By Francesca Fearon in London
Van Cleef & Arpels is renowned for the poetry and dreaminess of its designs, but its new haute joallerie Peau d'Âne collection scales new heights. The collection is inspired by Charles Perrault's magical fairy tale of Peau d'Âne (Donkey Skin), the story of a princess who flees her home for the forest when a strange madness grips her father the king following the death of her mother.
Every little girl in France knows this captivating story, which was made into a movie by Jacques Demy in 1970, starring Catherine Deneuve as the princess. Nicolas Bos, CEO and creative director of Van Cleef & Arpels, learned that the film was being restored and, perhaps becoming reacquainted with the tale through his own two small daughters, was inspired to create a collection of exquisite jewels around the story.
The collection was launched at a spectacular event at Chateau Chambord in the Loire valley - the location of Jacques Demy's film - which recreated some of the elements from the film, including the Renaissance-style wedding feast and the procession of fantastical animals.
"We thought it was time to go back in history to discover the art, poetry, literature and architecture of the early 16th century, when the beautiful castle of Chambord was commissioned," says Bos. "We wanted to give another, 21st-century interpretation using our own art: exceptional stones and the magic of our workmanship to of that fairy tale."
The luscious Pop Art colours, the romantic figures and the rich pictorial panoramas of the film inspired the vivid, painterly jewels in this new collection. The king's castle brooch features a spellbinding 39-carat emerald surrounded by blue and purple sapphires. The Lilac Fairy (the princess' godmother), evocative of earlier Van Cleef & Arpels fairy clips, is delicately set with rose-cut diamonds and pink and purple spinels and sapphires.
There are a number of the popular signature ballerina-style brooches featuring the princess' Sky, Moon and Sun dresses. A sumptuous marquise-cut diamond and pear-shaped aquamarine swag necklace echoes the hues of Deneuve's princess dress in the opening scenes and is designed as every little girl's dream princess necklace.
The forest creatures the princess encounters when she escapes the castle - the birds, fawns and rabbits - are depicted on brooches, and there is a yellow and white diamond ring that resembles a delicious cake, with a Zambian emerald as the blob of icing on the top.
There are more than 100 pieces in the collection, several of which were modelled in the pageantry at the Chateau, but more will be on display at the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires in September.
As Rosalie Varda Demy, daughter of the film director, says: "If my father had been here he would have been very pleased with what Van Cleef & Arpels have done. He would have enjoyed seeing how they have taken his film to another place - into the world of jewels."