Creating jewelry and dance resemble each other more than it would seem at first glance. The two art forms strive for excellence. They are the embodiment of accuracy and finesse, and cause soaring excitement.
The “Jewels” ballet
The legendary George Balanchine ballet has not lost its relevance after half a century since its first production. It was created for the troop of the New York City Ballet, with the participation of Claude Arpels. As acknowledged by Balanchine, it is the incredible beauty of jewelry masterpieces by Van Cleef & Arpels that have led him to the creation of the “Jewels” ballet. The first act is called “Emerald”, full of romantic music by Gabriel Fauré, since recalled to France. The second one, “Rubies”, is performed with the accompaniment of music by Igor Stravinsky, about the energetic New York City and the new world. Finally, the third part, the “Diamonds”, typifies the regal magnificence of imperial Russia, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s music. The splendor of the dance was emphasized by the jewelry masterpieces of the French House.
From a dance to the sketch
The collaboration between Arpels and Balanchine was not the Houses’ first recognition of their love for ballet. The miniature dancers, with a rose-cut diamond instead of a face, have been produced by Van Cleef & Arpels since the 1940s. The idea of creation belongs to the jeweler, John Rubel, and the designer of the American division of Van Cleef & Arpels, Maurice Duvalet.
Natives of Hungary, brothers John and Robert Rubel opened their first shop in Paris in 1915. Having received a wonderful experience in the historic homeland, in France they quickly attracted the attention of Van Cleef & Arpels. They began fruitful cooperation with them, and in 1939 the brothers immigrated to New York. There they continued to produce jewelry for the legendary House, already established in the USA. The partnership lasted for another four years before the Rubels opened their own company on Fifth Avenue.
According to the story, one evening at a late dinner in the “Latino” nightclub in the Lower East Side, John Rubel was captivated by a flamenco dancer. He quickly jotted down her drawing on the corner of the tablecloth. The very next day the idea was shown to Maurice Duvalet. Duvalet modified the sketch and turned it into a luxury brooch in the form of a Spanish dancer. It was the first jewelry piece from the ballet series that made both Van Cleef & Arpels and the Rubel brothers famous. Many historical items with the ballerina motif have the stigma of both companies (JR for VCA). Hence why the name John Rubel was very well known among jewelry collectors of the 20th century.
Among the earliest works with the ballerina motif, Van Cleef & Arpels called one of them The Danseuse Espagnole brooch. It depicts a famous Spanish dancer of the 18th century, Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo. The piece was manufactured in 1941 with rubies, emeralds and rose-cut diamonds, which previously belonged to the Spanish crown. The House bought this brooch back at Sotheby’s auction in 2002 along with two other interesting precious dancers. One of them was made a year later and depicts Camargo all the same. Meanwhile the second one, dated at 1943, is dedicated to the pride of Russian Ballet — Anna Pavlova.
The precious symbolism
The House’s customers relished such a precious dancer. They became a symbol of joy and hope in the difficult years of the Second World War. In fact, the ballerina figurine has a much more profound meaning. Becoming a professional dancer is not easy. In addition to the talent and physical exertion, one must demonstrate patience and discipline to help achieve this goal and to perfect the dance technique. In her life, a ballerina’s daily rehearsals take up the lion’s share of time. And any interruption can permanently close the door to the big stage. But the suffering pays off as soon as the dancer gets a role in a new production and copes with it. That is why the dancer has become a symbol of achieving their goals through hard work on themselves and honing their skills. It is identified with femininity, beauty, sophistication and elegance.