Van Cleef & Arpels’ history has long been intertwined with the world of dance, beginning with co-founder Louis Arpels’ regular visits to the Opéra Garnier in the 1920s, which was a short stroll from the Place Vendôme boutique. The clips, first created in the 1940s, draw ballerinas in tutus set with diamonds or precious stones, wearing elaborate head ornaments or clutching vivid props. In costumes from all over the world, from the South Pacific islands to the Far East, they are caught mid-twirl or pirouette, spinning over lapels and dresses in an explosion of colour.

Ballerina in gold with colourful stones on her skirt
Ballerina in gold with colourful stones on her skirt and pearls up her body

The Ballet Précieux high jewellery collection, first introduced in 2006, nods to this history, succinctly capturing the fluidity of the ballerinas’ movement and rich textures of their costumes. ‘From the beginning of the house there was an idea that dance is a universal language; a universal artistic category that you could translate into jewels,’ says president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, Nicolas Bos. In order to conjure up the spirit of dance, designs had to be flexible. ‘When you look at a ballerina you think of movement or lightness before you see it is made of gold and precious stones,’ he adds.

To imbue the designs with realism, the body of the ballerina is drawn first without the costumes, ensuring both the correct proportions and an accurate expression of movement rather than an evocation. ‘Another element we think very important – as it’s the character of a ballerina and not a doll or precise representation of one person – is that they don’t have a precise face,’ Bos adds. ‘The face can be a rose-cut diamond, cut from rough diamonds to specific dimensions, so you are looking at the shape of the body and the movement, not a portrait.’

The collection heralds the launch of Dance Reflections, Van Cleef & Arpels’ festival to be hosted in London in March 2022. ‘There will be 16 choreographies and 18 works in almost three weeks, with the venues at Sadlers Wells, the Royal Opera House and Tate Modern,’ Serge Laurent, head of dance and culture programmes at Van Cleef & Arpels, tells us. The programme will focus on contemporary dance from the 1970s to the present time, featuring both established choreographers and emerging talents. To make the festival as accessible as possible, it will be richly supported digitally. ‘From the pandemic we learnt that online programmes can be useful and efficient; for purposes of education also the digital medium can really help,’ he adds. §

Ballerina in gold with a gold mesh skirt
Ballerina in gold with colourful stones on her skirt
Ballerina in white gold with diamonds on her skirt