In Praise of Hands: The Art of Fine Jewelry at Van Cleef & Arpels

Image of In Praise of Hands: The Art of Fine Jewelry at Van Cleef & Arpels
Release Date: 
September 18, 2013
Reviewed by: 

From Project to Object might be an apt subtitle for this glorious love letter about one of the most revered and notable jewelers or “maisons of jewelry” that the world will ever know. This exquisite book can be used as a primer for those starved for intimate knowledge about the innovative and enduring company, or those who enjoy reading lovingly conceived stories of how a piece of art goes from ideation thru its many steps to completion.

“The human hand takes pride in its work, which provides its most authentic means of self-realization.”

Those are the words of Nicolas Bos, the President of Van Cleef & Arpels. Within those words lies the raison d’etre for a book that celebrates the “Mains D’or” responsible for every step and process that is required for each piece of jewelry produced in Van Cleef & Arpels’s atelier on the Place Vendome in Paris.

If you are expecting a coffee table compendium of images celebrating merely Van Cleef & Arpels’s finished product, this book is not that. This book is rich in history and backstory, minutiae and the intricacies of process. In Praise of Hands sets the platinum bar for a company biography that really captures the essence of the whole—pun intended.

“In these pages we wish to explain how each piece of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry is the work of the Mains D’or who, though inconspicuous, play a fundamental role.”

Are you aware the VC&A is the inventor of the much lauded and admired “mystery” setting? Did you know that VC&A was the originator/inventor of the minaudiere, which was first conceived in the 1930s for one Florence Gould?

“The refined poetry of Van Cleef & Arpels has specific requirements and demands. To work in these workshops, with their beautifully designed jewels, is the ultimate recognition of a craftsman’s professionalism and rigor.”

On that note, this reader says au revoir!