Last week saw me heading early into Paris with a spring to my step and a smile of anticipation. I was invited to spend the day at the Van Cleef and Arpels School of Jewelry, and I knew that it would be good. The school is hidden away just off the famous Place Vendome, home to all the great names in haute couture jewellry: Chaumet, Cartier, Boucheron and of course Van Cleef and Arpels.
Besides my personal enjoyment, I was also eager to get a feel for the classes firsthand, before bringing my guests here as part of my September Antiques and Luxury tour.
The day started well as we were welcomed with coffee and a choice of fruit and pastries and introduced to team members at the school. The school is in an old building with high ceilings and original parquet floors. There were different lessons planned for the day, and I had already chosen the gouaché class for the morning, followed by a history of the engagement ring in the afternoon.
Under the expert eye of a professional artist whose work is an integral part of jewellry design for some of the greatest names in the business, I laboriously attempted to show how light falls on metal. Easy, I hear you say …. not so much is my reply.
On the left is the example we were given, a magnificent gouaché of an even more magnificent necklace of diamonds and emeralds … and on the right is my not-so-magnificent attempt at a gouaché of a simple metal bow. You won’t be surprised to hear that I did not get a job offer after that class, but I enjoyed it nevertheless and learnt a lot about the role of the artist in any creation
After a delicious lunch, and the chance to chat to other students and teachers it was time for the engagement ring class. This covered a history of the engagement ring, the design of the ring and also an introduction to gemology. Another tricky moment for this blogger. Take it from me, holding that little magnifying glass and examining the quality of a beautiful diamond is not as easy as it looks.
It was great to be guided by experts who told us what we were looking for and how to use the tools. We were entrusted with real diamonds of various quality and colour… all extremely subtle.
I have to tell you also how very excited I was to find myself being taught by the master craftsman who created this fantastic and priceless bracelet and watch. We talked about the work that this unique piece involved and it was humbling to see this very gifted artisan talk about his work with such simplicity.
If you’d like to take a class at the Van Cleef and Arpels School you can either join an existing class or privatise your own event as I shall be doing for my guests in September.
Take a look here to find out more about the School and their various courses, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet up one day in a classroom!