Thursday, June 23, 2016

Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems 2016

The ArtScience Museum was opened years ago and we only visited it last weekend for the first time due to our schedule, every time I pass by this unique lotus like building I made a mental note to see what's on later and plan a visit.  Well, it did not materialized till now.  

When I received the invitation to the Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems I was contemplating whether to go or not because it is not a place where the kids will enjoy.  Plus we will be on my own due to timing, that means no guided tour nor workshop to keep the kids busy.  After much thought I went ahead with it because I do want to see the pretty gemstones and exquisite jewellery up close.  I shall turn a blind eyes to their "I'm bored" looks and a deaf ear to their endless "can we go yet" pleas.

A little about this Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems exhibition, it is to showcase the inter-relationship between the science of mineralogy and the art of crafting the finest jewellery and gems.

For science mineralogy, there are over 250 rare gems and minerals from the renowned Collection of the French National Museum of Natural History highlighting the seven major principles critical to the precious stones' formation, namely Pressure, Temperature, Transport, Water, Oxygen, Life and Metamorphism.

For the art of crafting you'll get an up close look at over 450 pieces of jewellery selected from the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection displaying seven themes illustrating the poetry and ingenious craftsmanship of the Maison, which are Couture, Abstractions, Influences, Precious Objects, Nature, Ballerinas & Fairies and Icons.

On that day, we arrived at the museum slightly after their opening hour and was surprised to see a crowd at the lobby, we collected our tickets and off we go exploring!

The minute we stepped out of the lift we were surrounded by darkness and pure quietness, its so solemn that you can hear a pin drop, we looked at each other and have the same "Is it open?" look.  We ventured in quietly and found a handful of MIB or Man In Black huddled around the entrance to the exhibit chatting.  As much as they made us a little bit wary (like are we at the right place or not?), I think we gave them a startle when we suddenly appeared.  I guess they weren't expecting any visitors at such early hour.  They acknowledged us and we proceeded pass them through the door.  From this point onward I sort of feel the tense moments in the air, the inside is not any brighter than the outside, then one of the MIB spoke into his walkie "Sending 4 pax in now" makes it seems like a secrecy adventure to me.  Hahaha! My imagination is running wild again.  Let me bring you for a brief tour around the exhibition, with the pieces that fascinated me.

In case you are wondering, the exhibit area is dimly lit so that the spot lights can bring out the stunning beauty of every piece of gemstones and jewellery.  Do watch where you are going, the dull colored carpeted floor makes it more difficult to see the flooring.  There are tiny slopes around, I almost tripped twice while walking in and out of this particular section.

Without a guide we immediately walked into 1 of the section and was just starting to admire the jewelleries when one nice MIB pointed out to us that we have missed a section, a special section it seems.  We followed his direction and was met with some brightly lit columns, upon close inspection we saw that each column contains a set of beautiful jewellery.

Couture/The Earth
Van Cleef & Arpels uses Couture motifs and materials to a discrete homage to the city of it's origins - Paris, the capital of fashion and elegance, they transformed fabrics into jewellery while ribbons & laces are embellished by gold weave and precious stones.  As you can see from the zipper necklace below.

Since the formation of the Earth billion of years ago, meteorite impacts, tectonic shifts, volcanic activity, erosion and biology have modified our planet extensively, it is due to these tremendous activities that unique crystals were formed.

In this section I see many pieces with oriental designs, these are the 4 pieces that caught my attention.  I read that due to the fascination for Far Eastern culture in 1920s along with the discovery of ceramics, silks, bronzes etc, these has inspired Van Cleef & Arpels to come out with so many magnificent pieces.

Our Mother Earth has such powerful force that makes every thing evolves non stop. Her high temperature inside her crust enables minerals to crystallize from molten rocks. Tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral compounded and occures with a variety of amazing colors that illustrate subtle changes in its chemical composition during crystalisation. Just look at the stunning large rubellite crystal on the bottom right of the 2nd photo below.

Ah~ Nature~ it is around us, those that are visible to us in our every day life or deep down under some where.  Who can resist the beauty of nature?  Not even the great VanCleef & Arpels who also draws inspirations from it to create pieces of glamorous flowers & blossoms and not to cutesy animals - both mystical and real life.

I am forever enthralled by the the wonders and beauty of nature.

Living creatures goes through the cycle of biodiversity - birth, live, death, and the phrase after that is geodiversity which is the natural range geological features such as rocks, minerals, fossils and soil, these constitute and shape the Earth, either the whole or a specific part of it.

There are many parallels between biodiversity and geodiversity, fossilization is an example of biodiversity becoming geodiversity.

