Place Vendôme in Paris
The school is on the first floor of a beautiful 18th century mansion. I dropped off my coat, picked up a badge and followed our charming host to enjoy a cup of tea before embarking on my adventure. I wondered about the other students, who were these people who came to play at being an apprentice jeweller on a Friday morning? There was a Japanese history of art student, a costume jewellery designer, a young photo editor, a New Yorker with a passion for silversmithing and a thirty-something looking for a unique experience.
The famous jacket of the École des Arts Joailliers de Paris
The teacher told us to don a very professional-looking white jacket and break into two small groups, one for the mock-up session, the other for the drawing session, which was my choice, inspired by the pretty earrings of our host.
Drawing 57 facets of a diamond
Our teacher explained the creative process and a bit about the history of jewellery. She told us that in the creative studio we would be applying ourselves to the design of a brooch in the form of a butterfly, made from platinum and embellished with six diamonds. To start, we were instructed to draw our butterfly and used a template to make sure the outline was precise. Then we moved on to the colouring process. Painting the 57 facets of a tiny diamond with an incredibly fine and delicate brush was both difficult and time consuming. Our host, a talented designer at the studio Van Cleef showed us the different techniques with the patience of an angel and was very encouraging even though my scribbles were a little bit blurry!
The future jewel appears
Time flies when you’re having fun, and before we knew it, it was time to move onto the next stage. We glued our butterfly design to a small metal plate used to create a model. Then we had to cut the design out with a saw. The designer and the modelling expert showed us how to do it safely. Cutting out the metal and gradually seeing the future jewel appear was exhilarating. I cut too much off the right wing of my butterfly, but the model builder showed me how to repair it by welding a piece back on. It is then a question of placing the cubic zirconias, the stand-ins for the diamonds that would be used on the real thing.
4 hours to make your butterfly
Even with a pair of magnifying glasses it was very difficult to see the tiny holes where the diamonds were to be placed. On the real jewel they are set, fixed with metal, but for the mock-up, pasting them shows us how the finished item will look. At the end of the four hours everyone had made their butterfly. After graduating, we left with our butterflies and a nice tote bag. Feeling proud of our achievements we handed back our jackets and came out amazed at our incredible experience.
Find out more:
The École des Arts Joailliers in Paris invites the public to discover the history of jewellery, know-how and precious stones through workshops and courses held throughout the year in both English and French.
Prices range from 100 euros for history courses to 400 euros for a course which includes a visit to the creative workshops of Van Cleef and Arpels.