Lot 365
  • 365

18 Karat Gold, Mystery-Set Ruby and Diamond 'Ballerina' Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Van Cleef & Arpels
  • gold, diamond, ruby
Inspired by Marie Camargo, the graceful ballerina in an arabesque pose presenting a pear-shaped diamond, her face set with an oval-shaped rose-cut diamond weighing approximately .85 carat, her Romantic-style tutu decorated with 159 calibré-cut Mystery-Set rubies, further set with round, pear and marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 5.75 carats, signed VCA, numbered 56145.


In very good condition. The strongly saturated rubies are very well matched for color, a medium dark slightly purplish red, eye-clean to lightly included. The rose-cut diamond is approximately D-E color, VS clarity. The large pear-shaped diamond is approximately E-F color, VS clarity. The remaining diamonds are approximately E-G color, VVS-VS clarity. Very well made, with exceptional workmanship throughout.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Illustrations in the catalogue may not be actual size. Prospective purchasers are reminded that, unless the catalogue description specifically states that a stone is natural, we have assumed that some form of treatment may have been used and that such treatment may not be permanent. Our presale estimates reflect this assumption.

Catalogue Note

For ballerina brooches of similar design see:

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.