Van Cleef & Arpels is a french jewelry house known for their whimsical designs from florals to fairies and charming ballerinas. They are also known for is their jewelry making school called L’ÉCOLE which, until recently, was only offered in Paris. Now, L’ÉCOLE has found a temporary new home in New York offering classes until mid-June for people like me that are interested in how things are created and learning by doing. Tucked elegantly into the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, you can’t help but feel like you are transported to Paris in a classroom wrapped in crown molding and french accented teachers who are skilled jewelers guiding you.
The course I took was Savoir-Faire, a four hour class where skilled instructors walk you through the first six steps of jewelry making. I loved learning how to paint a diamond in gouache, and how a little flat butterfly design becomes something you learn how to cut out, shape, hold and glue diamonds (ok, rhinestones) into as they teach you the jeweler’s gestures.
These classes are very intimate, only 12 students, and run from now through June 18th. Other courses include looking into the world of watchmaking, gemstones, and the art history of jewelry.
I’ve always appreciated the beauty of high jewelry but until I actually tried my hand at it, I didn’t understand the intense skill it requires to make the charming pieces I am so lucky to get to wear to events like this past year’s School of American Ballet Winter Ball. I wouldn’t exactly say I learned a new skill yesterday (in fact I learned it takes 10-15 years as an apprentice before you can begin to make high jewelry) but I certainly did gain a new level of understanding into a world that makes life sparkle.