For decades Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn inspiration from dance. The maison’s collection of high jewellery pieces with feminine figures reflects the poetic flair of ballet. The use of various techniques such as gold lattice and pierced gold express dancers’ movements; the tutus are set with diamonds or coloured stones that replicate the textures of stage costumes. Complemented by a gold or diamond face adorned by a precious head ornament, dancers are depicted with point ballet shoes that capture their perfect agility.
The history of the maison’s liaison with the world of dance goes back to Paris in the 1920s. Louis Arpels, a passionate lover of the ballet, derived great pleasure taking his nephew to the Opera Garnier, a short stroll away from the boutique in Place Vendôme. Van Cleef & Arpel’s first ballerina clips were presented in the early 1940s and soon became one of its signature pieces. Dancers, swathed in a myriad of coloured gems, evoked famous ballets including Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, the Firebird and Les Sylphides.
In the 1950s, this attachment to the world of dance strengthened when Claude Arpels, Louis Arpel’s nephew, met famed choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet. An artistic bond blossomed from their shared passion for precious stones that culminated in the production of Balanchine’s ballet, Jewels, first performed in New York in April 1967. Each act in this triptych is associated with a gem and a composer: Gabriel Fauré for Emeralds, Igor Stravinsky for Rubies, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.
The Ballet Precieux High Jewellery Collection, introduced in 2006, once again reflects Van Cleef & Arpels’ affinity for the dance through more stylised pieces. Various chapters of this collection have been unveiled progressively over the years. Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels explained, “These collaborations, these encounters between different disciplines, are always a key source of inspiration for us. They nurture our creativity and build bridges among diverse art forms.”
In 2012, the maison strengthened its commitment to the arts, specifically through dance, when it began a new collaboration with Benjamin Millepied’s company the Los Angeles Dance Project. Followed by the introduction of the Romeo & Juliet collection in 2019, which was highlighted by the choreography of Benjamin Millepied, the bond continues to grow.
The maison’s ballerina clips remain a vibrant tribute to the art of dance. One cannot help but be dazzled by the exceptional craftsmanship and expertise displayed in each piece. As Van Cleef & Arpels celebrates this discipline, so too does it perpetuate the heritage of its first dancer jewels.