Established in 2012 with the support of Van Cleef & Arpels, L’École, School of Jewelry Arts celebrates its 10th anniversary, marking a key milestone in a decade-long educational venture to shed light on the perceived secret worlds of high jewellery and watchmaking. The school’s mission is to share jewellery culture with the widest possible audience.
Since Van Cleef & Arpels launched L’École in Paris, offering an à la carte programme of courses, as well as conferences, exhibitions and publications, it has transported the Place Vendôme classroom experience to permanent sites in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and to pop-up sites in Tokyo, Dubai, New York and Lyon. It has opened the world of gemstones and watchmaking to over 50,000 students of over 50 nationalities.
The curriculum, offered in both English and French, has been organised around three main themes, namely:
“Savoir Faire”, allowing students to don a jeweller’s coat and gain hands-on experience trying out various jewellery-making techniques; “Art History of Jewellery”, which investigates the practical and aesthetic evolution of jewellery covering all eras and cultures; “Universe of Gemstones”, which presents how gems are created and valued as well as the history of gems.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend L’École. I chose one of the Art History classes: “The Engagement Ring: A Love Story.” Ascending the beautiful marble staircase at L’École, located just around the corner from the Van Cleef & Arpels flagship boutique on the prestigious Place Vendôme, I was a bit anxious, since I know very little about diamond rings except that they usually lead to an engagement. I need not have worried because the classes are designed for all, especially non-professionals who want to gain knowledge about the world of gems and jewellery. Upon entry, I received a warm greeting and was led to a lovely salon where I was offered an array of pâtisseries along with fruit, juice and coffee.
The class consisted of an intimate group of 12 students (the maximum allowed). We were paired with our professors, a Van Cleef & Arpels gemologist and an art historian. Given notepads and pencils, we studied imagery showing the history and evolution of the engagement ring to its current incarnation today. Each jewel and period we studied represented a real slice of history; the stories and geography sent us on a fascinating voyage through centuries and civilisations. We discovered the secrets of the engagement ring, how it evolved through the ages, and its uses and symbolism. We even had the privilege of observing the private collection of L’École, a teaching collection of jaw dropping jewels.
The spirit of L’École, School of Jewelry Arts is to share the secrets of the world of high jewellery with everyone. No prerequisites are required except an interest in jewellery and a desire to learn. I emerged from my class enchanted, feeling like the door to the inner sanctum of high jewellery had been opened for me. I will never again view an engagement ring the same way!
L’École, School of Jewelry Arts
31 rue Danielle Casanova
Sessions from € 100 (two hours). For the full list of courses, visit the official website.
Tel: + 33 1 70 70 38 40
Lead photo credit : From the wax project to the setting techniques. Photo credit: L’École Van Cleef & Arpels