Van Cleef & Arpels ballerinas

Van Cleef & Arpels and dance – a creative pas de deux

Reading Time: 8 minutes

With a penchant for beauty and harmony to complement its perpetual quest for excellence, over the decades Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn boundless inspiration from dance. The art of ballet imparts an aura of poetry and a graceful flair into the Maison’s High Jewelry pieces and feminine figures – always delicate and captured in motion.

Van Cleef & Arpels ballerinas

Throughout its history, Van Cleef & Arpels has strengthened its ties with the world of dance through a multitude of artistic collaborations that all reflect its attachment to the values of creativity and sharing.

Van Cleef & Arpels ballerinas

Van Cleef & Arpels ballerinas

The bond between Van Cleef & Arpels and dance dates back to 1920s Paris. Louis Arpels, a fervent lover of ballet, often took his nephew Claude to the Opéra Garnier, located a short walk from the Place Vendôme boutique. The Maison’s first ballerina clips were created in the early 1940s, soon becoming Van Cleef & Arpels signature pieces. Their aerial attitudes and the beauty of their attire immediately captivated collectors. Featuring a gold or diamond face complemented by a precious head ornament, dancers are depicted with  point shoes and a tutu set with diamonds or colored stones that seems to flow, echoing their movements.


From left to right: Ballerina clip, 1945 Raymonda powder case, 1945 Van Cleef & Arpels Collection.

Sketches featuring dancer clips, circa 1940-1950 – Van Cleef & Arpels Archives

Van Cleef & Arpels’ dancers also reflect the influences that different cultures have had on its creations ever since 1906. They wear costumes from all over the world, from the South Pacific islands to the bewitching lands of the Orient.

From left to right:
Spanish Dancer clip, 1941
Ballerina clip, 1943
Dancer clip, 1969
Dancer clip, 1993
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels’ dancers also reflect the influences that different cultures have had on its creations ever since 1906. They wear costumes from all over the world, from the South Pacific islands to the bewitching lands of  the Orient.

From left to right:
Odette ballerina clip, white gold, diamonds
Swan Lake ballerina clip, white gold, black spinels, diamonds

Made of creased gold, precious and ornamental stones, the tutus fashioned by the Mains d’Or replicate the forms and textures of stage costumes. Displaying the Maison’s savoir-faire, they swathe dancers in myriad colors evocative of famous ballets including Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Firebird and Les Sylphides.

According to their artistic universe, the Maison’s ballerina clips resonate with the delicate dancers depicted in watch collections. With talent, the Van Cleef & Arpels workshops portray all the grace of their movements. By combining watchmaking expertise and mastery of singular fine crafts, the Maison breathes life into operatic dreams and sparkling ballets.

Graphic interpretations

Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has also interpreted the movement of dancers and the diversity of their costumes in abstract jewelry creations. Delicate lace, precious drapery or diamond swirls give birth to pieces suggesting the airiness of ballerinas.

From top to bottom:
Tourbillon (Whirl) clips, 1948
Draped earrings, 1960
Reverso clip, 1957
Lace clip, 1984
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection

High Jewelry clips

This year, the delicate movements, elegant costumes and sumptuous scenery of ballet have suffused three High Jewelry clips with enchanting poetry. The silhouettes are clothed in emeralds, diamonds and rubies respectively, to evoke both classical and romantic ballets. Illustrating the expertise of the Maison’s craftsmen, every detail has been invested with special attentionn– a characteristic of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations.

High Jewelry clips

The silhouette of the Camille ballerina clip seems to mark a graceful pause, as if about to launch into a whirling figure. In keeping with the Maison’s criteria of excellence, creating this complex piece required all the expertise and attention of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Mains d’Or. Captured in an ethereal posture, the dancer’s body was intricately sculpted in green wax before being shaped in polished white gold. The ballerina’s gesture are accentuated by the shimmer of the precious metal, while her diamond face – a Van Cleef & Arpels signature – is subtly crowned with a headdress in yellow gold and yellow sapphires, to match her discreet ballet shoes.

