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

This June we are finally back to Paris – first of all to participate in the Révélations 2022 but of course there is always so much to discover there. Among other exciting events, we visited the Engraved Gems exhibition at L’École, School of Jewelry Arts just around the corner from Place Vendôme. 

Before the COVID 19 outbreak I used to visit Paris many summers. Mostly for the High Jewellery presentations but I never missed checking out a few interesting exhibitions too. The surroundings of Place Vendôme are usually busy during summer, especially in early July when the Haute Couture & Haute Joaillerie week is happening. 

Van Cleef Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels at Place Vendôme

Van Cleef & Arpels is famous for its exceptional high jewellery but also for the Maison’s educational mission.  Founded in 2012 with the support of Van Cleef & Arpels, L’École, School of Jewellery Arts offers the opportunity to discover the savoir-faire of jewellery-making, gemmology and the history of jewellery through a range of introductory courses, talks, exhibitions and publications. The aim of the school is to share jewellery culture with the widest possible audience.

Within the walls of L’École, visitors can learn from prominent experts, jewellery-makers and designers or even enjoy a highly exclusive visit to the High Jewellery workshop of Van Cleef & Arpels. L’École has permanent sites in Paris, Hong Kong and ‘travelling schools’ in the US, Japan, in the Middle East or in Lyon. 

I participated in great talks and events of L’École in the past, but during the pandemic they really captured my heart. Organisers offered interesting online talks and conversations on the topic of pearls, diamonds and other gemstones, different jewellery eras and designers. It was such a refreshing experience to be a bit away from the daily hustle and bustle during this difficult time and immerse myself into the magical world of jewels. 

Of course, there is nothing better than admiring remarkable jewellery in real life, so the latest exhibition of L’École was high on our ‘top tips in Paris’ list. 

Engraved Gems – Cameos, intaglios & rings, the Guy Landrière Collection

12.05.2022 – 01.10.2022

The ‘Engraved Gems’ presents the story of the art of engraved gems from antiquity to the 19th century through about two hundred pieces. It brings together Greek and neoclassical intaglios, antique and mediaeval cameos, small sculptures from the imperial period, signet rings from different periods, and episcopal rings to explore every facet of the long history of glyptic art. 

Sardonyx cameo, Minerva
Minerva, 19th century, Sardonyx cameo

The objects are from the private collection of Guy Ladrière, an established antique dealer, collector and expert. Throughout decades he collected the engraved gemstones from all around the world, covering almost three millennia. 

The focus of the exhibition is the so-called glyptic art (from the Greek world of ‘carved’), the process of carving or engraving especially on gems. There are two ways of doing this – one is carving the stone in relief giving a convex pattern to the surface, the other is intaglio, where stones are engraved in a way that it gives a hollow impression in the untouched background. The latter has a much older history, as it dates back 5000 years and its purpose initially was to make prints and stamps. There are many signet rings incorporating this technique – the wearer used them to sign and close a letter with wax. 

In glyptic creations the emphasis is not on the commercial value of the stone. Sapphire or ruby cameos also exist but the main idea is to have a very nice colour stone (carnelian, chalcedony, jasper, rock crystal or amethyst) or one with an interesting natural pattern and enhance it with the motif, in the highest artistic execution possible. 

The collection includes an exceptional selection of these works like a Burmese ruby intaglio, attributed to Dioscorides from 1st century AD about Emperor Augustus, elaborate compositions of sardonyx cameos from the 15-16th century from Italy or France, a signet ring in the name of bishop Teudefredus, Visigoth, 7-8th century and many other creations. 

If you can’t make it to Paris, there will be another interesting online talk in early July, ‘Diamond: from rough to brilliant’, you can register here

For more exhibitions and events in Paris in the summer of 2022, please head to this article

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