When 18th-century gentlemen headed to Europe to partake of the Grand Tour—a crucial step in a civilizing education—they often recorded cultural sites in charming paintings, in much the same way that today’s globe-trotters snap away with smartphones. Van Cleef & Arpels, the Paris jeweler that was founded in 1906, has taken those watercolor reveries as inspiration for a new array of treasures: four bracelets set with impressionistic combinations of gemstones—sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, and more—that evoke the landscapes of Rome, Florence, Naples, and Venice.
“Turning a watercolor into a bejeweled bracelet is both a technical challenge that I wanted to push even further and a very interesting creative development,” says Nicolas Bos, the president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “They call to mind true paintings, but they are fully articulated, with a very complex and detailed work of connections ensuring suppleness.”
Utilizing gems embedded with a density that recalls Italy’s centuries-old tradition of micro-mosaics, the series (part of the larger Le Grand Tour collection) is a pointillistic parade of romantic cityscapes—a bevy of legendary architectural elements relieved by green leaves and blue waters. Embodying Rome, the Escale Antique bracelet is worked with imagery of the Colosseum and columns found in the Forum. Escale Sacrée is delicately emblazoned with Florence’s Duomo emerging from a star-studded evening sky. The Neapolitan bracelet, known as Escale Sur La Baie, features Mount Vesuvius erupting above the shimmering Bay of Naples. As for the Venetian segment of this lapidary journey, the Escale Au Palais bracelet is spiked with graphic Venetian Gothic arches from the Doge’s Palace, as well as candy-striped gondola poles. Small wonder that Bos likens the bracelets to extracts from a travel diary. Lucky for those of us who can’t draw a straight line, Van Cleef & Arpels has taken brush in hand and conjured a quartet of masterworks. Price upon request; vancleefarpels.com