Fantastic fusion: Van Cleef & Arpels’ homage to the beauty of art and science

The Art & Science of Gems
French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels has created a sister publication to its 'The Art & Science of Gems' exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore
(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)

Adding to Van Cleef & Arpels’ increasingly impressive bibliotheque comes a companion publication to this year’s 'The Art & Science of Gems' exhibition at the Moshe Safdie-designed ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

Page upon sumptuous page of historical jewels display the height of the French house's rich, curious and gorgeously offbeat approach to precious metals and stones. Among the most wondrous are the objet designs of the early 20th century – a carved jade pillbox, gold champagne swizzle, and a quartz and onyx nightlight among them. They are interspersed among more recognisable Van Cleef jewellery designs, such as diamond ribbon collars, clips and cuffs, and figurative pieces.

Gold, pearls, jade, coral, emeralds, rock crystal and diamonds are just some of the rare minerals and gemstones linking natural scientific processes to over a century of exceptional creative interpretation.

Overall, The Art & Science of Gems, with the French National Museum of History as a partner, does much to illuminate the deep cultural seam that renders high jewellery design such an extraordinary art form. At the same time, it once again highlights Van Cleef & Arpels as the most cerebral of the Place Vendôme jewellers.

Van cleef & Arples jewellery

Global cultural influences informed early Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery designs, including this 1930s landscape powder box in gold and enamel (pictured left); and an Egyptian-inspired bracelet and brooch, in platinum, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and onyx from 1924 (right)

(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)

Gold work became a focus for the more casual jewellery

Gold work became a focus for the more casual jewellery of the 1960s and 70s, as seen in this 1967 Mexican mask clip in gold, quartz and emeralds (pictured left), and a pre-Columbian inspired pendant brooch and earrings in gold, from 1971 (right)

(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)

Gold necklace

Abstraction in Van Cleef & Arpels design is displayed in a selection of drawings. Pictured: an abstract design vanity case created in 1928; abstract gold necklace of the 1970s; and the iconic 'Pylônes' necklace from 1939

(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)

contemporary desire

Opulent objets of the 1930s point to the contemporary desire for pleasure in everyday activities. Pictured left: nightlight in gold, lacquer, quartz, onyx and rubies. Right: set for a smoker in gold, quartz, lapis lazuli and sapphires

(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)

emerald and diamond

Pictured left: a rock of cut and polished Russian malachite from the former collection of the King’s Cabinet of Natural History. Right: early 1970s Van Cleef & Arpels chain and 'Pisces' pendant in gold, malachite, emerald and diamond

(Image credit: Photography: Michael Ainscough)


The Art & Science of Gems, $75, published by Editions Xavier Barral. For more information, visit the Van Cleef & Arpels website

Caragh McKay has been a contributing editor at Wallpaper* since 2014. She was previously watches & jewellery director and is currently our resident lifestyle & shopping editor. Caragh has produced exhibitions and created and edited titles for publishers including the Daily Telegraph. She regularly chairs talks for luxury houses, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier among them. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese film revived a forgotten Osage art.