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The allure of the Far East
Pagodas, dragons, chimeras… A fascination for Far Eastern culture swept over Parisian jewelry in the 1920s. The Universal Exhibitions were opportunities for the public to discover ceramics, silks, bronzes and other wonders that fueled Van Cleef & Arpels’ imagination. Japan, with its traditional savoir-faire and captivating landscapes, also inspired the motifs adorning precious objects such as powder boxes and vanity cases.
Japanese seaside landscape vanity case, circa 1925
White and yellow gold, pearl, malachite, onyx, mother-of-pearl, enamel, diamonds
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
The trend for exoticism was at its height in 1931, at the Paris Colonial Exposition in Paris.
For this event, which drew millions of visitors, the Maison created the Chapeaux Chinois jewelry set, which won first prize.
Chinese hat ring, 1931, yellow gold
Chinese hat necklace, 1931, yellow gold
The influence of the Middle Kingdom also provided the Maison with new materials: coral, lapis lazuli and jade, highly prized in China, began to arrive in the West where they were paired with precious stones, while enamel mimicked the veneer of lacquer.
Necklace, 1973, yellow gold, carved jade, lapis lazuli
Elephant bracelet, 1978, yellow gold, emeralds, rubies, conch shell, diamonds
Necklace, 1971, yellow gold, amethysts
Two lion heads bracelet, 1974, yellow gold, chrysoprases, ivory
Earrings, 1973, yellow gold, carved jade, lapis lazuli, diamonds
Leopard bracelet, 1973, platinum, yellow gold, emeralds, pearl, onyx, diamonds
In addition, Van Cleef & Arpels interpreted select symbols and mythological creatures associated with the Far East. Dragons feature prominently throughout various periods, as do representations of Buddha in the 1920s, followed by renewed interest in Asian cultures in the 1960s and 1970s, and finally, current collections. Zen gardens, fantastic creatures and traditional costumes continue to exert their charm over the Maison.
Siamese head clip, 1968, yellow gold, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, diamonds
Dragon clip, 1969, yellow gold, emeralds, coral