High Jewelry clips

Camille ballerina clip
White gold, yellow gold, emeralds, yellow sapphires, diamonds

Testimony to exceptional jewelry-making craftsmanship, a cloud of emeralds in serti-neige style setting adorns the dancer’s voluminous tutu in yellow gold. This paving technique uses stones of different diameters, enabling a maximum of the surface to be covered, and enhancing the movement of the skirt. The skirt’s tulle lining is subtly suggested by the sparkle of paved diamonds. The combination of yellow and white gold creates an effect of contrast, heightened by the interplay of glittering diamonds and vivid emeralds. Completing the ensemble, the back of the piece reveals intricate jewelry work, where openwork mingles with set stones. Designed like genuine three-dimensional sculptures, Van Cleef & Arpels’ ballerina clips reveal their refinement from every angle.

High Jewelry clips

Dulcinea ballerina clip
White gold, rose gold, diamonds

In the ballet Don Quichotte, by Marius Petipa, the young Dulcinea embodies the feminine ideal that Don Quichotte spends so much time dreaming about. At the heart of the first act, the man leads his muse in a classical minuet, offering a light-hearted interpretation of the themes of love and jealousy. The airiness of this traditional dance has inspired Van Cleef & Arpels’ Dulcinea ballerina clip, which seems ready to take flight in a saut de chat. The unfurled tutu instills the young woman’s silhouette with a particularly realistic relief effect.

The ballerina’s agility has been carefully transcribed in white gold, her diamond face crowned with a headdress entirely set with stones. Her costume combines the gentle shimmer of rose gold with the intense radiance of diamonds in grain setting. As if captured in mid-movement, the piece depicts both the precise gestures of the dancer, and their joyful festive spirit.

High Jewelry clips

Albertine ballerina clip
White gold, rose gold, rubies, diamonds

Inspired by the ballet Proust ou les intermittences du coeur, by Roland Petit, this clip depicts delicate Albertine, the writer’s muse. With an elegant gesture, the silhouette raises a hand in the air, as her ruby-and-diamond tutu unfurls. The intricate task of selecting, cutting and matching the rubies has resulted in a harmonious ensemble; its reddish glow is showcased by the sparkle of diamonds and the characteristic softness of rose gold, which subtly hems the skirt. Delicately encircled by a line of diamonds, her costume highlights the ballerina’s waist and bearing.

This new creation celebrates all the majesty of a dancer in motion. Suggested by a diamond, her face is crowned with a paved headdress, while her chignon is discreetly set with a diamond – proof of the Maison’s attention to every detail. The Albertine ballerina clip also stands out for a combination of diamonds and rubies, endowing the piece with all its radiance. In this graceful clip, Van Cleef & Arpels perpetuates the heritage of its first dancer jewels, on which sweeping skirts accompanied lively dance steps.

From left to right and top to bottom:
Jewelry craftsmanship, openwork on the skirt of the Albertine ballerina clip
Jewelry craftsmanship, assembling the skirt
Setting the diamond face of the ballerina
Polishing the back of the creation with a brush

Bouton d’or ballerina clip – A ballet of intense reflections

Inspired by the Maison’s heritage, the Bouton d’or collection is welcoming a new creation, which combines a graphic interpretation of the “paillette” motif with the graceful world of dance, so dear to Van Cleef & Arpels. With its first ballerina clip in contemporary Jewelry, the Maison is pursuing its quest for excellence, and echoing the virtuosity of its High Jewelry and Watchmaking feminine figures. Exceptional savoir-faire and an intricate selection of rare materials come together to create a delicate piece, in keeping with the poetic spirit of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Bouton d’or ballerina clip

Brilliance and vitality unite to breathe life into the Bouton d’or ballerina clip’s delicate silhouette. After being carefully sculpted in green wax – to ascertain its volume and proportions with precision – the dancer’s body is shaped in polished yellow gold. The pure lines of her posture are complemented by the metal’s warm gleam, instilling the creation with grace.

