It's not often that we feel excited at the prospect of going back to school but when the teacher is Van Cleef & Arpels and the curriculum promises 'an education in taste and visual appreciation', our pencils are sharpened and at the ready. Add to that the fact that classes take place in an 18th-century townhouse on the place Vendôme, Paris, and, naturally, we want to be first in line and top of the class.
Today, Van Cleef & Arpels' school of jewellery - L'École Van Cleef & Arpels - opens its gilded doors for the very first time. Aimed at makers, connoisseurs and those just simply keen to get an 'intellectual and emotional grasp of the soul of jewellery through personal experience', the school will uncover the notoriously secretive world of fine-jewellery via a non-technical curriculum of classes, which will be taught in English as well as French.
That one of the oldest and most revered fine-jewellery maisons in the world is preparing to share a century's worth of knowledge, skill, craft and creative thinking is not only a truly generous endeavor but also something of a shock: fine-jewellery houses are fiercely protective of their patented techniques and distinctive design ticks, not least because they are a long time in the making and are the fundamental characteristics that distinguish one house's style from another's.
But Van Cleef & Arpels takes its role as an 'ardent defender of the artistic crafts' most seriously indeed. Hence it feels a genuine duty to share its knowledge to others with a 'shared love of beauty'.
Highlights of the course include a rare insight into Van Cleef & Arpels' brilliantly conceived micro mechanisms, such as 'mystery' setting, where gems appear invisibly set so that the metal clasps to which they are attached do not show. Also under the microscope will be the iconic 'Zip' necklace, directly inspired by the early 20th century invention of a 'continuous clothing clasp' that we have all since taken for granted but that Van Cleef revisited as a magnificent jewelled modular necklace in the 1950s (it can be worn open as a necklace or zipped closed and removed to function as a bracelet).
There are three modules and seven classes to choose from and there's also the added extra of learning the essence of savoir-fare from the masters.
A quick guide to the L'École Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery course
Each course chapter represents a single class and prices start at 600 euros. The first two levels are flexible and participants can sign up for one or more classes. In order to proceed to Level 3, students must have taken two classes out of each of the previous categories. It's a three-step curriculum:
Step 1: Unveiling
Chapter 1: Stories and Inspirations
Chapter 2: Interpreting the Gemstones
Chapter 3: Jewellery Mix and Match
Step 2: Shedding light on
Chapter 1: Symbol and Power of Jewels
Chapter 2: Admiring Uniqueness and Team Craftsmanship
Step 3: Revealing
Chapter 1: Entering the Van Cleef &
Chapter 2: Accessing Van Cleef &