This story first appeared in the July 6, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ impressive Bals de Légende collection honored mythic balls of the 20th century, such as the 1903 Winter Palace Ball in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the last of the Imperial galas; the wild 1951 Le Bal du Siècle masked ball, held by Charles de Beistegui in the Palazzo Labia in Venice, and the 1966 Black & White masked ball hosted by Truman Capote at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
Nicolas Bos, vice president and worldwide creative director of Van Cleef, who is also president and chief executive officer of the jeweler’s Americas division, said the starting point was a photo of Liz Taylor taken by Cecil Beaton in 1971 at the Proust Ball, to which she wore a major gold and diamond necklace by the house reinterpreted as a headpiece.
Using new millennium jewelry techniques, Van Cleef’s latest collection captures the festive splendor of the bygone tradition, using both figurative and abstract designs — a monochrome onyx and diamond masked dancer pin, for instance, or a graphic signet ring striped with baguette-cut diamonds and black spinels. The latter piece boasts a spectacular 15.54-carat vintage oval cut diamond at its center. Evoking the colorful 1969 Oriental Ball, held on Paris’ Ile Saint-Louis, with Salvador Dalí and Brigitte Bardot among guests, was the striking Kingfisher necklace, the house’s first necklace ever constructed around engraved stones, which form its structure, set on a white gold mount. It features sculpted layers of turquoise flowers and leaves, offset with round diamonds and five oval-cut red spinels at 30.63 carats.