Unveiled during Paris Couture week this July, Van Cleef & Arpels' Romeo and Juliet collection transports us to the universe of the Montagues and Capulets. The collection of 100 one-off jewels captures the drama played out between literature's two most famous lovers.
This year William Shakespeare’s 1597 tragedy of ill-fated love is the focus of the high jewellery collection but it is not the first time that the Place Vendôme maison has turned to Shakespeare: in 2003, an entire collection was devoted to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Love may be an eternal theme but today's Romeo and Juliet have been updated. Romeo is decked out in Montague-blue sapphires and lapis lazuli, while Juliet is clothed in orange sapphires, rubies and garnets. (top). Romeo gallantly bows to offer Juliet a bouquet of mauve flowers, the colour symbolising the mixing of the blue and red of the feuding houses. The couple first made an appearance at Van Cleef & Arpels in 1951 when the house produced a stylised brooch of Romeo and Juliet.
Though distinctly Van Cleef in its use of mystery settings, elaborate constructions and an abundance of the finest gemstones, the jewels present a wide-range of styles. Rich, saturated colours and ornate goldwork (above) evoke the jewellery of the era alongside more literal references to Verona, such as the famous balcony (below) complete with swags of ivy. Exquisite details abound: the back of the Balcony brooch reveals Romeo and Juliet holding hands, cast in gold and hidden from the world.
Colour is cleverly used in this gemstone narrative. References to Romeo and the Montague family are flagged by the use of azure-hued stones while Juliet and the Capulets are conjured up in pink and red tones. A fine example is the Matrimonio necklace (below) in which regal sapphires and lapis lazuli representing the Montague blue livery are symbolically paired with rubies, pink sapphires and garnets of Capulet red. In the Innamorato bracelet - the Italian for in love - pink sapphires graduate to mauve, telling of the union of the two opposing houses.