Autumn 2017

Our Knights & Distinguished Personalities
Class of its own

France’s Van Cleef & Arpels is on a mission to spread the word about the history and creation of fine jewellery

Precious jewels are things of beauty that are admired and desired by one and all. They also have their own story to tell – from famous pieces such as the Hope Diamond, the Kohinoor and Princess Diana’s engagement ring to opulent, one-of-a-kind creations from eminent jewellery houses that sparkle and delight us.

For those of us in the region who would like to delve a little more into the world of jewellery help is now on hand from the renowned French maison Van Cleef & Arpels, whose travelling jewellery school will be making its debut in Dubai later this year. 

The L’École Van Cleef & Arpels travelling school will offer jewellery aficionados an opportunity to immerse in the world of jewellery and watchmaking over 18 days at Dubai Design District (d3) from November 7 to 25 this year.

Founded with the support of Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris in 2012, L’École Van Cleef & Arpels is said to be the world’s first school for people to discover the savoir-faire, history and culture of fine jewellery and watchmaking. 

It matters not if you are a novice or connoisseur, young or old – the school is open to all and promises to be one like no other and to provide a unique opportunity to enrich knowledge through experimentation and dialogue.

 “The jewellery school is about the world of jewellery making at large,” Van Cleef & Arpels Chief Executive Nicolas Bos tells Arabian Knight. The school has members from a number of jewellery brands, who are part of the committee and who give lectures at the school. When we talk about history, we do not talk about the history of Van Cleef & Arpels but the history of jewellery itself. This project is very important to us.” 


People from all walks of life and nationalities have shown up at the travelling school, which has previously visited Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong before arriving in Dubai. “People from all professions and varying levels of knowledge attend these classes. Even jewellers who want to hone their skills further or learn about ongoing trends, have been students of our travelling school,” he says. “Gemmologists who want to learn how their stones are set are also seen in our classes. People in the jewellery business or even the luxury sector are interested, as are complete beginners.” 

Although located in an 18th century mansion in Place Vendome – the cradle of Parisian jewellery – L’École Van Cleef & Arpels travels around the world in a spirit of values of open sharing and transmission. 

The Paris-based school of jewellery arts will set up a nomadic campus, offering a full set of classes led by professional jewellers, art historians, gemmologists, and watchmakers. Evening conversations, several exhibits and other activities around jewellery, will complement the offering of the first visit of the jewellery school to the region.

“The school is not here to make a difference between good and bad jewellery – we are not here to judge anything. The idea will be to study what is an exceptional stone and what is more common, what craftsmanship is intricate and special and what is more commonplace,” explains Bos.

The Dubai travelling school will offer 13 adult classes around three broad themes: Savoir-Faire (know-how), Art History of Jewels, and The Universe of Gemstones. Each lasting for two to four hours, they are given by at least two professionals in their respective fields: jewellers, designers, mock-up makers, art historians, gemmologists, watchmakers and a lacquer craftsman. 

L’École also invites a young audience to develop its creativity. Six workshops for children and adolescents from 5 to 16 will offer them the opportunity to explore the creative professions. These will take place through local schools’ collaborations during the week and will be open to the public during the weekends.

“Any little girl, whatever the background, whatever the culture, whatever the wealth, will play with a little piece of metal and turn it into a ring or take some leaves and try to make a necklace,” says Bos. 

“The only way to keep old traditions alive is to ensure they remain relevant. If nobody understands the difference between a piece of jewellery crafted by hand and a piece that is machine made, ten years from now handmade jewellery will not be around. What’s the point in making jewellery by hand, when no one understands and appreciates it? Sometimes, because our industries are very discreet and secretive, they forget to reach out to the more general audience – and not just our clients – to explain who we are and what we do. L’École is one of these initiatives to educate and familiarise,” says Bos.

L’École Van Cleef & Arpels in Dubai will be supporting the “Year of Giving”, as declared by the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. All funds collected from course registrations during the event will be donated to Dubai Cares.

“The Middle East is still a region where jewellery is seen as an applied art and not just a commodity, a view that is changing rapidly around the world. We have had some fabulous exhibitions in Paris and New York, showcasing the historical collection of Van Cleef & Arpels. The one in Paris and New York brought in 160,000 visitors. Only a handful of them are Van Cleef & Arpels clients, or even high jewellery clients. The majority of the people came to the exhibition to discover the shape, the craftsmanship, the stones, the stories behind the jewellery, and admired the exhibits like they would in any art exhibition. Of course, there was a commercial aspect to it but it was in the background,” explains Bos.  

L’École has formed a cultural partnership with Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, and a destination partnership with Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism). Other supporters are Abu Dhabi Music & Art Foundation, d3, Dubai Opera, Abu Dhabi Emirates Businesswomen Council, Institut français des Emirats arabes unis – Cultural department of the French Embassy, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, and the Lest We Forget initiative, supported by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

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