To outsiders, the world of fine jewelry is a cloistered salon located behind double-locked doors guarded by a broad-shouldered man with an expressionless gaze and an earpiece.
This spring however, Van Cleef & Arpels intends to throw open those doors to connoisseurs and curiosity seekers interested in learning about fine jewelry and watchmaking.
From June 4 to 18, L’École Van Cleef & Arpels will be in session.
Founded by the 119-year-old French maison, the school, which opened in February 2012 in an 18th-century townhouse located on Paris’ Place Vendôme, offers a nontechnical curriculum structured around three pillars: savoir faire (jewelry-making techniques), the universe of gemstones, and art history. Twelve courses in all will be taught at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan, and enrollment will be limited to a maximum of 12 participants each.
“Even before we opened the door in Paris, we wanted this to be an itinerant university,” said Marie Vallanet-Delhom, president of L’École Van Cleef & Arpels, during a press presentation at the Cooper Hewitt on Jan. 13. She noted that the school’s first stop outside of Paris was Tokyo, followed by Hong Kong.
Courses focus on jewelry’s enduring symbolism, the distinguishing features of French craftsmanship, and Van Cleef & Arpels’ heritage, and include hands-on experiences making jewelry, from design to mock-up, and deconstructing and reassembling mechanical watch movements.
The education at L’École is flexible—it is possible to sign up for one or several courses. Tuition starts at $400, and the courses are open to the general public.