L' Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

L' Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

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I find the world of fine jewelry intimidating - the high prices, posh stores and unattainable luxury don’t make it very approachable. But mostly, it’s because I don’t know much about fine jewelry.

Last week while in New York, I attended a fascinating lecture at L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, on the history of jewelry since Louis XIV. It was refreshing to re-discover the history of my country from a different angle, from Baroque to Contemporary via Neo-Classicism, Belle Epoque and Art Deco.

The class was taught by two engaging french men and peppered with interactive activities and open conversation. Nine of us spent a morning learning how fine jewelry is intimately linked to the political and cultural history of countries. Think pharaos, kings and emperors using jewelry to communicate with deities, buy loyalty or stamp their power on the less fortunate. Revolutions, intrigues, political coups, societal hierarchies have been financed by or based on the trade of jewelry.

Through L’Ecole, Van Cleef & Arpels aims to demystify fine jewelry by offering a large variety of classes opened to all. Classes in jewelry history, gemology, jewelry drawings or styling, are all taught by experts passionate about their field. The gemology class is an opportunity to handle real stones and learn to distinguish them, the gouache class gives you a sense of the extraordinary artistry required to imagine and render a piece on paper with a 3D effect, you can even try out jewelry techniques or japanese lacquer.

Although based in Paris, the school travels to various locations during the year and that’s how I found myself attending their class in NYC. Next stop (theirs not mine, alas) is Tokyo. Just as its Paris headquarters, the school in NYC was housed in a quietly majestic building that managed to remain welcoming.

I loved the experience - so guess what? there is a jewelry class on the itinerary of our next trip to Paris in June 2019. But of course, it will be a bespoke class, made just for us.

Look for yourself here.

Courtesy Getty Images

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