bet­ter than me – so in the end it worked.

If you could have just one Van Cleef & Ar­pels piece, which would it be and why?

It would be an as­trological belt buckle in my sign, based on a model they did in the '70s, and I'd have it made in 18-karat yel­low gold. I ac­tu­ally found a sil­ver ver­sion, not in my star sign, but I found it in a flea mar­ket and got it for a bar­gain. Un­for­tu­nately the price I have been quoted by Van Cleef is some­what higher, so it will be some time yet.

How long have you been col­lect­ing jewellery?

As a kid, I found a sil­ver ring with an onyx stone set in it in a park, and I also asked my par­ents to buy me a sil­ver bracelet as well when I was still at pri­mary school, so this must have been be­fore I was 10, I sup­pose. Col­lect­ing is a big word, but I have been ac­quir­ing and wear­ing jewellery since be­fore I was 10.

How do you as­sess auc­tion­eer Aurel Bacs?

I've known Aurel for an aw­fully long time and he has done so much for the in­dus­try. He's quite a re­mark­able fig­ure, he loves watches and he's a great show­man – he has got great flair. Auc­tions are like a great per­for­mance. You don't need sub­ti­tles for Aurel; he's a kind of mul­tilin­gual thing [im­i­tates his voice], which kind of gives peo­ple time to build up the bids. But he is just bril­liant. And his wife, Olivia, is a great Rolex ex­pert, an amaz­ing woman. He has gen­er­ated some pretty re­mark­able re­sults and I know that he takes it all quite se­ri­ously as well.

As a se­ri­ous writer, how do you adapt to the grow­ing dig­i­tal world?

That's a tricky one, be­cause I got into writ­ing quite young and I was just used to print pages. I liked the phys­i­cal­ity of the thing. Yes, I write on­line and the stuff I do gets on­line; I use so­cial me­dia to pro­mote my work and my books.

It's not that print is dead, but it is dif­fer­ent. If you're in the busi­ness of sheer in­for­ma­tion or ba­sic in­for­ma­tion con­veyance then yes, print prob­a­bly is dead be­cause the in­for­ma­tion comes to you through your smart­phone or wher­ever. But in terms of a book, be­ing a beauty, it isn't just a store of in­for­ma­tion. It's some­thing that is tac­tile, hope­fully at­trac­tively writ­ten and some­thing that you would be happy to see. It can re­mind you that dig­i­tal stuff is stored ab­stractly some­where you don't know. I like phys­i­cal things; this is prob­a­bly why I like jewellery, watches and ob­jects. And I see a book as a cul­tural ob­ject as much as any­thing. What I've no­ticed is that yes, peo­ple read dig­i­tally but they also like hav­ing the phys­i­cal ob­ject and print no longer has a mo­nop­oly. I still love writ­ing for pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and it's some­thing that I hope to con­tinue do­ing.

Who is your leg­end?

My grand­fa­ther was one, Mark Bir­ley was an­other, and the Duke of Wind­sor I sup­pose, in some ways. I can't choose just one.

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