The distinguished French couture jewellery maison has gallery-goers oohing and aahing at its transformable pieces in The Art & Science of Gems exhibition.
The great jewel collections of the world – the Treasury in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace, the riches of the Russian tsars in the Kremlin Armoury and the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London – have a glittering new competitor in Singapore’s ArtScience Museum.
Until August 14, 2016, the lotus-shaped cultural centre at Marina Bay Sands is showcasing an exclusive selection of 450 pieces created for royalty, Hollywood stars and the super-rich by couture jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels.
Interspersed among the gorgeous baubles are 250 stunning gems and minerals from the collection of the French National Museum of Natural History, including lavish columns of Colombian emerald and a giant sphere of polished ruby.
The Art & Science of Gems is an inspired exhibition that enables gallery-goers to see where precious stones come from and to understand how they are transformed into priceless human adornments.
“Some pieces in the exhibition are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Van Cleef & Arpels CEO and president Nicolas Bos, “while others are worth between $10 and $15 million.” For example, the star of the exhibition, the “Flying Bird” masterpiece with its 96.62-carat yellow diamond, was bought at auction in 2013 for $US12 million, Bos confirms.
Designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have created enchanting and intimate exhibition spaces where the man-made and natural treasures often appear to float in midair thanks to the clever interplay of light and shadow. This effect has the added advantage that pieces can be admired from every angle.
Throughout its 110-year history, the Paris-based jewellery maison has followed fashions – as seen in its Art Deco and Oriental creations and in rare Egyptian-style pieces inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb – as well as instigated them.
The show’s highlights are the original, often transformable styles that Van Cleef & Arpels developed and patented, frequently at the behest of famous clients such as Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. She sowed the initial ideas for both the Cadenas watch, a discreet lady’s timepiece in gold or platinum and diamonds, and the Zip necklace that became a signature of the maison. Created in 1950 after 13 years of development, the necklace appropriates one of the 20th century’s smartest fashion innovations, the zip, and incorporates it into a necklace that can be transformed into a bracelet according to the wearer’s whim.
Van Cleef & Arpels has been an official supplier to the Principality of Monaco since 1956 and a favourite of Indian maharajas and maharanis and Middle Eastern princesses. From the jewellery maison’s bespoke designs for royalty to its more affordable boutique ranges, what stands out is the craftsmanship and delicacy of the pieces. On display are brooches inspired by orchids, plane trees, dragonflies, hummingbirds, bees, foxes, giraffes and elephants – all wrought in gold and precious stones.
The museum’s executive director, Honor Harger, describes the groundbreaking show as the dramatic science of mineralogy intersecting with “the elegance and style that so characterises Van Cleef & Arpels’ world”. In other words, the most exquisite exhibition in Asia right now.
Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore; +65 6688 8888; marinabaysands.com/artsciencemuseum
Brought to you by Van Cleef & Arpels