Earlier this year, an unusual jewelry school opened in Paris. It's not the usual kind of workshop you could go to for these are classes presented by one of the world's top jewelry houses.

Van Cleef and Arpels was founded over a century ago. It has a storied clientele which includes the rich and famous such as the Rothchilds, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.

Their sterling reputation rests on their exquisite work with gemstones. They pioneered and patented an innovative gemstone paving  technique which shows no visible claws or prongs. One of their most iconic designs dating back to 1950 has to be the zip necklace which opens and closes just like a real zip.

Their latest venture, the L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels opens the door to jewelry lovers who wish to learn more about fine jewelry making.  The head of the school, Marie Vallanet-Delhom, says it is all about  "passing on, sharing and teaching knowledge."

The school is not meant for professionals but for keen amateurs.   It is much like going to a wine tasting if you adore wine.  Indeed, the school was inspired by such classes. Vallanet-Delhom said, "Teaching oenology is similar in many ways. Whereas technical schools train sommeliers, introductory courses are available to individuals keen to develop their tastes, to find words to express their sensations and to satisfy their curiosity."

jewelry school
Salon for classes

There is some classroom instruction but as this video shows, students get plenty of amazing hands-on experience in the workshop.

The classes are taught in English and French.  They are structured around 3 themes - Unveiling (aesthetics and gemology), Shedding Light On (jewelry history and craftsmanship) and Revealing (workshop visit).

There are 7 modules, each lasting 4 hours. The instructors are experts in their fields including a jeweler, art historian, gemologist and so on.  The cost is between $750 - $1200 depending on which modules are taken.

The school is located in a beautiful 18th century townhouse right on the historic square called Place Vendôme. 

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