French for “Under the Stars”, the high jewellery collection renews one of the house’s historic sources of inspiration in a reimagination of the universe that is tinged with fantasy. The result: phenomenal interpretations synonymous with Van Cleef & Arpelsʼ emblematic style and creativity.
Expressing the beauty of the heavens runs through the history of the maison, as evidenced in an array of items ranging from jewellery to precious objects. Redolent of dreams and escapism, the sky and its stars have been recurrent motifs in the Parisian jeweller’s universe. In 1907, the sale of a star-shaped pearl and diamond brooch was recorded in one of the house’s first accounting ledgers. Then, in the 2000s, it explored the theme in complication watches, as seen in the Lady Arpels Midnight in Paris or its Extraordinary Dials collection. Over the years, representations of the sky have been enriched with zodiac signs, the sun and moon, with the latter adorning a minaudière in 1934 and a diamond brooch in 1962.
The cosmos also inspired the house to create modern, stylised forms. Lines erupted from the Pylônes jewels in the late 1930s, while they converged and whirled in the 1950s Météore collection that combined yellow gold strands with diamond centres. A decade after the high jewellery collection Les Voyages Extraordinaires, which drew inspiration from Jules Verne’s 1865 novel, De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), the maison revisits these dynamic motifs and more with Sous les Étoiles, Heavenly Dreams as it continues its odyssey through space and time.
Flaunting dynamic outlines, scintillating silhouettes and chromatic explosions, the 150-piece Sous les Étoiles, Heavenly Dreams collection is a contemplative dreamscape that brings out the wondrous beauty of both the universe and natural gems. Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, explains: “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 written in the early 17th century – Somnium: The Dream, or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy.”
When stars align
The maisonʼs designers, expert gemologists and craftsmen fuelled their imagination with numerous depictions of the universe by astronomers,
writers and artists. These included centuries-old works of popular science, various art pieces of paintings, engravings as well as awe- inspiring cosmic landscapes revealed by recent astronomical images. “The unexpected pandemic made us question ourselves – did it make sense to create high jewellery in such circumstances, and if so, how to present it? We finally understood that we wanted to share with everyone the enchantment we felt and inspiration we had imagining the collection: studying books about astronomy, looking at [US space agency] Nasa’s photos or discussing stars and galaxies with French astrophysicist Isabelle Grenier. This collection truly makes us travel very far away, allowing us to dream and dare, a need now maybe more than ever,” adds Bos.
A sublime mix of art and science, the association of the house’s poetic vision of space with the precise one of astronomy is what makes the Sous les Étoiles, Heavenly Dreams collection so extraordinary. Bos elaborates: “On one side, we nourished our imagination with nature and fantastic references that are proper to the maison. On the other, we solicited astronomic iconography and expertise from the 19th century with L’Astronomie Populaire (Popular Astronomy) by Camille Flammarion, to present day, with Isabelle and colourful ESA (European Space Agency) and Nasa photographs of space phenomena.”
A professor of astrophysics at the University of Paris Denis Diderot, Grenier helped the maison’s artisans understand various scientific dimensions to realise pieces that blended art, poetry and science beautifully. “Thanks to her knowledge, space is unfolding in an infinity of colours and shapes. ‘The universe is playing with this palette’, Isabelle said as she described nebulae, star eruptions and supernovas that we admired on recent ESA and Nasa photographs. We pushed our imagination further with these elements and our designers decided not to focus on a common representation of the stars, but dived deep into space instead. This is how our creations were born, and this is how we chose specific space wonders to represent,” Bos explains.
A vibrant universe
At the heart of the collection is an incredible display of the multiple colours of space realised through a palette of precious and ornamental stones, including sapphires, rubies, opals, lapis lazuli and chalcedony. Combined with the brilliance and vivacity of the compositions, the jewels evoke a sense of dynamism and wonder associated with the infinite spectacle of the heavens.
“Researching and selecting the stones required meticulous, hard work from our stone experts. They chose only the ones in line with the maison’s stringent criteria, which vary according to the gem. For example, diamonds must present the clearest, brightest and purest material, while emeralds have to display an intense colour and refined jardins – inclusions specific to this type of precious stone. For the collection’s Déesse Aurore clip, we chose to use a pink star sapphire with a very thin asterism, which testifies to its quality and rarity,” Bos explains.
Other noteworthy pieces are the Céphéide set on which chalcedonies and tanzanites mingle; the Arche Solaire bracelet adorned with coral, as well as pink and mauve sapphires; and the Sentier d’étoiles bracelet that features a magnificent sapphire cabochon of over 69 carats at the centre of a multicoloured spiral.
Bos highlights another remarkable creation from the collection, the Planétarium High Jewellery watch encased at the centre of a bracelet set entirely with precious gemstones: “The Sun, Mercury, Venus and Earth – accompanied by its satellite, the Moon – truly come to life on the dial, thanks to a module developed exclusively for the maison. Producing this exceptional piece required 1,370 hours of work. It’s a great example of the highest watchmaking expertise combined with jewellery prowess.”
Finally, Bos reveals the piece he has a soft spot for: “I think the Ciel de Minuit necklace is quite emblematic of the collection. The maison wanted to realise a poetic interpretation of the Milky Way and we did it with this creation. The unusual choice of lapis lazuli with apparent pyrite flakes was to echo the faraway stars with subtlety. The work done on the articulations brings a surprising suppleness and great comfort to the person who wears it too.”
(All images: Van Cleef & Arpels)
This story first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.