GENEVA, Switzerland — Van Cleef & Arpels chose the verdant surroundings of Lake Geneva to present its new high jewelry collection dedicated to emeralds.
More than 1,400 carats of the precious stones were on display in a heavily guarded private property nestled in a vast park with stunning views of Mont Blanc. The house’s expert gemologists spent 10 years collecting the stones from Colombia, Zambia and other origins including the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan.
“For several years, we have wanted to create a monochrome collection based on a single stone to highlight the potential for richness and diversity in working within strictly defined parameters,” said Nicolas Bos, president and chief executive officer of Van Cleef & Arpels.
“Behind its apparent consistency or simplicity — a very beautiful shiny green stone — it contains an absolutely incredible diversity of origins and cuts,” added Bos. “Each region brings its own nuances of color and crystallization, and in fact, there is a very wide spectrum within this stone.”
Emeralds have featured in some of the Paris-based fine jeweler’s most historically significant creations, including the crown worn by Farah Pahlavi for the 1967 coronation of the Shah of Iran, which included 147 emeralds.
Clients including the Maharani of Baroda and Princess Salimah, the first wife of the Aga Khan IV, have over the years given the house historic emeralds to set into new designs.
Accordingly, the collection — titled Émeraude en Majesté — reflects influences ranging from Indian and Russian designs to traditional pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The largest stone in the collection is a 26.43-carat cushion-cut emerald from Colombia that is the centerpiece of the Serrania necklace. It stands out against a backdrop of diamonds arranged to evoke pre-Colombian motifs and is complemented by a fine pearl weighing 26.82 carats.
The Grand Opus set, meanwhile, showcases three Colombian “old mine” emeralds engraved with gadroon motifs and weighing a total of 127.88 carats. The detachable pendants can be worn on a necklace, a clip and earrings, in keeping with the house’s tradition of transformable pieces.
There were also variations on its signature Zip necklace, in addition to Twenties-inspired pieces such as the Twist bracelet, featuring coiled lines of diamonds and violet sapphires culminating in two cabochon-cut emeralds that sit side-by-side in a boldly symmetrical design.
One necklace consisted entirely of emerald pearls from Afghanistan, evoking both a feeling of simplicity and extreme rarity.
“The starting point of each piece is an emerald or a set of emeralds, and for each piece, the designers and the experts have tried to express not only the objective characteristics of the stone, in terms of quality and origin, but also its subjective characteristics,” said Bos.
“Certain emeralds are more mineral, more metallic, more masculine, in a sense harder or more majestic, and others are softer, more romantic, more feminine, and that inevitably inspires a slightly different treatment,” he noted.
After viewing the collection, guests repaired to a tent in the garden for a dinner concocted by Michelin-starred chef Emmanuel Renaut. Models displayed the gems against a backdrop of oversized fake blooms, while singer-songwriter Peter von Poehl performed a specially commissioned score. The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display.
Van Cleef & Arpels chose the setting because it sees the designs as collectors’ pieces.
“To us, this idea of unique pieces that require a little attention and are aimed at connoisseurs chimed with the tradition of Geneva-based jewelers,” Bos explained. “We liked the intimacy and timelessness of the place. Some of these stones are 100, 200 years old.”
For its next collection, the house will go back to a more figurative approach. Inspired by Noah’s Ark, the line will go on show to the public on the sidelines of the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in September, Bos said.