This Romantic High Jewellery Collection Brings Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet To Life
A sense of the poetic has always been central to jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels’ identity. So who better to inspire the latest collection from the maison than revered wordsmith William Shakespeare? Taking the source material beyond the dramatic into the balletic, it is famed choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s dance interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet which serves as the stimulus here.
Explaining the reasoning behind the collaboration with Millepied’s LA Dance Project and the use of The Bard’s famous tale of star crossed lovers as a catalyst, Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, says, “We like to take inspiration from fairytales, literature, plays, theatre and so on – as we did with the Midsummer Night’s Dream collection in 2003,” another Shakespearean line.
Bos says that when he learnt that Millepied, former principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, was developing an up to date adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, “It struck me as a remarkable creative opportunity.” Having collaborated with Millepied since 2012, and knowing the innovative nature of his work with LA Dance Project, Bos was confident that the ballet “would be anchored in the contemporary... This was our starting point [for the collection].”
Explaining the creative process, Bos says, “When we started to work on the collection and design and figuring out how to interpret it, it was a challenge. The difficulty was, on one hand, to stick close to the story but on the other hand, not to become too obvious or too literal.” The solution, he says, was to integrate numerous subtle references to elements of the play’s plot, in tandem with some of its more iconic moments, such as the balcony scene. “All of the pieces have a connection, not necessarily visible, with elements of one scene or another from the play,” Bos says, “whether it’s a moment from the masquerade ball or a piece of a building or the scene in the garden.”
Moreover, Bos says, inspiration was drawn from the period in which the play was set and written, the late 16th century. “The overall consistency in the collection is more about the Italian Renaissance, which is something very present in the text itself, but we often forget about because we are concentrating on the two lovers,” Bos says. Van Cleef’s designers referred to portraits from Renaissance Italy to better understand the jewellery worn in that era and also looked to the architecture of the day.
Comprising more than 100 unique pieces – from whimsical bejewelled clips and stunningly elegant bracelets through gorgeous gem-laden necklaces and exquisite earrings – Van Cleef’s new Romeo & Juliet collection is, says Bos, “A celebration of love… Shakespeare’s masterpiece acts as the starting point for a new thematic collection, but also for a dialogue between disciplines involving high jewellery, dance, music and the visual arts.”
The latter comes into play via the dialogue created with illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti, who was commissioned to produce a series of drawings depicting the lovers’ journey. As in the collection itself, hues of red and blue predominate, reflecting the crest colours of the houses of Capulet (for Juliet) and Montague (for Romeo). Bos says the connection here is that like these vivacious images, Van Cleef’s jewellery is designed to bring joy. “High jewellery is an art piece that can be worn,” he says. “It is not a sculpture, it should be worn. It should be enjoyed.”