21 Aug 2021
Galaxies of stones, nebulae of motifs and constellations of savoir-faire: the cosmos reveals its poetic character in Van Cleef & Arpels’ new thematic collection: Sous les étoiles, heavenly dreams. Renewing one of its historic sources of inspiration, 150 High Jewelry creations offer a striking vision of the universe, tinged with dreams. The depictions offered over the centuries by enthralled astronomers, writers and artists have fuelled the imagination of the Maison?s designers, expert gemologists and craftsmen. The result is a wealth of interpretations, at the crossroads of Van Cleef & Arpels? emblematic style and free creativity. The dance of the planets and the celestial figures coexists 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.
“The spectacle of the starry sky attracts us, envelops us, speaks of infinity, communicates a dizzy sense of the abyss; for, more than anything else, it grasps and calls out to the contemplative soul...”-- L’Astronomie Populaire by Camille Flammarion.
Between fascination for its immensity and thirst for knowledge, observing the sky has always inspired mankind?s curiosity. In keeping with this age-old tradition, Van Cleef & Arpels has allowed its imagination to wander through the various interpretations of science, art and fantastical fiction. Ten years after the High Jewelry collection Les Voyages Extraordinaires, 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.
“The Maison has always been interested in the instant where observing nature encounters poetry and the imagination,” explains Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “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 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 has turned its gaze to unfathomable horizons, conducive to wonder. Legends, tales, detailed descriptions, but also engravings, paintings and photographs have provided the designers with a precious repertoire: both via their evocative power, and their ability to transport us towards a dazzling Elsewhere.
Depicting the sky and stars has run through the history of Van Cleef & Arpels, like a constant fascination. In 1907, the sale of a star-shaped brooch in pearls and diamonds was mentioned in one of the Maison's first accounting ledgers. Depending on the pieces – from jewelry to precious objects – a wealth of materials was deployed to express the beauty of the heavens: in 1924, a cigarette case in black enamel recreated the contrasts of the starry sky. Redolent of dreams and escapism, this type of scene is a recurrent motif in the universe of Van Cleef & Arpels. Examples include an advertisement from 1944 depicting the Place Vendôme by night with light shining in the Maison's 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 on the 2000s, Van Cleef & Arpels has explored 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: jewelry of the period reproduced its irregular surface and craters in textured gold.
Beyond these figurative interpretations, observing the cosmos has also inspired the Maison to create stylized forms of great modernity. Lines erupted from the Pylônes jewels in the late 1930s, or converged and whirled in the Météore collection, which combined strands of yellow gold and diamond centers in the 1950s. These dynamic motifs – with their strong impression of movement – are today revisited on the High Jewelry collection Sous les étoiles, heavenly dreams, in celebration of the theme's eternal evocative power.
To create this High Jewelry collection, designers, jewelers and expert gemologists have immersed themselves in a multitude of representations of the cosmos, from works of popular science – like Camille Flammarion’s L’Astronomie populaire, published in 1880 – to the magnificent cosmic landscapes revealed by recent astronomical images. Initially outlined in gouache on paper, the collection’s creations have come to life in a rich palette of colors, offered by the treasures of nature.
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.
The stone selection – carried out in keeping with the Maison’s stringent criteria – contributes to the creations’ graphic style. Emerald, sapphire and diamond baguettes unfurl around the neck to form the Nuée d’émeraudes necklace, while the curve of a sapphire cabochon – weighing over 69 carats – is revealed at the center of a multicolored spiral on the Sentier d’étoiles bracelet. The brilliance and vivacity of the compositions draw the eye deep into both an ever-changing interplay of gems, and the infinite spectacle of the heavens.