“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

The Art of Transformation

Following in the footsteps of Madrid, Basel, London, Maastricht or Miami, there is increasing interest in art fairs, exhibitions and galleries in Dubai.  Dubai was home to several art-related and creative events this March: the ten-day SIKKA, the Design Days Dubai showcasing design objects and furniture and the Art Dubai which was organized for the seventh time all drew in great crowds.

The Design Days Dubai showcased the design objects, furniture and jewellery of 29 galleries, and also offered workshops for those with a more in-depth interest. The on-site Design Days Dubai Lab covered the concept of sustainable design with two live performances featuring recycled materials.

One of the key sponsors of the event was Van Cleef & Arpels, who in cooperation with Tashkeel (an independent resource for artists and designers living and working in the United Arab Emirates) announced a unique design contest in the region focusing on the theme of “Metamorphosis”. The entries were exhibited at the Tashkeel gallery, and the winner Salem Al-Mansoori’s work was showcased at the Van Cleef & Arpels booth at the Design Days Dubai.

Even in the early part of the 1900s, the Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery house created quite a stir with the concept of convertible jewellery. Several multi-functional pieces were created from the Secret Timepiece to the Passe-Partout necklace and the Zip collection. This year within the Design Days Dubai they presented creative and transformable pieces featuring exceptional design and technical prowess not only from the antique collections but from the latest pieces too.

The Maison created the emerald and diamond Manchette bracelets for Daisy Fellowes (granddaughter of the Singer sewing machine’s inventor) in the 1920s. By connecting these bracelets they could be turned into a choker necklace. The Secret Timepiece jewellery collection was issued in 1930, in which the petite women’s watches were hidden inside beautiful bracelets. In this era women were not to be seen wearing watches so the discreetly hidden timepieces captured the hearts of many ladies. The Cadenas watch can be found in the brand’s product range to this day and it continues to be very popular.

The base of the Passe-Partout necklace is a flexible gold snake chain with two flower clips that can be worn at various lengths around the neck (as a necklace, a choker, or an opera-length necklace), as a bracelet or belt, and the flowers even function separately as earrings.

One of Van Cleef & Arpel’s most unique innovations is the Zip necklace. The first designs were created by Renée Puissant (the Maison’s artistic director and daughter of Alfred Van Cleef) upon the request of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. (Wallis Simpson was one of the style icons of her age, and was the reason behind Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne.) The creation of the iconic piece was not only an artistic but a technical feat. A unique alloy and unbelievable precision in the execution was necessary for the Zip necklace to be flexible enough for the proper movement (so that it could really be zipped up and down) and to be hard enough to be sturdy and hold the precious stones set within it.  Zipped up, the Zip necklace can be worn as a bracelet. Several versions have been made since its debut, in 2005 the Couture Zip featured a small bow, in 2006 the Paris Champ de Mars Zip featured small flowers while the Zip was adorned with lapis-lazuli and pearl in 2011.

One of the most stunning pieces of the Palais de la chance collection is the Souffle des Nuages necklace and earring set that is adorned with unique Afghan emeralds. The set depicts clouds, in which the air-dragon resides (this is the symbol of good fortune in China). The central clips can be detached from the multi-way necklace.

The Hirondelles necklace which features grey Tahitian pearls, diamonds and a magnificent pink tourmaline is also a spectacular piece from the Palais de la chance collection and it depicts swallows, the heralds of spring. According to superstition, whoever’s weathering swallows build their nest under will be fortunate.

The “Lion Barquerolles” set has an interesting story. In 1971 Richard Burton presented them to Elizabeth Taylor who was 39 at the time as a gift on the occasion of the birth of her first grandchild. The set consisting of a choker and earrings features lions, and was sold at a Christie’s auction for over USD 900,000.

The purpose of the Design Days Dubai is to offer an exclusive selection of limited edition pieces and unique creations in the region. Thanks to its creativity, playfulness and stunning expertise the Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery house is an outstanding partner of the event and hopefully offers a unique source of inspiration to the designers of the future.


Photo credits: Loupiosity.com.
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