Interview: Marie Vallanet of L’École Van Cleef & Arpels

“Jewellery art is always progressing, it’s not something fixed”
L'Ecole school of jewlry art
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L’École School of Jewelry Art is back in Hong Kong for the third time, inviting jewellery lovers to explore and gain hands-on experience in the art of jewellery-making, as well as learning about the history and culture of gemstones and craftsmanship. We sat down with Marie Vallanet, President of L’École Van Cleef & Arpels to chat about what makes the institution so unique and what exciting courses are worth checking out.

Hi, Marie! Can you tell us about yourself and how you joined the world of high jewellery?
I joined the jewellery world more than 30 years ago. I worked in the education sector at the start of my professional life before moving into business and then jewellery. The L’École school is like a comeback for me. I’ve returned to education because I never forgot all the objectives of transmission education and the importance of sharing knowledge. I’m very lucky to have this wonderful opportunity to renew my taste for education. 

What attracted you towards jewellery art in the first place? 
My first attraction was in the craftsmanship. After that, I learned a lot about couture, history and stones. But my interest in craftsmanship was the original stepping stone into the jewellery world and I was able to meet and learn from many jewellers, setters and other experts.

With 30 years in the business, what would you say are biggest trends or changes? 
Jewellery art is always progressing. Jewellery art is not something fixed, it’s something in progress every day. Experts change and progress in their search for excellence and they will always try to go further. It’s never-ending. 

What makes L’École unique and why take it around the world? 
We are a unique specialised institution that connects directly to the public. As you know, it’s not a professional school, but nobody speaks to the public like we do, to provide an understanding of the jewellery art world. And it’s a very simple why we travel around the world. Even though the school is in Paris, if you want to educate, share and transmit, you have to go straight to the students.

This is the third time L’École has come to Hong Kong. Any plans for a permanent school here in the future?
I ’d love to see that. We can see there is a demand for it from both the city and across Asia Pacific. But L’École is still a new baby. It’s only five years old. There are a lot of possibilities in front of us to organise more. We already do a lot of different things aside from courses. We organise workshops for teenagers, host lectures and exhibitions and even collaborate on photobooks.

What about plans to develop online courses? 
The courses at L’École allow students to have an incredible experience learning in a special environment, to sit on our benches and gain hands-on experience in the art of jewellery. Online courses can’t provide that. We do have videos explaining the history and culture of jewellery art but they can’t replace our courses where experts explain and demonstrate in person. That’s what I think today but that could change in 15 or 20 years.

Is there a course you’re most excited to bring to Hong Kong? 
I don’t have one, theyre all exciting! The courses are organised in three different doors and I use the expression ‘doors because the courses are like doors to the world of jewellery. One door focuses on gemstones and understanding the stones – we explain how to recognise different stones and what to look out for in colour and the light. Another is the technique door Savoir-Fare, meaning craftsmanship. Students will learn about the technique of jewellers and gain a good understanding of the object. And under art history jewellery, there’s a class on art nouveau jewellery because it’s an important period and a very successful period in jewellery art in terms of creativity. All these classes are perfect for beginners.

You just had an open day last Sunday. How was the response?
There were around 1,000 people who came to the open day. We received the public with our entire team of professors, who answered any questions the public had. The people who came to the open day were not aware of L’École before and they had a lot of questions. It’s always interesting to meet new people and new students.

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