New ‘Gems’ Exhibit to Open in Paris (Good Thing There’s This Book)

Happy: On Sept. 16, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris will unveil a new exhibit titled Gems in collaboration with the famed French jewelry maison Van Cleef & Arpels.

Sad: As of this writing, no Americans are allowed in Paris (and much of Europe) due to the pandemic.

Consolation: You can visit the treasures on display through the exhibition’s companion book Gems ($45, Flammarion), which was published earlier this month.

And the 304-page volume isn’t just a lavishly illustrated catalog to cure your FOMO. It’s also a stand-alone reference guide to the world of minerals and gems, with important Van Cleef & Arpels masterpieces layered into the narrative.

The finished jewels enliven the discussion with the maison’s signature rubies, sapphires, and emeralds and also stones such as morganite (see the Griffon Clip from 2015, which shows the mythical creature grasping an oval-cut morganite with its talons) and tiger’s-eye (shaped into little rabbit clips further adorned in diamonds, black spinel, and onyx).

Penned by an international team of mineralogists, scientists, specialists in natural history, and jewelry historians, the information contained in Gems was overseen by François Farges, professor of mineralogy at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Farges is also an honorary professor at Stanford University as well as a member of the Institut Universitaire de France, specializing in environmental and heritage mineralogy.

A must for your most curious and sophisticated collectors, your store’s stash of window or coffee-table props, or for anyone who needs to create gem and jewelry content using scholarly, yet easy-to-digest information, the book has a brief glossary to help you find what you need, but part of the fun is getting lost in the photography and “stories of the earth.”

As stated on one of the very first pages: “Gemstones are like an open book on the past.”

Van Cleef Arpels cornflowers bouquet clip
Cornflowers bouquet clip with chalcedony and rubies in gold, 1938, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection (photo: © MNHN/François Farges)
Melo pearls
Thirty-one melo pearls, formerly belonging to Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai (1926–1945), private collection (photo: © MNHN/François Farges) 
Vendome Larbre aux tourmalines
L’arbres aux Tourmalines with elbaite and liddicoatite tourmaline, beryl, quartz, and opals, Jean Vendome, 1976. Rebuilt and restored by Thierry Vendome in 2019 (photo: © MNHN).
Van Cleef Arpels collaret
Collaret in diamonds and platinum, 1939 (former collection of Queen Nazli of Egypt), Van Cleef & Arpels Collection (photo: Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels)


Top: The cover of Gems (Flammarion, 2020) shows the Fuchsia Clip featuring Mystery Set rubies and diamonds in yellow gold and platinum, 1968, Van Cleef & Arpels (photo: © Eric Sauvage).


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JCK Contributing Editor

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