Bouton d’or ballerina clip

Bouton d’or ballerina clip
Yellow gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, diamonds

Her colored skirt unfurls in three dimensions, thanks to the “paillette” motif inspired by the Maison’s heritage. A testimony to the savoir-faire of Van Cleef & Arpels’ craftsmen, each rounded pastille in gold or ornamental stone is reworked by hand, before being carefully polished to bring out its full luster. The juxtaposition of yellow gold, turquoise and lapis lazuli motifs creates generous relief effects on the piece, interspersed with sparkling diamonds scattered across the figurine’s costume and headdress. The impression of movement is accentuated by a row of diamond drop beads, which quiver at the slightest movement.

A ballet of colors

With its intricately selected and matched motifs of ornamental stones, the Bouton d’or ballerina clip reveals all the expertise of Van Cleef & Arpels. For the turquoise and lapis lazuli, the Maison has paid close attention to the evenness and intensity of their shades. The stones also had to be matched for color.

Bouton d’or ballerina clip

From left to right:
Bouton d’or ring, yellow gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, diamonds
Bouton d’or ballerina clip, yellow gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, diamonds
Piece of uncut lapis lazuli

The turquoise – of great rarity – is prized by the Maison for its radiant skyblue color. Meanwhile, the lapis lazuli displays a deep midnight blue, subtly sprinkled with flakes of pyrite that echo the warmth of yellow gold.

Set at the heart of each pastille, the diamonds have been chosen according to Van Cleef & Arpels’ standards of excellence: D, E or F for color, IF or VVS for clarity.

A piece inspired by the Maison’s heritage

With its rounded lines, the Bouton d’or ballerina clip gives pride of place to the “paillette” motif, first introduced by the Maison in 1936 on necklaces and clips. Made up of a pastille in yellow gold with a precious stone set at its center, it was inspired by the universe of couture, evoking the sequins that adorned the costumes and precious fabrics of the period. During the 1940s, Van Cleef & Arpels revisited the motif in different interpretations: gathered together on a convex ring, spread along the strands of an opulent necklace or combined to provide refined volume to the skirts of the Maison’s ballerinas.

From left to right:
Product-card of a Clochette five rows bracelet, 1936. Van Cleef & Arpels Archives
Paillettes ballerina clip, 1953. Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
© Van Cleef & Arpels SA – Patrick Gries

Within the Bouton d’or collection, the motif is constantly renewed in varied associations of materials: alternately in chrysoprase and onyx, carnelian and mother-of-pearl or in a blend of white and rose gold. Since 2018, five creations have supplemented these harmonies, bringing together turquoise and lapis lazuli. The Bouton d’or ballerina clip enriches this cherished Van Cleef & Arpels aesthetic, by incorporating another of its key sources of inspiration: dance.

At the crossroads of arts

The bond uniting Van Cleef & Arpels and the world of dance grew even stronger in the 1950s, when Claude Arpels – Louis Arpels’ nephew – made the acquaintance of famed choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet.

Their shared passion for precious stones sparked the idea for an original ballet, as George Balanchine describes in his memoirs: “The idea for a new ballet using jeweled costumes came about some years ago when my friend Nathan Milstein introduced me to Claude Arpels, the jeweler. I saw later the splendid stones in his collection in New York. Of course, I have always liked jewels […]. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of the real stones, which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!”*

Balanchine’s Jewels premiered in April 1967. Each act of this non-narrative triptych pays tribute to a particular gemstone and an individual composer: Gabriel Fauré for Emeralds, Igor Stravinsky for Rubies and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerines Musicales
Pierre Arpels, ballerina Suzanne Farrell and choreographer George Balanchine, circa 1976
BALANCHINE is a trademark of The George Balanchine Trust.

* 101 Stories of the Great Ballets, George Balanchine and Francis Mason, 1975, Anchor Books Page 1, left-hand visual: Paquita ballerina clip, white gold, diamonds Page 1, right-hand visual: Reflections, L.A. Dance Project © Laurent Philippe

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