Graceful danseuses leaped off the stage and onto the upper bodice of the Manhattan elite in the 1940s upon the unveiling of Van Cleef & Arpels’ first-ever ballerina clips.
Revered for their feminine character, the clips encapsulate the persona of a nimble dancer with delicate silhouettes that recreate the precision and elegance of her movements, while rose-cut diamond embellishments suggest her visage and precious stones bring to mind her costume trimmings. But how did this design ingenuity come about?
Those who are familiar with the Maison’s century-long history would know that Louis Arpels, one of the house’s founding Arpels brothers, was a great admirer of ballet and opera. It was said that there were days when he would leave his office in Place Vendôme in Paris to attend ballet recitals at the Opéra Garnier. This natural liking for the performing arts was subsequently passed down the family tree and took on a life of its own at Van Cleef & Arpels as we know it.
Meanwhile, over in the Big Apple where the clips originated, Claude Arpels had established a good rapport with choreographer and the New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine.
It was at the Maison's Fifth Avenue boutique that the two discovered their mutual passion for precious stones which in turn sparked off Balanchine’s 1967 Jewels—a three-part non-narrative ballet using the names and also the colours of emeralds, rubies and diamonds.
The grand triptych was once again put under the spotlight in 2007 as Van Cleef & Arpels partnered with the London Royal Ballet to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The venture made way for the Ballet Précieux high jewellery collection which later on paid a vibrant tribute to more ballet repertoires and the art of dance specifically the classical Russian Swan Lake, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, Le Poisson doré and The Rite of Spring.
Van Cleef & Arpels continues to engage with talents in the field of dance as it goes further into the millennium. The Maison, for instance, has forged a long-term partnership with L.A. Dance Project — a collective set up by Benjamin Millepied.
The French choreographer, just like Balanchine, has also expressed his appreciation for the world of jewellery through his works notably with his Gems trilogy of ballets, themed Reflections, Hearts & Arrows and On the Other Side.
To celebrate this particular event, three more unique clips cast in white gold set with diamonds were added to Van Cleef & Arpels’ impressive laundry list of bejeweled creations. One of those tiny dancers especially stood out for the gossamer lightness of her dress portrayed by a honeycomb motif. It’s a pièce de résistance in its own right, serving as a sumptuous visual feast cooked up by ethereal lines and sparkling simplicity.
More recently, the Maison's symbiotic pas de deux with dance has brought forth a slew of exclusive creations inspired by iconic ballets such as Le Pavillon d’Armide and Le Spectre de la Rose.
Debuted far from home in China, the figurative and abstract creations, crafted in three dimensions or in exquisite openwork that is interlaced with rubies, diamonds, opals and cultured pearls, illustrate the grace of the movements, the beauty of the costumes and the poetry of the scenery.