BAJ Insight: At the bench with Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery School in Paris

BAJ Insight: At the bench with Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery School in Paris

Join us for our weekly BAJ:Insight on the latest industry trends by Rachael Taylor, a freelance journalist who writes about jewellery for a number of titles, including The Financial Times, The Jewellery Editor and Retail Jeweller. In her 10 years reporting on the industry, she has travelled the globe to visit key industry fairs, descended a Fairtrade gold mine on top of a Peruvian mountain, toured silver jewellery factories in Thailand, and regularly has access to the most sparkling jewels and people in the business.

This summer, I stopped by the Van Cleef & Arpels L’École des Arts Joailliers jewellery school in Paris to view the house’s latest collection, Le Secret. It is a brilliant collection of jewels that has one unifying theme: each must have a secret function or surprise element that will only be known to its owner.


So often when we encounter a piece of high jewellery all we get to see is the finished article. The polished gems, the shining metal, the perfectly presented display. But how did it get there? What was its journey from the bench to the showcase like? Were there grubby fingers, late nights and tears involved?

While coming up with many secretive pieces of jewels, Van Cleef & Arpels chose to share the secrets of how they were created in a series of beautiful photographs. So let’s follow the journey of one piece all the way from gouache (painted illustration) to final creation.

This is the story of the Message des Hirondelles necklace, crafted with white gold, rose gold, diamonds, colored sapphires, coral, red enamel and 52 fancy-cut Madagascan mauve sapphires weighing a total of 142.1cts. Its name translates as message of the swallows because of the two birds fluttering at the clasp of the necklace, which when open reveals a tiny gold letter.