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The Cooper-Hewitt Celebrates Van Cleef & Arpels’ Legacy and Artistry

Christina Garofalo

The French luxury house Van Cleef & Arpels is being recognized for its contributions to the history of jewelry, fashion, and art at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York with an expansive exhibit held from February 18 to June 5, 2011. Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels will showcase more than 300 timepieces, fashion accessories, design drawings, images from the firm’s archives, and, of course, an abundance of jewelry in six themes that reflect its legacy: Innovation, Transformation, Nature, Exoticism, Fashion, and Personalities.

The Innovations category highlights the brand’s Mystery Setting, a 1933 patented technique in which stones are cut to fit a metal grid so there is no visible metal setting. Among the standout Mystery Setting pieces is a ruby Peony brooch, circa 1937. In the Fashion theme are five minaudières, including elaborate jeweled models and the brand’s first 1930s piece inspired by Florence Jay Gould, wife of the American philanthropist Frank Jay Gould. The exhibit’s Transformation portion features a 95-carat yellow diamond bird brooch, whose wings become a set of earrings. Exoticism and Nature show the recurring influence of travel and natural inspirations on classic Van Cleef & Arpels motifs like the butterfly, and Personalities will demonstrate the influence the house has had in American society through famous patrons like Elizabeth Taylor, whose amethyst, coral, and diamond bracelet and matching pendant earrings are shown, along with the tiara worn by Princess Grace of Monaco. (212.849.8400, www.cooperhewitt.org)

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