If we needed confirmation that the UAE is an important market for luxury brands, then the imminent arrival of the L’Ecole School of Jewellery Arts in Dubai Design District can be taken as proof.
The school, which was launched by French jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris in 2012, has been a touring presence in the region, arriving every season with a new round of classes, workshops and talks. Now, the school will become a permanent fixture in Dubai.
Slated to open its doors in Building 10 at D3 next month, L’Ecole will be open to everyone from seasoned collectors to newcomers and is aimed at anyone looking to learn more about the history and methodology behind jewellery.
To mark the opening, the school will host a major exhibition called Garden of Emeralds from November 23 to March 10. It will feature some of the high jewellery masterpieces made by Van Cleef & Arpels over the past century. As part of the wider series called Discover the Gemstones, this show is based on research carried out by the school to share the stories of emeralds throughout history.
The story begins in the depths of the Earth, where emeralds are formed, and follows onto the workshops where expert hands transform rough stones into wearable works of art.
The Dubai branch will take the number of schools around the world to five, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and a second in Paris, a stone's throw from Place Vendome, the heart of high jewellery.
The arrival of a permanent school on UAE shores is significant for a number of reasons. Van Cleef & Arpels will invite experts from within its ranks to share their vast knowledge on an ongoing basis. This underpins the importance of the region to the jewellery industry, as brands look to the knowledge and appreciation here for artisan pieces.
The impact of this is that anyone – even those with a passing interest in jewellery – can now join in talks, workshops and classes to enhance their knowledge and enjoyment. Aimed at spreading a love of jewellery in all its forms, the school will offer a rich schedule of classes to choose from.
In the past, these have covered topics such as how to differentiate a lab-grown emerald from an Earth-mined one; and the history of gold as a power symbol throughout history. Many take the form of hands-on workshops, with previous examples including Japanese Urushi lacquer-making and exploring the role of talismanic pieces.
Read about The National's experience of a jewellery-making class here
Lise Macdonald, president of L’Ecole, says the school has been a long time in the making.
“We really wanted a presence in the Middle East and to one day open a school here," she adds." When we were offered this building in this very exciting and vibrant neighbourhood, it was the perfect time.”
The school comes on the back of Van Cleef & Arpels' major exhibition at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, which ran from January to March this year.