Van Cleef & Arpels immortalises the enduring legends and romance of the Brothers Grimm

Fairy tales are as old as civilisation itself. The Chinese of the Tang Dynasty first told the Tale of Yeh Xian (or Yeh Shan), the Chinese Cinderella, at around 850 AD. In the early 19th century, the Brothers Grimm published a book of German folk tales that they had collected and rewritten, which included classics such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and, of course, Cinderella.

In Asia, like the rest of the world, the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales have become well known and loved

In Asia, like the rest of the world, these tales have become well known and loved. In 2014, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm was named one of South China Morning Post’s Best Books of the Year. And only recently, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei presented one of his sculptural pieces to the new Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel in central Germany, where work on the famous book of fairy tales was first begun.

The two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, likened the stories they were collecting to “fragments of precious stone”. Within this fantastic realm of heroes and heroines, villains and evil-doers inhabiting an enchanted landscape of deep dark forests, diamond flowerbeds and trees with golden apples, Van Cleef & Arpels’ have found the inspiration for their new High Jewellery collection, Quatre contes de Grimm.

Drawing on their expertise for technical innovation, including systems such as the Vitrail Mystery Set, and their archive of Pierres de Caractère — stones that elicit a unique emotion — the Maison artfully depicts the fairy tale characters and their quests and emotions, and evokes the details that act as the stories’ turning points. The themes of the collection are inspired by four Grimm fairy tales: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Golden Bird, The Three Feathers, and The Town Musicians of Bremen.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses tells of 12 beautiful princesses who sneak away each night to a wooded castle to dance, and the poor soldier who discovers their secret. Among the highlight pieces in this theme is the Souliers précieux clip, crafted in three dimensions to depict two dancing shoes resting on a precious cushion from which hangs a 6.91ct spessartite garnet. Three other clips take the form of princesses — Éos, Danica, Héméra — in dazzling ball dresses encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, and yellow, pink, mauve, and blue sapphires. The Traversée étoilée bracelet with two pear-shaped Burmese sapphires represents the lake the princesses cross each night to go dancing; while the Calice de spinelle ring’s 6.25ct pink spinel evokes the glass of wine that also features in the story.

In The Golden Bird, a young prince discovers virtue and wisdom through a series of seemingly insurmountable tasks. The Le prince et l’oiseau clip — a tribute to the tale’s hero — is one of Van Cleef & Arpel’s rare masculine figures, holding in his hand a 3.18ct Madagascar purple sapphire. Two necklaces showcase the Maison’s traditional flair for transformable jewellery: the Plumage d’or necklace with its versatile, interchangeable components; and the Clair de lune long necklace which transforms into two short necklaces while its removable pendant can be worn as a clip. Meanwhile, the Hespérides ring, with a 20.36ct yellow sapphire at its crown, evokes the golden apples that enliven this Grimm tale.

The Three Feathers is about a king who seeks to find the most deserving heir to his throne among his three sons. One of the pieces in this theme is the Panache Mystérieux clip, which applies the virtuoso technique of Vitrail Mystery Set to coloured sapphires so that each stone is intricately buff-topped on the front — creating a gently rounded surface — and faceted on the back for greater brilliance. Completing the theme are the Trio précieux clip, a spiralling nest-like design with a 2.51ct yellow diamond at its centre; and the Carrousel des demoiselles bracelet whose baroque articulated form presents a 10.41ct Brazilian emerald as the central gem.

The Town Musicians of Bremen is a delightful tale of music and the solidarity between a cat, a dog, a donkey, and a rooster. The four animals are depicted together in the Les musiciens clip, sculpted in pink gold against a night-like backdrop of deep-blue lapis lazuli pastilles, each adorned with a star-set diamond. The tale’s nocturnal setting is also evoked in the Sous la lune necklace, whose pendant with its large 29.44ct Colombian emerald cabochon can be detached and worn alone as a clip. The Victoire earrings’ different-shaped yellow diamonds and white diamonds present an ethereal display of the power of Van Cleef & Arpels’ dedication to Pierres de Caractère.