“These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume.”
- William Shakespeare.
Friar Laurence has the sensible idea that the brightest flame burn the quickest. But putting Romeo and Juliet’s unfortunate ending aside, not all great romances end in tragedy. Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef’s story, for instance, is one for the ages.
The young lovers were bound not only by their affections for each other but also the desire to create something everlasting together. The Van Cleef & Arpels’ brand itself was born out of love—if the diamond heart jewel created at the very onset of the brand was anything to go by.
So when French choreographer and long-time collaborator Benjamin Millepied told the Maison about his plans for a modern revival of the Shakespeare’s play, it saw a parallel between the star-crossed lovers and young Estelle and Alfred and began sketching the foundation for the new high jewellery collection.
Reminiscing of the Romeo and Juliet clips from 1951, Van Cleef & Arpels crafted over 100 unique pieces that are worthy of the retelling of the classic, taking into account the setting, costumes and architectural style of the period.
The Verona necklace, in particular, gives a concise and lucid description of the city that served as the backdrop of the stage show. Verona’s winding alleys and hidden passageways are illustrated through graphic lines that connect Renaissance-esque round and geometric shapes, while the Adige River is painted with blue sapphires and diamonds.
Adding Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature savoir-faire to it, the necklace is enhanced with features that enable it to be worn in three distinct styles: long necklace, short necklace with a bracelet, and two bracelets and a clip.
Chameleon-like objects are scattered throughout the collection that includes the Kiss at the Balcony earrings.
Inspired by the scene in Act 2 where Romeo clambers up the vines on the wall of the Capulet family home and professes his intense feelings for Juliet, the detachable earrings are appropriately embellished with re-red rubies and diamonds. The Balcone clips, on the other hand, interpret the balcony scene in a more literal fashion.
A garland of ivy is conveyed with emeralds, tsavorite garnets and diamonds, cascading down from a diamond balcony and drawing away the attention from the lovebirds on the back of the piece. The different stone cuts, setting techniques and of course, the seamless colour gradations showcase the ingenuity of the Maison’s gemologists.
Shades of red and blue that dominate the slate signify the coats of arms of the warring families. A blend of the two hues birth a royal mauve that symbolises the love between Romeo and Juliet, and ultimately the end of an age-old feud. This is expressed best by the Romeo & Juliet clips.
Here, Romeo’s tunic is reimagined with blue sapphires and lapis lazuli; his stockings with white gold and black lacquer; his cape with a yellow diamond; and his engraved sword with diamonds. Juliet’s puff-sleeved dress, conversely, boasts orange sapphires, garnets, rubies and diamonds. A bouquet of mauve sapphire flowers completes the look.
Drawing the curtains to the collection, Van Cleef & Arpels sees the conclusion to Romeo and Juliet in a new, more uplifting light. The Filtro d’amore ring evokes the potion that binds Romeo and Juliet for eternity with calibrated rubies winding around its diamond-set body like scarlet ribbons — a symbol of undying love.