For over a century, the sky and stars have been a historic source of inspiration for VAN CLEEF & ARPELS. françois oosthuizen takes a closer look at a new thematic high jewellery collection: Sous les Étoiles
In 1907, the sale of a star-shaped brooch in pearls and diamonds was mentioned in one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ first accounting ledgers. Depending on the pieces – from jewellery to precious objects – a wealth of materials has been deployed over the years to express the beauty of the heavens.
Examples include an advertisement from 1944 depicting the Place Vendôme by night with light shining in the Maison’s boutique windows, the design of a box (circa 1945) reprising the same view, or charms from the 1960s – featuring a roof-scape overlooked by a sky of lapis lazuli, punctuated by gold and diamond stars. Beginning in the 2000s, Van Cleef & Arpels started to explore the theme’s poetry in complication watches, like the Lady Arpels Midnight in Paris, or its Extraordinary Dials collection.
Over the years, representations of the sky have been joined by the signs of the Zodiac, the Sun, and the Moon. Already present in 1906 in the form of a crescent, the latter adorned a Minaudière in 1934 and a diamond brooch in 1962. The heavenly orb took center stage in 1969, when Man took his first steps on the Moon: jewellery of the period reproduced its irregular surface and craters in textured gold.
Fast forward to 2021, with galaxies of stones, nebulae of motifs and constellations of savoir-faire: the cosmos reveals its poetic character in the 150 high jewellery creations of the Sous les Étoiles (“heavenly dreams”) collection – a striking vision of the universe, tinged with fantasy. The depictions offered over the centuries by enthralled astronomers, writers and artists have once again fuelled the imagination of the Maisonʼs designers, expert gemologists and craftsmen.
The result is a wealth of interpretations, at the crossroads of Van Cleef & Arpelsʼ emblematic style and free creativity. The dance of the planets and the celestial figures coexist with a repertoire of forms and materials that captivates the gaze. In dynamic outlines, dazzling silhouettes and chromatic explosions, this contemplative dreamscape explores both gems and the heavens in all their hidden beauty.
Ten years after the ‘Les Voyages Extraordinaires’ high jewellery collection, which drew its inspiration from Jules Verne’s novel De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865), the Maison continues its odyssey through space and time, discovering celestial phenomena.
“Van Cleef & Arpels has always been interested in the instant where observing nature encounters poetry and the imagination,” explains Nicolas Bos, President and CEO. “For this new collection, we wanted to prolong the adventure that began with Jules Verne, by exploring the literary and scientific tradition of which his work forms a part. It led us to the classical author Lucian of Samosata imagining a voyage in space, to Johannes Kepler and his inspirational text in The Dream, or Lunar Astronomy – written in the early 17th century – and to Camille Flammarion, who published his wonderfully illustrated Astronomie populaire in 1880.”
Pursuing this reverie into the science fiction of the 20th century, the Maison turned its gaze to unfathomable horizons, conducive to wonder. Legends, tales, detailed descriptions, but also engravings, paintings and photographs provided the designers with all the inspiration they needed.
The deep blue of sapphires – magnified by a variety of cuts – stands alongside the sparkle of pyrite-flecked lapis lazuli and the intense green of emeralds. Different shades radiate in a whirl of concentric forms: chalcedonies and tanzanites mingle on the Céphéide set, coral, pink and mauve sapphires punctuate the Arche Solaire bracelet, while white and yellow diamonds sparkle in unison on the Halley necklace.
This necklace, remarkable for its brilliance and vivacity, was inspired by the passage of Halley’s Comet, visible from Earth every 75 years. It was interpreted in a radiant composition, accentuated by a contrasting interplay of white and yellow diamonds. The creation is illuminated by a Fancy Vivid Yellow diamond weighing 11.29 carats, symbolizing the head of the comet. With its generously-sized pear shape, great purity and warm yellow colour, it is one of the treasures of the collection.
Set to one side of the necklace, the stone seems to emit precious rays, creating an impression of movement and dynamism. White and yellow diamonds of different diameters evoke the comet’s tail, while fine bands of yellow gold highlight the necklace’s graphic quality. In keeping with the Maison’s tradition of transformable pieces, the central yellow diamond can be removed and positioned on a ring with a similar design. A motif adorned with a 3.26-carat DFL diamond can also embellish the necklace or ring with its intense sparkle.
With extraordinary beauty and unrivalled craftsmanship, the Sous les Étoiles creations do justice to a mystical, ethereal theme that will no doubt continue to inspire designers for centuries to come.
“VAN CLEEF & ARPELS HAS ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN THE INSTANT WHERE OBSERVING NATURE ENCOUNTERS POETRY AND THE IMAGINATION” NICOLAS BOS, PRESIDENT AND CEO