Nature’s glorious bounty has always been an inspiration to Van Cleef & Arpels. This year, the Maison adds more than 100 creatures to its growing menagerie with its newest high jewellery collection L’Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels, or Noah’s Ark as told by Van Cleef & Arpels — a glittering tribute to the animal kingdom.
Composed of some 60 pairs of land mammals, exotic birds, friendly critters and delicate insects, they are an ode to the tale of Noah’s Ark, which depicts the story of how of Noah, his family and pairs of every animal species, sought refuge in a giant vessel from an impending flood. Just as how these animals advanced into Noah’s ark in twos, the bejewelled creatures in Van Cleef & Arpels’ collection are also presented in pairs. The only exceptions are three mythical creatures: The phoenix, unicorn and Pegasus, which appear to be escorting the animals.
From as early as the 1910s, with the creation of exquisite lapel and hat pins shaped after feathers and birds, Van Cleef & Arpels has forged an intimate relationship with the animal kingdom. It started with winged creatures such as dragonflies, hummingbirds, butterflies and lovebirds that conveyed a sense of etherealness and lightness. In 1954, the Maison introduced the playful La Boutique collection, composed of more accessible day jewellery, among which some clips became genuine icons collected by illustrious clients the likes of Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Horses and elephants entered this universe in the 1970s, while the 2000s saw antelopes, polar bears and ring-tailed lemurs adorn the Maison’s high jewellery and watchmaking creations.
Birch Et Cerf Clip
Each brooch in the L’Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels collection is the result of a long and arduous craftsmanship process involving the cutting and polishing of carefully selected pieces of hard stones. They adorn flat and three-dimensional surfaces that have been carefully moulded to take the shape and posture of the specific animal. Enlivened by the sparkle of the precious gemstones, these animals embody expressions of love and affection.
Encapsulating the emotions of tenderness and adoration most succinctly is the Biche et Cerf clip, which depicts a stag and deer in an inseparable tender scene. Yellow sapphires and spessartite garnets adorn the beasts’ chest and base, symbolising their union. This is complimented by the stag’s onyx antlers carved into broad volutes and the speckled letterwood that add texture and a touch of realism to their silhouettes.
Elsewhere, the Paons clip displays the polished grace of a pair of peacocks perched grandly on a turquoise cabochon. A symbol of beauty and prosperity, the peacocks are decorated in sapphire baguettes, pear-shaped emeralds, Paraíba-like tourmalines and round mint garnets. The three-dimensional structure of one of the bird’s feathered tail is emphasised by three different types of setting: Spiral at the tips of the volutes, grain and rail.
Finally, presented on its own is the Phénix clip, one of the collection’s three mystical creatures. The legendary bird with powers of eternal rebirth is clad with rubies set in the patented Mystery Setting technique. It follows the footsteps of previous masterpieces such as the Walska Briolette diamond bird clip from 1971 and the Phénix Mystérieux necklace from 2012, and is a magical addition to the Maison’s menagerie.
Known for his penchant for fantasy and whimsy, American theatre and visual artist Robert Wilson was commissioned for the exhibition scenography that was shown at the collection’s launch at the Hôtel d’Évreux in Paris, in September. He revitalises the tale of Noah’s Ark through a perpetual screening of a video depicting the sea, alongside the display of animal brooches. With music “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt echoing in the background, the sensory experience of the flood is recreated, immersing viewers into a figurative rendition of Noah’s Ark.