Must See:“Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels” at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Brad Boles and I popped by the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition preview and I cannot encourage you enough to pay a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum if you are in NYC!
The timeless design and breathtaking quality of the jewels presented is one of the most magical events that you don’t want to miss. Here’s what Brad says… — S.H.
For more then century, the remarkable history of Van Cleef & Arpels has been intertwined with the lives of many of the greatest personalities of our time.
Each has enhanced the other and set the stage for the display of some of the grandest jewelry of out time.
Going back to Van Cleef & Arpels’ opening on the Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906 to the establishment of Van Cleef & Arpels in New York in 1939, the best-known and most beautiful women of the twentieth century have passed through the jeweler’s fabulous doors.
The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has amassed over 350 works from Van Cleef & Arpels, including jewels, timepieces and so much more. Many works were commissioned for American clientele as well as Royalty and Hollywood Royalty alike- such as H.S.M. Princess Grace of Monaco‘s Tiara, the Alhambra necklace, with it quatrefoil motif recalling Moorish architecture that is most identified with Grace Kelly; or the Manchette emerald bracelets, owned by Daisy Fellowes, the granddaughter of Isaac Singer of sewing-machine fame.
The vast coffers also include amazing emeralds owned by Indian royalty, a sapphire and diamond Art Deco bracelet for an American newly ensconced as duchess, a pearl and diamond suite intended for a royal bride of international acclaim and American birth. One of my personal favorites is the Zip Necklace conceived by Wallace Simpson that took two decades to perfect.
After staring in Cleopatra in 1963 and marrying Richard Burton,Elizabeth Taylor began collecting what is now one of the largest private jewelry collections in the world and some of her collection’s most extraordinary pieces are on display.
You will be also dazzled by the bracelet and necklace owned by Eva Peron who had also amassed an impressive collection until her untimely death in 1952.
The showstopper is the Jarretiere bracelet owned by Marlene Dietrich, once worn in the movie “Stage Fright” and never worn by her again. I ran into the ever-dashing Neil Lane at the preview who recounted the story of how the bracelet made it to auction. Dietrich had hidden the bracelet behind a cupboard in her Paris apartment, which according to her grandson, was the only piece of jewelry that she kept. After her death, her family discovered the hidden piece when they were dismantling her apartment. Dietrich’s reason for hiding this particular piece was simple: it was her favorite!
Barbara Hutton acquired an extraordinary collection of fine jewelry but ended up poor and having to sell it all. Her magnificent Dragonfly Fairy Brooch is on display. Maria Callas‘ Flower Brooch was made famous during a limited run of performances at La Scala in 1968. Although dating Aristotle Onassis while he was romancing Jacqueline Kennedy into marriage, Callas often purchased her own jewels.
These personalities have wielded an important influence on design through their visibility. While a piece from Van Cleef & Arpels may feed their prestige, these celebrated woman and their choices of adornment are a significant part of iconic jewelry design history.
The Jouin-Manku Design for the exhibition is as impressive as the jewels themselves. The original function of Andrew Carnegie’s stylized mansion is an appropriate compliment to the the installation’s design that features misshapen glass orbs to house the jewels. Genius, you need to see it for yourself! — Brad Boles
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels
February 18- June 5, 2011
The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue
New York, NY
Or, visit Online
Exhibition Description: Since its opening on the Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has played a leading role in style and design innovation. Its timeless pieces have been worn by style icons including the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.
This exhibition will explore the historical significance of the firm’s contributions to jewelry design in the 20th century, including the establishment of Van Cleef & Arpels in New York with the advent of World War II. On view will be more than 350 works including jewels, timepieces, fashion accessories and objets d’art by Van Cleef & Arpels, many of which were created exclusively for the American market. The exhibition will examine the work through the lenses of innovation, transformation, nature as inspiration, exoticism, fashion and personalities, and will include design drawings from the Van Cleef & Arpels archives.