Fancy Brown-Yellow Diamond, Diamond and Conch Pearl 'Ballerina Butterfly' Brooch, co-designed by Cindy Chao and Sarah Jessica Parker
- diamond, coloured diamond, conch pearl, gold, titanium
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The delicate movement and grace of a ballerina, when the body synchronizes with the music in a harmonious ballet passe, brings to mind the fluttering of a colorful butterfly's wings. This idea is beautifully interpreted by some of the most important creators of the Art Nouveau movement in jewelry at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, such as Lalique, with his enchanting creations from the magic world of fairies, nymphs and winged sylphs. For example, there is a dog collar plaque where the neck is embraced by a female body with outstretched, colorful plique á jour enamel wings; and a devant de corsage composed of dragonfly wings, half the body of a woman and the claws of a ferocious griffin. Less aggressive is the Broche Libelulle, created by Falguières in 1900. Females, dragonflies and butterflies were important motifs in this movement. In Henri Vever's beautiful pendant Sylvia, the female body was adorned with wings decorated in plique á jour enamel and encrusted with diamonds.
In Tsarist Russia it was customary, in the Mariinsky in St Petersburg and the Bolshoi in Moscow, to present gifts when the career of a star dancer had lasted for a new decade. Not only admirers gave gifts: the tsar generally gave a ballerina an imperial eagle in gold or silver, depending on her importance as an artist, set with gemstones; a male dancer received a gold watch. However, there were exceptions, such as in the case of Mathilde Kschessinska. The famous ballerina had a love affair with the future Tsar Nicholas II, and when in 1901 her tenth anniversary approached, she sent a message to him through his cousin, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, to say that she would like a different type of gift. She received a brooch designed as a diamond serpent encircling a cabochon sapphire. In 1911, for her 20th anniversary, the tsar gave her a diamond eagle with a pink sapphire as a pendant. It was a custom that lasted until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
That year also marked Europe's last social season of the Old World, with glittering events held in every major capital, like the 'Ball of Jewels' held by Princess Jacques de Broglie in her palace in Paris. Seven ballets were staged that evening, each one dedicated to a precious gemstone. That night the light sparkling on the surface of the gems created a ballet of colors. The first ballet was led by Princess de la Tour d'Auvergne, resplendent in diamonds.
However, it was not until 1967 that a ballet was dedicated to and named Jewels. The three-act ballet was created and choreographed by George Balanchine, who came from a cultured Russian family and studied at the Imperial School of Ballet in St Petersburg from an early age. In 1924 he was invited by Sergei Diaghilev to work as a choreographer for the Ballets Russes, and he co-founded New York City Ballet with arts patron Lincoln Kirstein in 1948.
The idea for Jewels came to Balanchine when, walking on 5th Avenue, he was impressed by the sparkling display of necklaces, brooches and rings in Van Cleef & Arpels' windows. Even though Balanchine said, 'The ballet had nothing to do with jewels. The dancers are just dressed like jewels,' jewels were the inspiration for the piece. The incredible costumes, created by his friend and long-term collaborator at New York City Ballet, Barbara Karinska, were so finely embroidered that on stage they recreated the hue of each gemstone. The first act, Emeralds, is set to Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock; the second, Rubies, is set to Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra; and the last act, Diamonds, is set to extracts from Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony.
The Ballerina Butterfly brooch encapsulates the beauty, flow and grace of ballet. This beautiful creation was born thanks to the collaboration of two artists: one from the world of jewelry, the other a fashion icon from the world of Hollywood. It is not just a work of art but also has a philanthropic purpose: the proceeds of the sale will benefit the New York City Ballet by supporting their education program to inspire a new generation of dancers.
Stefano Papi, International Author and Jewellery Historian