Romeo & Juliet brought to life by Van Cleef & Arpels

The Parisian jewellery house re-tells the romantic story of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers in precious jewels with an opulent Renaissance air.

Van Cleef & Arpels Romeo and Juliet brooches

Unveiled during Paris Couture week this July, Van Cleef & Arpels' Romeo and Juliet collection transports us to the universe of the Montagues and Capulets. The collection of 100 one-off jewels captures the drama played out between literature's two most famous  lovers.

This year William Shakespeare’s 1597 tragedy of ill-fated love is the focus of the high jewellery collection but it is not the first time that the Place Vendôme maison has turned to Shakespeare: in 2003, an entire collection was devoted to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Love may be an eternal theme but today's Romeo and Juliet have been updated. Romeo is decked out in Montague-blue sapphires and lapis lazuli, while Juliet is clothed in orange sapphires, rubies and garnets. (top).  Romeo gallantly bows to offer Juliet a bouquet of mauve flowers, the colour symbolising the mixing of the blue and red of the feuding houses. The couple first made an appearance at Van Cleef & Arpels in 1951 when the house produced a stylised brooch of Romeo and Juliet (below). 

Van Cleef & Arpels created its first Romeo and Juliet brooches in 1951 offering a stylised version of the famous lovers. Juliet is on the balcony while Romeo is down on one knee. 

In keeping with house tradition, Van Cleef & Arpels chooses different narratives or themes each year for its high jewellery collections. Over the past decade, amongst others, we have had the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales; designs with secrets or hidden elements; a groovy California Dreaming collection; jewels inspired by the Seven Seas and a glittering collection evoking the Legendary Balls of the past centuries.  

Van Cleef & Arpels Innamorato bracelet Romeo and Juliet jewels
Colour is an important part of the story telling of the Romeo and Juliet jewels. The Innamorato, Italian for in love, bracelet features a graduation of pink to mauve sapphires symbolising the merging of Capulet red and the Montague blue, with rich ornamental details evocative of the Renaissance. 

Though distinctly Van Cleef in its use of mystery settings, elaborate constructions and an abundance of the finest gemstones, the jewels present a wide-range of styles. Rich, saturated colours and ornate goldwork (above) evoke the jewellery of the era alongside more literal references to Verona, such as the famous balcony (below) complete with swags of ivy. Exquisite details abound: the back of the Balcony brooch reveals Romeo and Juliet holding hands, cast in gold and hidden from the world. 

Van Cleef & Arpels Balcone brooch Romeo and Juliet jewels
Emeralds and tsavorites cascade down like ivy from the Balcone brooch, a clear reference to the famous Verona balcony from which Juliet called out Romeo in Shakespeare’s 1597 tragedy. The back of the brooch shows the two lovers cast in gold holding hands. 

Colour is cleverly used in this gemstone narrative.  References to Romeo and the Montague family are flagged by the use of azure-hued stones while Juliet and the Capulets are conjured up in pink and red tones.  A fine example is the Matrimonio necklace (below) in which regal sapphires and lapis lazuli representing the Montague blue livery are symbolically paired with rubies, pink sapphires and garnets of Capulet red. In the Innamorato bracelet - the Italian for in love -  pink sapphires graduate to mauve, telling of the union of the two opposing houses.

The three Colombian emeralds in the Lovers' Path bracelet (above) remind us of the optimism of love while the blood red of the Burmese ruby in the Filtro d'Amore ring speaks of passion but also tragedy. In contrast, the deep pools of the 50-carat aquamarines in the Fonte torque bracelet evoke the cool fountains of Renaissance Verona creating a luxuriant backdrop to this tale of thwarted love. 

Van Cleef & Arpels Rose Matrimonio necklace Romeo and Juliet jewels
Loaded with symbolism, the Matrimonio or marriage necklace emphasises through the repetition of weighty diamond-set links and knots, the union of the Romeo and Juliet. The central 13.78-carat purplish-pink sapphire was chosen to represent the fusion of the red and blue of the warring houses.

Continuing another Van Cleef tradition, many of the jewels can be transformed and worn in more ways than one. A richly gem-set rose on the Montague and Capulet necklaces unclips to be worn as a brooch (below). Lavishly jewelled pendants unhook from necklaces to become earrings and necklaces transform from red carpet statement jewels to more informal day wear.

Van Cleef & Arpels Rose Montague necklace Romeo and Juliet jewels
Of the 100 jewels in the collection, many of them are transformable such as the Capulet necklace with a detachable rose pendant that can be taken off and worn as a clip. The pink of the gems represents the Capulet house colours. 

More abstract references include the Maiolica necklace (below) named for the blue and white pottery popular at the time. The Maiolica colours are captured in a regal 42-carat Sri Lankan sapphires and diamonds. And like all the gemstones in this collection, Van Cleef’s ability to source the finest quality stones shines out.

Van Cleef & Arpels Maiolica necklace Romeo and Juliet jewels
The Romeo and Juliet collection uses both abstract and figurative motifs to conjure up in gems the universe of the two star-crossed lovers including Renaissance references such as the blue and white of Maiolica pottery captured in a 42-carat Sri Lankan sapphire and diamonds. 

Van Cleef & Arpels is one of the few jewellery houses to indulge in such elaborate story-telling in its jewellery collections.  But as this collection shows, in the right hands, jewels have the power to transport us to the world of Shakespeare without a single word being uttered . 

 

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