18 Karat Gold, Mystery-Set Ruby and Diamond 'Ballerina' Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels
- Van Cleef & Arpels
- gold, diamond, ruby
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, pages 94-97.
Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art of High Jewelry, edited by Évelyne Possémé, pages 132-134.
Van Cleef & Arpels jeweled ballerina brooches were first created by Maurice Duvalet, a French-born designer who moved to America at the end of World War I. Collaborating with Van Cleef & Arpels upon the opening of their New York branch in 1939, and John Rubel, their manufacturer, Duvalet studied paintings and photographs of the most acclaimed names in ballet history as inspiration for his pieces. Some of his muses included Marie Camargo, the eighteenth-century Franco-Belgian dancer frequently depicted in contemporary paintings and engravings, and the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who was the first to perform around the world. A consummate draftsman with an unerring sense of style, Duvalet fashioned the first group of ballerinas predominantly in rose-cut diamonds, stones that were reputed to have originated from the Spanish Crown Jewels. There are several theories as to how the idea for these charming dancers first developed, but one of the most likely is that it was conceived by Louis Arpels, son of the founder of Van Cleef & Arpels, who was an enthusiast of classical ballet and opera.
The ballerinas, handmade in the Van Cleef & Arpels workshop, evoke graceful movement through the expert manipulation of metals and jewels. The present brooch is an elegant incarnation of Duvalet’s earlier creations, representing the evolution and refinement of an iconic design. The entire brooch is cloaked in diamonds and rubies, leaving virtually no metal to be seen. Light seamlessly dances across the skirt comprised entirely of Mystery-Set rubies, accented by round diamonds. The Mystery Setting, perfected at the maison of Van Cleef & Arpels, is a painstaking technique that frees gemstones from the interference of prongs, creating the illusion of a continuous wave of glimmering color and light. This intricate and innovative process requires at least 300 hours of labor per piece, and the workshop produces a very limited number per year.
This Mystery-Set ballerina brooch is full of life and whimsical movement, a testament to the enduring designs and expert workmanship of Van Cleef & Arpels.