Culture / Celebrities

Art, Science, Gems and Lunch with Van Cleef & Arpels

It is a day well spent for us as we examine more than 400 creations from the jeweler and enjoy lunch with Cate Blanchett.

Apr 26, 2016 | By Staff Writer

Having just had lunch with Cate Blanchett and looked at more jewelry and raw gemstones than most humans ever have, I can say without reservation that Friday last was indeed well spent. For a watch and jewelry specialist like me, having a go at more than 400 pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels and looking at the raw materials, courtesy of the French National Museum of Natural History, is a real treat. In case you are a regular curious George about such matters, you can give yourself this very same treat (minus Ms. Blanchet) by heading over to The Art and Science of Gems exhibition at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

First of all, let us address the Cate Blanchett matter. Ms. Blanchett was a guest of Van Cleef & Arpels at the launch and she stayed on for lunch, where she entertained the press by posing for pictures with them. Pro tip: Ms. Blanchett prefers to have her picture taken as opposed to grabbing a selfie. Her dedication cannot be overstated: she arrived that day and left that night. Considering that the entire event, including lunch took upwards of five hours, I was impressed; if this wasn’t about jewelry, even I would have gotten fidgety.

Malachite from Tourtscheninowski, Ural mountains, Russia. MNHN Collection Paris

On that note, what is really impressive about The Art and Science of Gems exhibition are the natural pieces on display. Unless you have spent time in a mine somewhere, it is simply not possible to see the raw forms of the gemstones that a jeweler like Van Cleef & Arpels selects and carves into astounding forms. Take malachite for example, which is an important part of Van Cleef & Arpel’s offerings. This image of the exhibit (above) just goes to show that the raw form is every bit as impressive as the finished product. The image of opals below will also do the trick.

White noble opal massive and two cabochons. Queensland, Australia. MNHN Collection, Paris

On other hand, there are also exhibits of ancient rock (4 billion years old!) and a giant quartz crystal to illustrate the depth (literally) of the mineral wealth of our planet. Of particular importance is an exhibit of a meteorite studded with peridots. Yes, some of our mineral wealth comes from outer space, including – as it happens – all the gold that we use. The gold that formed with our planet sank to the core, being so dense. That bit of trivia will make you a hit at all the jewelry-themed galas you might attend.

Now some will find all this a chore but it is one thing to read a screed like this one and quite another to immerse yourself in the beautiful environs of the exhibition. It will allow you to feel the value of the gemstones and materials on display, and even the ones that might be decorating your person right now. On that note, here is an image of Ms. Blanchett posing among the exhibits to inspire you.

Cate viewing 'The Art & Science of Gems' exhibition at the ArtScience Museum © Allen Tan

As for the jewelry itself, be warned that you may be stunned into disbelief. Take the image most associated with this exhibition, the Bird and Pendant clip once owned by Polish opera singer Ganna Walska. The briolette-cut yellow diamond – a mind-numbing 96.62 carats – is the star attraction of course but the piece in itself, transformable into a pendant and earrings, just takes your breath away.

Believe it or not, that is not most amazing crafted object on display. We recommend taking some time to discover the minaudieres and the mystery setting pioneered by Van Cleef & Arpels. Of course, it goes without saying that you should look out for the zip creations, which the maison developed for the Duchess of Windsor, the infamous Wallis Simpson. The zip necklace is today inextricably linked to the heritage of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Something we do not have an image of but you need to see to believe, is a shaped ruby sphere that is roughly 10,000 carats. Yes, that is not a typo, we did not add a zero. It is about the size of a croquet ball or about half the size of a bowling ball. Find out more about the exhibition here.


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