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The dancing jewel

We talk to Alessandro Maffi, managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East and India, about the maison’s love affair with the tradition of opera and dance 

A name synonymous with luxury, Van Cleef & Arpels has created a legacy encompassing exceptional craftsmanship. Championing designs that are bold, daring and extravagant, it’s little wonder that the French maison has long been considered the jeweller of choice to society’s elite.

Each Van Cleef & Arpels creation, from the delicate Frivole collection to the decadent Le Secret, draws from various elements found in nature and art. The performing arts, in particular, have always held a special place at the house. Several collections have been introduced over the decades celebrating the maison’s love for the opera.

Paying homage to the house’s enduring relationship with the world of performing arts, two milestone moments were celebrated this year. Firstly, the launch of the Romeo & Juliet collection brought William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the star-crossed lovers to life in new, awe-inspiring ways. Unveiled during Paris Couture Week, it features a line-up of elaborate clips, earrings, necklaces and bracelets that nods to the grief-stricken world of the Montagues and Capulets.

Distinctly Van Cleef in its settings, each piece boasts elaborate constructions and an abundance of gemstones, presented in a variety of styles to create striking patterns. The ornate work evokes references to the city of Verona with its famous balconies and overflowing fountains. But the most figurative pieces are the Romeo & Juliet duo clips, which, thanks to remarkable three-dimensional craftsmanship, come alive in a scene from the play with Romeo presenting a bouquet of flowers to Juliet. 

In August this year, the brand welcomed a new chapter in its three-year relationship with Dubai Opera with a new boutique at the emirate’s hub for all things theatre – Les Salons Van Cleef & Arpels Dubai Opera. Passionate about the origins of the maison’s fondness for the world of performing arts, Alessandro Maffi, managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East and India, says: “Van Cleef & Arpels began its intimate relationship with ballet and dance over 70 years ago. Louis Arpels, one of the founding Arpels brothers and a passionate lover of ballet and opera, pioneered the idea of precious ballerina brooches.

“It is said that, after work, Louis Arpels used to leave the Place Vendôme boutique to go to the Opera Garnier as he was quite fond of ballet and opera. Driven by his passion, he prompted the creation of the first ballerina clips in the 1940s in New York. “He also passed on this fondness for dance and opera to his nephew, Claude, who invited American ballet choreographer George Balanchine to visit Van Cleef & Arpels’ 5th Avenue boutique in the early 1960s. This encounter reinforced our links with the dance universe and was the beginning of several fruitful artistic collaborations in the years that followed.”

The new Les Salons Van Cleef & Arpels Dubai Opera boutique is not only a place to browse contemporary creations. It also houses the Patrimony Gallery – a first for the brand in the region – that showcases iconic pieces from early archives as well as statement jewellery designed by the house and worn by royalty and Hollywood icons. The gallery is located in the heart of the boutique, symbolic of the centre stage in an opera house. A lavish library completes the boutique, where visitors are invited to discover the rich history of the brand through special exhibits.

Spread across an expansive space spanning 222 square metres, Les Salons Van Cleef & Arpels Dubai Opera embodies the very essence of the brand. Drawing from the maison’s creations, the boutique is designed to evoke elegance. The two-storey building’s façade is inspired by a drawing from the earliest Van Cleef & Arpels’ archives. Designed in 1929, it represents a box of jewels.

During that decade, the Art Deco concept heavily influenced the maison’s creations and this shines through in the new structure. A metallic mashrabiya graces the façade, resulting in a flawless interplay of light and shadow. Inside, the staircase is adorned with customised embellishments, adding a final touch of opulence to the space. “Everyone visiting the Les Salons Van Cleef & Arpels Dubai Opera boutique will have an unforgettable experience. It was our intent to bring an immersive and inclusive experience to our discerning customers from the moment they step in. “Apart from our premium selection of high jewellery, special editions and pieces will be showcased at the boutique. Regular exhibitions focusing on the patrimony will also be held.

“We recently hosted the Delicate Dancers exhibition – a display of our finest ballerina brooches. Given that dance has been one of our favourite themes at the house, it was only fitting to dedicate our inaugural exhibition to our emblematic ballerina clips,” adds Maffi. Among other highlights this year, the maison successfully hosted the second edition of L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels. “Held in Dubai Design District, we offered up to 1,000 members of the public a range of jewellery design courses. We also hosted four new exhibitions over a two-week period delving into the world of precious jewellery. The school also raised over AED300,000 for Dubai Cares in funds garnered through the classes for adults and children.

“As the only educational platform of its kind in the world, the objective was to stimulate and inspire aspiring jewellery designers and artists, enabling them to discover all the secrets of jewellery making, from the first stroke of the pencil to seeing the finished piece in your hands. “After the great success we had in Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York, we wanted to select a city that represents global dialogue and understanding. Dubai is a cultural melting pot, ideal for reaching out to people from a variety of backgrounds and hence it was the perfect location for us. The school helped to push the boundaries of our designs and opened new dimensions of exploration and creativity for our artisans.”

Discover more at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique at The Dubai Mall  04 4252740 and The Galleria on Al Maryah Island  02 6432088.  

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