The phrase, Richard Lassel’s brainchild, first appeared in his book “Voyage to Italy,” in 1670. Today, it serves as Van Cleef and Arpels’ chosen name for its latest high jewelry collection. Villa Medici’s cultural significance and encapsulation of the Italian Renaissance, conjured an idyllic stage for the highly anticipated unveiling. The cultural initiation, dating back to the 16th until the 19th century, saw Europe’s young elite commence an expedition as means of further education. Specifically, the coming-of-age voyage nourished the minds of its travellers with the fruits of art, architecture and heritage through an intellectually sophisticated route – London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice and Baden-Baden.
The significance of said expedition, was in its ability to imbue varying visual influences and techniques, associated with distinctive time periods and places, in a single piece of art. According to Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, the objects collected from explorations provided, “a rich tapestry of the arts and culture which has inspired the Maison over the years.” The deeply rooted influences of Le Grand Tour and the Maison are plentiful. From bespoke jewelry designs, dating back to “the maharajahs of Hyderabad, Indore and Nepal,” to the neoclassical influences from Roman souvenirs says Bos. Tremours of design innovation were felt industry wide, with returning travellers sharing their newly found knowledge of crafting techniques. Examples include micro-mosaics, cameos and intaglios, most of which have been referenced within the Maison’s latest high jewelry collection. The creations within Le Grand Tour reflect the multifaceted nature of the expeditions while showcasing Van Cleef and Arpels’ unrivalled savoir-faire in gemstone selection, design and execution. A curation of three of the most impressionable pieces awaits below.
The Josiah necklace, the piece that has become the face of the collection, draws its inspiration from the Le Grand Tour’s primary stop – London. The necklace’s colour profile pays homage to Britain’s signature white and blue Wedgewood porcelain with its featuring of mystery-set white diamond baguettes and hovering cornflower blue sapphire ovals. As is characteristic of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry, this piece too, transforms into a set of drop earrings. Moreover, the Italian Renaissance is laced in the collection’s Ode À L’Amour ring, a piece which draws its inspiration from Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” The warm hues of the ring’s pink sapphire and rubies, couched in rose gold, make for a whimsical aesthetic. Finally, the Lucendi chandelier earrings depict the Parisian stop of Le Grand Tour. A mini swing, formed by the pampilles detailing and chains, allow the rubellites to showcase their acrobatic magic on the lobes.
Ironically, Le Grand Tour, an undertaking requiring travel and collaboration, was conceived and executed during the global pandemic, a time where both were prohibited. To a large degree, the launch of the collection, mirrored the sentiments of the voyagers who inspired its pieces. Jewelry’s finest, too, travelled from around the globe to engage in cultural exchange and learn about the artistry of the collection on their very own (albeit mini) Grand Tour. Perhaps a lucky few, secured a fine jewelry souvenir too.