Van Cleef & Arpels: ‘Romeo and Juliet’ translated into the language of jewellery

William Shakespeare's great tragedy Romeo and Juliet – a timeless story of two lovers from warring families – serves as the inspiration for the creation of a modern masterpiece: the 'Romeo & Juliet' collection by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Since it was written at the end of the 16th century, Romeo and Juliet has been translated into every language imaginable. Now the fate of the tragic heroes, the language of their love and the imagery of the city of Verona have been translated into the language of jewellery.

“For us, the choice of Romeo and Juliet was a natural one for a number of reasons. First of all, literature is one of the main sources of inspiration for the House. Indeed, in 2003, we turned to Shakespeare’s great comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream for our collection of the same name,” explains Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “When Benjamin Millepied, with whom we have worked in the past on a number of occasions, told us that he was working on a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, it seemed to present us with a wonderful creative opportunity.”

The above-mentioned Benjamin Millepied is none other than the dancer, choreographer and founder of the L.A. dance project – bringing together a number of different creatives from a diverse range of backgrounds – from cinema to the visual arts in the hope of expanding the boundaries of dance. So, although perhaps unexpected, the art form of jewellery has found its way into Millepied’s body of work.

Van Cleef & Arpels 'Romeo and Juliet' collection 'Bud of Love' earrings, 'Balcone' brooch, and  'Lovers' Path' bracelet

The collection turned out to be immensely impressive: more than 100 unique pieces of jewellery that figuratively or abstractly convey to us the tumultuous emotions of the famous lovers as well as depict the broader narrative of their relationship. The scene on the balcony, the approaching dawn, the singing of birds, the gardens and architecture of Verona, along with the outfits and costumes of the Renaissance: nothing is overlooked by the attentive gaze of the house’s highly skilled jewellers and we find this great play truly embodied in the stunning jewellery they have created.

Van Cleef & Arpels 'Romeo and Juliet' collection 'Maiolika' necklace with Sri Lankan emerald cut sapphire of 42.86ct and diamonds in white gold

The lovers themselves are presented in the form of iconic Van Cleef & Arpels brooches – made of white, yellow and pink gold, with rubies, couloured sapphires, garnets, spessartines, lapis lazuli, black lacquer, yellow and colourless diamonds.

The city of Verona is depicted in a transformable brooch of the same name, made in white gold with a central bright blue 23.86 carat Burmese sapphire. Further colourless diamonds and accenting sapphires in three different shades of blue serve to perfectly underline the central stone. This piece converts from a sautoir into a short necklace coupled with a bracelet or, alternatively, two bracelets and brooch.

The ‘Romeo & Juliet’ collection includes several more transformable necklaces. For example, the ‘Reticella’ choker consisting of diamonds weighing 6.60 and 6.31 carats, both D-colour, is reflective of the Renaissance fashion for lace collars. The diamonds can be detached and worn as studs with drops, while the necklace can be worn without pendants. Another transforming piece is the 'Giardino' sautoir, composed of emeralds and sapphires, which is able to be transformed from a long necklace into two shorter ones.

The most prominent sapphire of the collection is embedded in the ‘Majolica’ necklace, which draws its inspiration from the elaborate blue ceramics after which it is named. Created from white gold and colourless diamonds, at its heart one can find a stunning Sri Lankan blue sapphire in an emerald cut weighing 42.86 carats.

 Van Cleef & Arpels 'Romeo and Juliet' collection 'Maiolika' necklace, ring and 'Fiore' bracelet

The corundum described above is not the only stone in the collection with an impressive carat weight. The 'Fiore' bracelet is adorned by two large pear cut aquamarines with a total weight of over 100 carats, and the 'Lover’s Path' bracelet is decorated with three large impeccably matching Colombian emeralds – creating a harmonious combination of colour saturation and transparency.

However, the jeweller’s palette in this collection is not limited to sapphires and emeralds. Coloured corundum, malachite, lapis lazuli, spinel, garnets, diamonds and pearls; truly one is able to find everything here, and often in unusual cuts - for example - an astonishing hexagonal emerald!

Van Cleef & Arpels ‘Romeo & Juliet’ collection 'Giardino' transformable necklace with Colombian carved emerald of 81.07ct, Burmese sapphire beads approx. 451ct, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds in white and rose gold

As William Shakespeare said, “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” If you are moved in a similar manner by this great work of literature, then take a closer look at the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ collection from Van Cleef & Arpels. Here, one cannot help but find joy in the tale rather than sadness!

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