February 18, 2011
Some significant bling went on view today at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. It’s not just glitter either, there’s some fabulous celebrity glam to behold, as well. There’s a diamond encrusted platinum tiara worn by Grace Kelly, an amethyst, coral and diamond bracelet of Elizabeth Taylor’s, Eva Peron’s bracelet and necklace, and another bracelet once owned by Marlene Dietrich.
The exhibit, “Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels,” represents the first time that the jewels, timepieces, object d’art and other fashion accessories will be examined from the perspective of design. The show features some 300 stunning pieces accompanied by design drawings, commission books, fabrication cards and other imagery collected from the Van Cleef & Arpels’ archive.
Sarah Coffin, the museum’s curator of art and head of the product design and decorative arts department, says that Van Cleef & Arpels has long been known for innovations and imaginative designs in the art of jewelry making. The pieces in this exhibit, Coffin says, “give us an opportunity to look at how they relate as part of a broad history and through the whole process of jewelry making.”
The much vaunted firm has been the face of handcrafted jewelry design and innovation since its opening on the Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906. During World War II, the design house moved to New York and embraced a new era of American style and taste, attracting the wealthy and elite trendsetters of the 20th century. Known for its pieces that transform from one design to another and a patented unique “Mystery Setting,” in which concealed prongs hold the gemstones, the company has long set a premium on highly skilled craftsmen and specialty settings.
Some of the more unique pieces in the exhibition are pieces of jewelry that transform from one piece to another. A necklace zips up to become a bracelet. A brooch of a bird that holds a 95-carat yellow diamond in its beak can be disassembled so that its wings turn out to be earrings. The exhibition is on view until June 5.
Visit our photo gallery of some of the pieces from the exhibition.
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