Van Cleef and Arpels at the Cooper-Hewitt

February 21, 2011 2:36:44 PM PST
Emeralds, rubies, and diamonds are all part of the dazzling baubles on display at The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

"Cooper-Hewitt is interested in all aspects of design, and jewelry design is part of our mission," said Nicholas Bos, the Worldwide Creative Director for Van Cleef and Arpels.

Van Cleef and Arpels designed many of the sparkling pieces. The jewelry house opened in 1896 and first came to the United States in 1939 during the Worlds Fair. But the jewels are on display for their designs, not just their stones.

"Each and every piece starts with a story a reference," said Sarah Coffin, the curator of the museum.

It takes hundreds of hours to create each piece, and Van Clef and Arpels created what's called the mystery setting where the setting is invisible.

The displays boosts pieces such as the zipper necklace, which zips into a bracelet, and a brooch that can be transformed into earrings, with a yellow diamond a pendant.

The exhibition is divided into 6 categories including 1 devoted to exoticism, but the personalities section has everyone talking. Some of the pieces include Princess Grace's tiara. Eva Peron's necklace, and Marlene Dietrich's ruby bracelet, which is believed to have been worn only once.

There are millions of dollars of jewels on display, some pieces come from private collections, others from the vault of Van Cleef and Arpels. They are exquisite if not for the number of carats, for their craftsmanship including floating butterfly brooches, delicate gold handbags, corals to carats, and designs that sparkle.

The exhibit "Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels" is at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum from Feb. 18 to June 5;