On the occasion of the exhibition “Pierres précieuses” (Gems) which will take place from September 16, 2020 to June 14, 2021 at Paris’ Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (National Museum of Natural History), Van Cleef & Arpels is unveiling a unique objet, specially created for the event: the Rocher aux merveilles (Rock of marvels).
Echoing the theme of the exhibition, rough stones stand alongside nine creations in a precious tableau, the fruit of human imagination and skill. Taking the form of a dreamlike landscape, inhabited by fantastic flora and fauna, this encounter between High Jewelry and mineralogy inspires a sense of surprise and wonder.
“The Rocher aux merveilles sums up the exhibition “Gems”, with a combination of mineralogical elements and jewelry savoir-faire. These two dimensions, both fascinating in their own right, blend with the universe of the Maison to create a story suffused with enchantment.” Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels.
AN OBJECT AT THE CROSSROADS OF JEWELRY AND MINERALOGY
A steep, lapis lazuli mountain rises from a plain of blue quartz, as if in a dream. At its feet, crouching in a forest of tourmaline crystals, a chimera of precious stones stands guard over a treasure: a ring set with a two-colored tourmaline. A unicorn and two fairies – the other inhabitants of this wondrous refuge – rest among flowers, refreshed by a waterfall of diamonds and sapphires. Evoking the settings of fairy tales and such baroque epics as Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, this dreamlike landscape bridges the gap between the universe of precious stones and the imaginary worlds that fuel Van Cleef & Arpels’ creativity.
- Positioning Palmyre bleu clip on the lapis lazuli block
Ever since its foundation, the Maison has been sensitive to the poetry of wonder, expressing it in the diversity of its creations: its universe is inhabited by fairytale figures, fantastic beasts and luxuriant gardens, perpetuating the art of enchantment that it holds dear.
The Rocher aux merveilles echoes another object presented at the exhibition: L’Arbre aux tourmalines (Tourmaline Tree) by Jean Vendome. This stylized tree combines precious metal and slices of green and raspberry-colored tourmalines, alongside other multicolored gems. It reflects the unique and visionary style of this mineral enthusiast, who is considered a pioneer of contemporary jewelry.
HOMAGE TO THE BEAUTY OF STONES
Composed of rough or polished stones and detachable jewels, this object has been designed as a mineral sculpture, in which each self-contained element lives in harmony with the ensemble. Van Cleef & Arpels’ design studio, stone department and the workshops of Place Vendôme have worked hand in hand to achieve this result.
It took nearly two years to bring the object to life, along with its nine creations. Once the design had been chosen from among several creative propositions, expert gemologists set off in search of precious materials that would meet the stringent criteria of High Jewelry, for both the cut and the rough stones.
“We selected these roughs from among hundreds of pieces. The stones are of such high quality that we could have cut them for High Jewelry pieces. We insisted on having the same quality for the roughs as the faceted stones.” Expert gemologist from Van Cleef & Arpels
At the heart of the Rocher aux merveilles, the 6.2-kilo block of lapis lazuli was chosen for its shape and irregular texture, which evoke the slopes of a mountain, along with its dazzling blue color. It has been retained in its rough state, just as nature created it, giving the object a unique quality. The 13-kilo block of quartz on which it stands is a “semi-rough,” since it has been lightly smoothed to provide a stable surface for the lapis lazuli.
- Fixing tourmaline crystals to the lapis lazuli
Thirty-two tourmaline crystals — for a total of 2,171 carats — form a mineral forest: their brilliance and transparency contrast with the blocks on which they rest. Following a complex research process, the jewelers devised a method of fixing them securely to the lapis lazuli and quartz, while ensuring that each element remains intact.
The cut and polished stones that adorn the jewelry pieces have been set in different ways, including closed, semi-closed, grain, prong and serti neige-style setting. This variety of techniques magnifies the gems, while infusing each piece with vitality and brilliance.
TECHNICAL CHALLENGE, COLLECTIVE PROJECT
A unique object that includes numerous transformable pieces, the Rocher aux merveilles posed a real challenge for the Maison’s teams, and notably for the workshops responsible for its technical production. Between making a mock-up, sculpting the fairies and unicorn in wax, recutting the stones, assembly, jewelry craftsmanship, setting and polishing, it took nearly 6,400 hours to bring this piece to fruition. The process required over 4,700 hours of jewelry work, over 1,200 hours of setting and nearly 500 hours of polishing.
- Sculpting the unicorn in green wax
Resolving the various technical challenges — fixing the elements together and creating the mechanisms to transform the pieces, for example — called for ingenuity on the part of the craftsmen. Forged by this collaborative approach, the finished object invites the onlooker to draw closer and admire all its details and secrets.
- Licorne merveilleuse clip
THE ART OF METAMORPHOSIS
The Maison has imagined this object as a changing landscape, in which elements can be removed from the base to take on new life. The Rocher aux merveilles thus includes nine High Jewelry creations that can respectively be worn as a ring, clips, a pendant, earrings and a bracelet.
- Laurier rose clip