Saturday, March 19, 2011

View Van Cleef & Arpels

Good news! I’m taking some time off for myself to write, to live, to see things – and that means much more content for Where The Style Things Are.

Yesterday afternoon, in the wonderfully warm weather, I wandered up to the Cooper Hewitt Museum on 91st and 5th Ave to see the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit, showing now through June 5th. My obsession with and knowledge of Van Cleef pretty much stops at the infamous Alhambra pieces, so I was curious to learn more about the storied jewelers.  All I can say is wow. The jewels just kept on coming and coming – I was expecting maybe 50 pieces total, but it got up into the hundreds. Touching on Innovations, Transformations, Nature Inspiration, Exoticism, Fashion, and Personalities, the exhibit was truly one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen.

Below, some of my favorite pieces:




The extremely innovative Zipper necklace, which can actually be zipped up and worn as a bracelet. This came about as a suggestion from the Duchess of Windor, 1938.




One of my favorite French words, this is a minaudière, or tiny clutch-like purse. Originally, there were nécessaires to hold compacts and lipstick, but the evolved to hold cigarettes,card case, and comb. Some even had beautiful clocks built into the outside lacquered bit. I would die to have one of these!





A beautiful example of le mystere setting, where each piece of gem is shaped to be dropped into a frame and the setting is hidden. To find stones of all the same brilliance and then cut them down to fit the settings is a rare, laborious process which makes the end results that much more remarkable.





Le mystere setting, with especially rare emeralds.





Part of the Exoticism capsule, this gorgeous peacock box was made for the Shah of Iran. The room with the Exoticism pieces was my favorite – the lapis lazuli, coral, black onyx, jade, pink tourmaline, and topaz – just stunning.




A trompe l’oeil compact disguised to look like an envelope – perfect for the girl on the go in the 20’s.




Elizabeth Taylor’s mystere setting sapphire earrings from the 80’s.




At the end of the exhibit they saved the best for last – H.S.H Princess Grace of Monaco’s jewels. Her engagement set, complete with earrings, necklace, bracelet, and a ring with the largest pearl I’ve ever seen, was on display, as well as this tiara, which Princess Grace wore to Princess Caroline’s wedding in 1978.

{images via The Cooper Hewitt Museum}

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