Ten Questions for Marie Vallanet-Delhom, Director, L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

Published on 13th, February 2014

1.     You created the L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, which offers an opportunity for the public to share the expertise of craftsmanship behind your jewellery excellence. This is a first in the domain of “haute joaillerie”. What led Van Cleef & Arpels to create this Jewellery Institute?

We created this institute for Van Cleef & Arpels is an ardent defender of artistic craftsmanship and for us, passing on sharing and transferring knowledge is a duty. This philosophy is the reason that our “maison” decided to create a jewellery school that is open to all lovers of beauty.

2.     It is often said that luxury and creativity are about sharing, although this spirit of sharing is no longer common in today’s luxury domain. Would you say that this is the objective of the Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels or are there other purposes for your establishment? 

The main objective is clearly to pass on knowledge and share a taste for the world of jewellery. The school is generous and offers benefits beyond Van Cleef & Arpels. We believe that the opportunity to create and feed people’s interest in this very secretive world will benefit the profession as a whole. We believe that Van Cleef & Arpels can legitimately speak for the world of jewellery as we embody an undisputed expertise and a continuous quest for excellence which has been cultivated for over 100 years.

3.     Is access to the Ecole for everyone or is it reserved only for Van Cleef & Arpels clients? How can people enrol in the school?

 L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels is open to all.  Anyone fascinated with beauty can be part of the school. The school is intended for an international clientele and offers novel courses for the passionate, the curious and anyone who wishes to become an enlightened amateur of jewellery. The school’s ambition is to widen participants’ general knowledge in fine jewellery. L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels has been created for those who love jewellery and wish to broaden their knowledge in this art. People can register directly through our website or by contacting us.

4.     Can you tell us a bit about the contents and structure of the jewellery courses that you offer and how they have been chosen?

 The courses are organised in three progressive steps known as “Unveiling”, “Shedding Light On” and “Revealing”. People can enrol in one or several of the steps according to their level of knowledge, their personal tastes and their interests.  The order is not chronological for the first two levels. However the last step requires a broader understanding of the world of jewellery, and some knowledge in Art History, gemstones and arts and crafts. Participants are therefore asked to go through one or both of the first two steps before enrolling in the third step.

5.     The creation and appreciation of fine jewellery is very intricate and complex. What teaching approach do you use to ensure that the students understand the level of craftsmanship involved in creating fine jewellery? 

This is a progressive process of initiation. We created the course modules with the help of jewellery experts and specialists of pedagogy. The classes don’t follow a traditional format where a speaker is listened to religiously without the students daring to interrupt. The courses follow a rhythmic interchange of educational activities of a different nature. It is mixed with emotionally charged moments of discovery through films, exercises focused on sharing feelings about jewellery and precious stones, as well as the reproduction of art works. Other activities are experimental in nature and may feature learning to accessorise an outfit or paint a “gouache” or look at a precious stone through a magnifying glass. The courses also feature presentations by experts and meetings and discussions with craftsmen.

This rich mix allows a different way of learning that combines one’s powers of emotions, senses, logic and imaginations with different activities. Each module has been structured from an original angle. For example, the “reading” of precious stones is not scientific neither is it a lesson of physics or geology. It is rather a discussion of how emotion is generated from merely looking at a precious stone beyond the 4C’s of Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat. In the course called “Jewellery Mix and Match”, the entire world is taken into account, not just the West. The students will explore the ways that jewels came to become codes in different cultures and how these codes have progressively evolved.

6.     Each course is limited to twelve participants. Why this restricted number?

It is true that each group comprises a maximum of twelve people. The classes are tailor-made and enable each participant to listen and watch in the learning salons and to exchange views and delve further into the subject in the boudoir-library; as well as touch and try to emulate the jewellery master’s gestures in the experiment salon. You can only achieve these in-depth with a small group.

7.     Establishing an institute such as this involves some kind of risk, especially for a house like Van Cleef & Arpels which has a long history and a strong heritage. You surely have “secret recipes” that you guard preciously especially against competitors. How do you deal with this paradox of keeping some of your methods secret while sharing others through the school?

The school delves into the very secret world of jewellery but the courses are not only about Van Cleef & Arpels. Our ambition is to foster an understanding of the soul of the jeweller’s universe and enhance the emotional feeling obtained through the experience of the jewellery craft. The participants also have the opportunity to discover the history and the universe of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations, their craftsmanship and sources of inspirations as well as visit our workshop and discuss with the craftsmen. However, we will not unveil or give away our recipes. We still have our secret garden and we must preserve it.

8.     L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels is located at the Place Vendôme in Paris. Why did you choose Paris and this location in particular, as opposed to other world capitals like New York, London and Hong Kong?

L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels is located Place Vendôme in Paris where the very essence of jewellery lies. The participants are given a unique opportunity to meet experts, experience materials and be in the heart of the “savoir faire” of jewellery. This is the place where the French know-how began when the master jewellers opened their first flagship stores there more than one century ago.

9.     L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels will undoubtedly contribute to reinforcing the importance of “savoir-faire” and craftsmanship in creating and appreciating delicate pieces of art like your collections. Will the school eventually contribute to the creation of future collections, perhaps from the students?

The main objective of the school is to pass on knowledge and share a taste for the world of jewellery.  The creation of future collections will remain the field of our internal designers exclusively.

10.  How would you define luxury?

 Luxury is what makes your life beautiful.

Fullscreen Images Comments Archives