– Rudolf Nureyev
Founded in Paris in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels’ love affair with ballet dates back to Paris in the 1920s, when Louis Arpels—a fervent ballet lover—would treat his nephew, Claude Arpels, to an evening of ballet at the Palais Garnier, just a short walk from the jeweler’s boutique on Place Vendôme.
But it was only after the first jeweled ballerina clips were created in 1941 at the urging of Louis Arpels that dance became one of the main pillars of expression and inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels. These iconic brooches—intricate pieces capturing the rhythm of dance and depicting the artistry of its lines and movement—featured ballerinas with rose-cut diamond faces, jeweled crowns, and gold or platinum skirts embellished with rubies, emeralds, turquoise, and diamonds.
While the jeweler does make a version of the famous ballerina clip today—the Bouton d’or in 18K yellow gold with diamonds and gems—the original ballerina clips are sought after by collectors around the world. In 2009, the Camargo brooch, inspired by 18th century ballerina Marie Camargo, sold for a record price of $422,500 at a Christie’s sale in New York.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ connection to dance continued to flourish throughout the ’50s and grew even stronger in 1961, when choreographer George Balanchine met Claude Arpels during a visit to the famed jewelry house. Balanchine and Arpels struck up an immediate friendship, which eventually led to an artistic collaboration that produced “Jewels”—after Claude Arpels suggested the idea of a ballet based on gems. Balanchine’s masterpiece “Jewels” consists of three acts, each dedicated to a gem and a composer: Gabriel Fauré for “Emeralds,” Igor Stravinsky for “Rubies,” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for “Diamonds.” Since its premiere in New York in 1967, “Jewels” has become a significant work of the twentieth century.
Today, the brand maintains its ties with the world of dance through a number of collaborations and sponsorship initiatives, including partnerships with The Royal Ballet in London, The Australian Ballet, Korean National Ballet, and Hong Kong Ballet. Since 2012, it has supported the dance troupe L.A. Dance Project (LADP), founded by French choreographer and former New York City Ballet star Benjamin Millepied. And since 2015, the annual FEDORA—VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet has supported innovation and creativity in contemporary choreography.
In 2020, Van Cleef & Arpels launched Dance Reflections, a multifaceted initiative to support dance companies and institutions worldwide. The inaugural Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival took place in London in 2022, with subsequent festivals held in Hong Kong and Paris, among other locations.
“Dance has been a significant field for the Maison throughout its history, with examples that include the encounter between Claude Arpels and George Balanchine in the 1950-1960s, the partnership with Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project, collaborations with various companies and operas across the world, and the FEDORA—VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet,” says Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “In 2020, we took things a step further by uniting our activities in this domain. With the program Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels, the Maison aims to support modern and contemporary dance and encourage new choreography.”
Dance Reflections centers around three values: creation, transmission, and education. It focuses on encouraging artists and supporting dance companies to present new and existing contemporary pieces to the broadest audience possible. Finally, Dance Reflections works with various institutions to present dance and educational programs.
“Dance brings all the artistic disciplines together: It can incorporate music, the plastic arts, costume, lighting, set design, graphic design, and even jewelry,” says Serge Laurent, Van Cleef & Arpels’ director of Dance & Cultural Programs. “It is a fascinating art form and an incredible field of expression. That is why it can appeal to such a wide audience. I’d like to encourage spectators to admire the works freely, with no preconceptions.”
For Van Cleef & Arpels, what began as one man’s personal passion has become a core part of its identity. From the creation of its iconic ballerina brooches to providing the inspiration for one of George Balanchine’s best-loved works; its sponsorship of ballet companies around the world and now to its new initiative, Dance Reflections, this French jeweler continues to expand its heritage through a commitment to dance.
There are three Van Cleef & Arpels stores located within the Brookfield Properties portfolio:
Miami Design District in Miami, FL; Tysons Galleria in McLean, VA; and within Neiman Marcus at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, HI.