That is not pieces of your favourite chocolate or roast pork you see below, they are polished slabs of fossilized wood.  And yes, wood can be fossilized or in this case petrified, it will then form anamzing gems after years of petrification.

As if the exhibition surrounding is not mysterious enough, a large showcase with the signage The Mystery Setting caught my attention and intrigued me to know more about it.  It turns out that it is a unique technique associated with Van Cleef & Arpels since the Maison patented this dazzling invention in 1933.  It consists of setting stones in such a way that no prongs are visible. The level of expertise required makes Mystery Set the exclusive realm of a very small number of master jewelers.

The technique is so intricate that producing a single brooch takes no less than 300 hours work. Each faceted stone is delicately inserted onto thin gold rails less than two-tenths of a millimeter thick. Once complete, the gems appear to be entirely free-standing. Because of the complexity of the process, Mystery Set pieces are extremely rare: the Maison produces no more than a few of them each year. At first, Mystery Set was reserved for flat pieces such as the Minaudière® precious case but as the technique developed, Van Cleef & Arpels began using it on more complex shapes and with varying degrees of thickness.  

If I have to pick a favourite item out of a million pieces inside there, I'd pick this, the Lion Ebouriffe Brooch, a cute little gold lion with it's emerald eyes, diamond muzzle and onyx nose.  I like its innocent look with the sort of ruffled mane, plus its my zodiac sign too.

Lucky for us there are a couple of activities around the exhibition area to occupy the kids.  They can either learn how Van Cleef & Arpels uses geometrical shapes and patterns to create beautiful pieces of jewellery in their own distinctive style or create their own gems with the Die Cut templates and materials provided. One word of caution though, its so dimly lite that the kids probably will have problem fixing the gems and stringing them together, there is also a pair of scissors though tied to a string onto the table so adult assistance/supervision is required.

Its the last weekend of June holiday, if you prefer something not as tiring or exciting for your kids, why not pay a visit to Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems at ArtScience Museum?  And if you decide to head out tomorrow, which is a Friday, ArtScience Museum have a Family Friday promo till end of June, check out the details here.  Also, do sign up for Ven Cleef & Arpels workshop - A Day in the Life of a Mineralogist which incidentally is the last workshop tomorrow too.

Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems.
Exhibition period : 23 April to 14 August 2016
Venue : ArtScience Museum, Level 3
Opening time : Mon-Sun 10am to 7pm
(last entry at 6pm)
Ticketing :

Explore, discover and learn more about the world of minerology in this hands-on demonstration revealing the working methods and collection of a mineralogist. Try your hand at using tools to examine minerals and their physical properties.
For Who: Complimentary to ticket-holders of Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems, this workshop is recommended for children aged 6 and up. The workshop has a capacity of up to 20 participants on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register 15 minutes before workshop begins.
When: 3, 10, 17, 24 June (4.30pm – 5.30pm)
Where: Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems, Workshop Space

Make and bring home your very own soap gem in this hands-on workshop. Through a tactile experience, learn to identify the different cuts of gemstones used to make Van Cleef & Arpels creations.
For Who: Complimentary to ticket-holders of Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems, this workshop is recommended for children aged 6 and up.
The workshop has a capacity of up to 20 participants on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register 15 minutes before workshop begins.
When: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 July (4.30pm – 5.30pm)
Where: Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems, Workshop space

About Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1906, at 22 Place Vendôme in Paris. Over the decades, the High Jewellery Maison established its reputation throughout the world. Its emblematic signatures – such as the Alhambra® motif, the Zip necklace or the Mystery Set™ technique – its selection of Pierres de Caractère™, exceptional gems that instill an emotion, and the savoir-faire of its Mains d’Or™, the craftsmen of Van Cleef & Arpels' workshops, have given birth to enchanting jewellery and watchmaking collections. Since 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has been combining virtuoso craftsmanship, technical prowess and refinement in its collections of High Jewelry, Jewelry and Timepieces, to evoke a timeless world of harmony and beauty.

About French National Museum of Natural History
Founded by King Louis XIII of France in 1626, the French National Muséum of National History is among the world’s foremost institutions investigating the Earth’s treasures and the impact of human activities on geo- and biodiversity. Its collections are still some of the richest in the world: over 60 million specimens are contained in an outstanding research environment that aims to promote an innovative way of understanding nature and its mechanisms. The mineral and gem collections in particular reflect the beauty of the natural world, along with the creativity of artists who have been inspired by it.

Disclaimer : We were invited to visit the Van Cleef & Arpels : The Art and Science of Gems Exhibition. No other compensation was received. We were not required to write about experience but since we had such an educational time we wanted to share them with others. All opinions in this post are 100% ours, all photos in this post belongs to The DinoFamily, you may take it for personal use without our permission.


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