Hubert Burda Media

Ocean Crossing

Seven Seas, Van Cleef & Arpels’ latest haute joaillerie collection, is an odyssey of fantasy, adventure and discovery.

For Nicolas Bos, Van Cleef & Arpel’s president and CEO, small and understated is beautiful. It is not that size and flash do not matter, but in the brand’s latest haute joaillerie collection — Seven Seas, launched in Monaco in June — the emphasis is on creating real value through quality and craftsmanship, as opposed to focusing on the intrinsic value of the stones. “I wanted to communicate the same attention to detail, quality of stones and exclusivity shown in our impressive [heavy set] pieces, such as those from last year’s Peau d’Âne collection, in lighter, [more wearable] jewellery pieces. All the jewellery is made in the same workshops. It’s not the piece you’re going to look at in a museum display case, but one you’re going to wear tonight,” Bos explains.
The 250-piece collection that took nearly three years to develop was created at Van Cleef & Arpels’ in-house high jewellery workshop (which boasts approximately 40 mains d’or) and by independent Paris-based craftsmen who are specialists in different métiers. From deep blue, emerald green and intense black, to moonbeam white, golden yellow and blazing sunset red, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as the Arabian, Red, Mediterranean, Adriatic, Black and Caspian Seas are represented through rich compositions in a call to escape and discover. The oceans have opened up a world of boundless imagination and obvious colour associations. Through the sparkle and colour of the gemstones, one imagines gazing upon reflections off the sea in the afternoon sun, the sparkle of sleeping waters or the fascinating flora and fauna that flourish within and around the water.
The idea of the Seven Seas came naturally because nature continues to be an important, never-ending source of inspiration for the Maison: It revisits the worlds of the air (butterflies, birds and clouds), forest (leaves, flowers and animals) and sea (fish, seahorses and mermaids). Over the last 15 years, the oceans have made an appearance in the L’Atlantide collection suggesting the legendary sunken paradise Atlantis, California Rêverie bringing to mind the Pacific Ocean, and Les Voyages Extraordinaires inspired by Jules Verne’s science fiction novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The Maison’s deep-seated affection for the marine universe was triggered in 2011 when it was invited to create the Océan Tiara with wave motif for the wedding of Princess Charlene of Monaco. Bos comments: “We felt it was the perfect combination — the exploration of the seas and oceans, the wave motif coming from the inspiration for the tiara and the idea of creating more wearable pieces.”
Composed of modern, light, dynamic and wearable designs, the collection is targeted at the 21st-century woman and centres on a spirit of lightness, joy and movement in an aquatic dream world. The idea behind it is a unique way of creating and wearing high jewellery that Bos refers to as “a kind of cruise collection for high jewellery that you would want to wear while travelling, at sea or on a cruise”.
Taking this wearability a step further, Seven Seas incorporates a large number of hard and coloured gemstones. It includes the Adria cocktail ring in white gold and platinum adorned with diamonds, baguette-cut sapphires and paraíba-like tourmalines crowned by an 8.35-ct cushion-cut Zambian emerald, and the Khvalissian transformable sautoir in white gold with round diamonds, buff-topped round blue and mauve sapphires, and white cultured pearls that show off a predominance of turquoise beads.
“One of the criteria of high jewellery is to always go for the highest quality in everything, so of course you go for the best Kashmiri sapphires, diamonds and rubies, which are extremely impressive, very expensive pieces. But then you can also do absolutely beautiful pieces using the best quality of coral or the nicest colour of turquoise,” Bos says. “The classification — precious, non-precious and semi-precious — is a bit obsolete in a way. What matters is that it’s really exceptional in its category. Of course, exceptional turquoise is not as expensive as exceptional sapphires, but it can be as emotional. High jewellery in that sense is not so much a technique with criteria, but more a question of mindset. We’re trying to go for the most excellent level of detail, the most excellent quality of stones and the best possible level of craftsmanship. In each piece that we produce, we make sure that the finish and craftsmanship on the back of the piece is done with the same level of detail as the front, because what matters is to create an object that is as perfect as possible. This is very much the mindset of high jewellery and it can be done with mother-of-pearl, coral or onyx and still bear the same quality.”
A highlight of the collection is the Vagues Mystérieuses clip in white gold, featuring rolls of succeeding waves — the design recurs as a signature throughout the collection — formed by sapphires set using the Maison’s trademark Mystery Set (a technique patented in 1933 where there is no visible setting), curved volumes of diamonds and Paraíba-like tourmalines. Bos states: “If I had to pick one masterpiece, this would probably be the one because it’s very much in the great tradition of our Mystery Set pieces, yet it carries that feeling of lightness and movement. It’s a good illustration of the collection. In terms of design, the interesting thing with the inspiration from motion and the sea is that it’s a mix of abstract and figurative elements.”
Elsewhere, the Pangée necklace and earrings in white gold set with round and pear-shaped white diamonds continue the house’s long-standing links with Monaco and support the work of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Their countless curves evoke light shining off rhythmic, foamy rolling waves.
The sturdy yet flexible Rouleau Azur bracelet in white gold, diamonds, lapis lazuli and turquoise beads topped with bubbles of white cultured pearls showcases the knotted threading technique — a rare, ancient method long used by the house for creating rows of pearls, onyx, coral or other material, where you add one bead and make a small knot in the thread, then add another bead and another knot, and so on — in a modern design. It requires extraordinary precision and fluidity mastered by only a handful of artisans.
For the level of technical sophistication and craftsmanship, the Seven Seas collection does not take itself too seriously. The colourful Flamant Corail — a transformable necklace in pink gold, diamonds, pink sapphires, peridots, onyx, and pink and red corals — shows off a pink flamingo spreading its wings around the neck thanks to detailed articulation, with feathers displaying ethereal lightness. The Hippocampe seahorse clip in blue and mauve sapphires, Paraíba-like tourmalines, diamonds and amazonite has its tail wrapped around a grey cultured pearl. The house’s cherished feminine figures appear in the form of graceful dancing sea princesses en pointe or sirens encircled by splashing waves against a starry night sky.
In the cheerful Trois Tortues clip, Van Cleef & Arpels has reinterpreted a traditional animal from its menagerie: Three tiny turtles with sculpted white mother-of-pearl shells and cabochon-cut sapphire eyes swim through waves of white gold and diamonds. The Étoile de Mer starfish clip in pink gold unfurls five asymmetric arms in an evocation of movement. Its open-worked body is contoured in pear-shaped diamonds and round pink sapphires, while an elegant diamond flower sits at the centre. “The turtles are quite cute; the starfish is a little funny,” says Bos. “We wanted to have that dimension as well, that it’s something you can look at and smile, and not only be impressed, which is an important message to convey about high jewellery. It’s not a category that’s necessarily super formal and overwhelming; it’s one that can bring lightness and joy.”