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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

The world of tales, fantasy, imagined creatures and stories plays an important role in the life of every child (and adult). When I was little I found the princess of Donkey Skin an interesting fairy tale heroine like Cinderella…

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess whose life suddenly took a sad turn. Her mother grew ill and on her deathbed made her husband, the king, and promise to remarry. However she stipulated that he could only marry a woman who is more beautiful and good than she is. There was only such person in the whole kingdom: the king’s own daughter. Inconsolable in his grief the king decided to marry his own daughter, who turned to her godmother, the Fairy of Lilacs for advice. They tried everything to delay the inevitable and asked the king to perform seemingly impossible requests, however in the end the princess had no choice but to flee.

The fairy godmother helped the girl to hide away from her impending wedding. The magical donkey skin hid her beauty and elegance, but the neighbouring kingdom’s prince fell in love with the girl and searched the kingdom with a ring fir for the most delicate finger. He visited the house of every eligible girl to find his beautiful chosen one, who could then remove the donkey skin and finally find happiness.

In the 70s Jaques Demy made a movie from the story with a cult French actor Jean Marais and the enchanting Catherine Deneuve playing the lead roles. The Maison supported the digitalization of the film.

Peau d’Âne collection

At the end of June, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the new high-jewellery collection in a fabulous setting, fitting the fairy tale. The French Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, is one of the most recognizable châteaux. It has a very distinctive French Renaissance architecture combined with traditional French medieval lines and classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King François I.

During the Hauture Couture Fashion Week in July, in the framework of a preview we could get a closer glimpse of the fabulous pieces within the walls of the new building of the Van Cleef & Arpels L’Ecole.

Gemstones play a key part in the heritage of Van Cleef & Arpels. Within the walls of L’Ecole, visitors can learn about gemstones from prominent experts, and at the Maison masters with outstanding skills work on finding the exceptional stones, cutting and setting them and on the creative design of the remarkable pieces. VCA is responsible to creating the 4Cs; in addition to classifying stones according to Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat, they also add Character category. The L’École’s “students” learn the basics of the world of gemstones in a dedicated room (Interpreting the gemstones, Gemstone investigation).

Rustic workstations lined the room with the pieces calling the fairytale to life, unexpected even for the author of the story, Charles Perraults too perhaps…

The brand’s fairy clips are familiar for everyone. They have been created since 1940 and became particularly popular after II World War. The delicate ballerina and fairy figures offered people the hope of a better future and filled them with the inspirational power of beauty. The Maison visualized several figures from Donkey Skin on such figurines. The princess’s fairy godmother, the wonderful gifts requested from the king (magnificent clothes in the colours of the sky, the Moon and the Sun) as well as the princess fleeing in the valuable donkey skin have all taken the shape of fairy clips.

The Fairy of Lilacs – the little princess’s wise and kind godmother – was shaped using white and rose-gold as well as diamonds, spinels and sapphires in various cuts, sizes and settings. Shades of purple dominate the brooch that is the colour of not only lilacs but magic too.

Following her godmother’s advice the princess asked her father to give her seemingly impossible gifts to delay their impending wedding. The dresses in the colour of the sky, the Moon and the Sun were finally crafted and in Van Cleef & Arpels’s interpretation they are composed of colourful gemstones and diamonds. The sky is symbolized by white gold, turquoise, tourmalines and green garnets; the Moon is shaped using sapphires, blue spinels, blue tanzanites, and diamonds.

The Sun dress – in which she later captures the prince’s heart – is the artistic combination of white and yellow gold, diamonds, garnets, yellow tourmaline and sapphire.

The bracelet matching the dress is the spectacular “mosaic” of 82 yellow diamonds and pear-shaped and baguette-cut white diamonds.

The royal family’s abode is a wonderful castle; the centre features a 39-carat Brazilian emerald, surrounded by diamonds, pink and lilac sapphires.

The sweetest piece of the collection is perhaps the Piou-Piou clip, featuring the little birds accompanying the princess in diamonds, sitting on a tree branch adorned with coral berries. The bird is also a recurring motif at the brand; pairs of birds have often symbolized attachment and unity since 1940.

Piou-Piou clip

In the history of Van Cleef & Arpels they have not really depicted male figures. Creating the masculine form was a great challenge for the artists at the Maison in the wake of the light and graceful ballerinas and fairies. The second such male figure is the prince of Donkey Skin, composed of white and yellow gold, red coral, diamonds and emerald (he holds a 2.25 carat emerald). Naturally the resulting enamoured prince is a very charming figure.

Prince rouge clip

Under the direction of Nicolas Bos, CEO and Creative Director of the Maison, outstanding brooches, rings, earrings and necklaces have been created, with exceptional gemstones. The key adornments of the necklace in the Robe Couleur du Temps set are 12 aquamarines, totalling 129.87-carats. The Miroirenchanté and the Astre de Lumière art-deco inspired longer necklaces feature detachable parts that can be worn separately too. The central element of the Miroirenchanté is a 24.77-carat Burmese blur sapphire, while in the latter piece it is an oval-cut 20.68-carat yellow sapphire from Sri-Lanka.

The collection is going to be show again at La Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in September, completed with other amazing pieces…


Photo credits: Van Cleef & Arpels, Loupiosity.com.
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