L’ECOLE Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art of Jewelry Making


Set in a jewel box like environ at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum I had the pleasure of attending L’ECOLE Van Cleef & Arpels, a glimpse into the spirit of creation that defines the iconic French jewelry house. Here I was immersed in the savior-faire which takes a design from concept to the first steps in creation. Taught by L’ECOLE’s impassioned artisans, each who posses an exquisite skill set that make up the process of turning designs into dreamlike confections. A lover of drawing and painting I was overcome with a new appreciation for the level of precision and detail required to execute the initial design drawing and gouache rendering. Today’s subject and what I consider a long time muse of Van Cleef & Arpels is the ephemeral butterfly, the gouache painted stones representative of the diamonds to be inlaid on the wings. In my course Explore & Create 1: From Design to Mock-Up I move from the drawing table to the jeweler’s bench as my two dimensional design takes the form of a pewter mock-up. I try my hand at cutting, setting and polishing honing in on the gesture of the artisan. What I’m left with is the beauty of an experience that is genuine, and admiration for all that the storied jewelry house stands for and has created.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, L’ECOLE Van Cleef & Arpels, Explore & Create 1: From Design to Mock-Up

Photographs by Jason Gringler